We have two articles on the new That's The Way It Is. One review from the Memphis Press Scimitar, and an interview from Goldmine Magazine with Ernst Jorgensen on this movie.
Ernst Jorgenson talks about the That's The Way It Is reissue.
January 26, 2001
Gillian G. Gaar
When producer/historian Ernst Jorgensen first saw the concert feature Elvis: That's The Way It Is on its initial release in his native Denmark, he had no idea that 30 years later he'd be involved with the film's reissue.
"I never thought I'd go back to Turner Entertainment and say, 'Let's redo the movie, because there's a lot of stuff in there that we need to get out and replace with something else,'" he said recently.
But that's exactly what happened. After coproducing an expanded version of the film's soundtrack, released last summer, Jorgensen oversaw the production of the Special Edition cut of That's The Way It Is, which will premiere Jan. 15, 2001, on the Turner Classic Movies network, with video and DVD releases to follow.
Originally released in November 1970, That's The Way It Is was the first theatrically released Presley documentary, covering the summer 1970 Elvis Summer Festival at the Las Vegas International Hotel, intercut with footage of fans, the hotel staff preparing for the engagement, and opening night.
"At the time, [the film] was a major, major revelation," Jorgensen recalled. "It was a document of something that to most people living outside America was only a dream world. I remember going to a midnight showing in Copenhagen, and it blew me away. I'd given up on Elvis a bit actually, until the '68 comeback. So when I saw this new movie I was impressed — 'I've liked that guy since I was 12 years old, and wow, he's even better than I thought he was.'"
Still, when Jorgensen got the opportunity to rework the film as production consultant, he felt there was definitely room for improvement.
"One, [footage of] Elvis' fans and audiences at the time will date very, very quickly, whereas [footage of] Elvis the performer will not," he explained. "Second, they filmed so much more than ever went into the movie. Those two elements together made it obvious that now, 30 years later, we can go back and create a movie which shows Elvis off better, which is more consistent, more enjoyable, has a lot more music and looks and sounds better."
Indeed, there's a lot more to the Special Edition cut than simply a cleaner print and remixed sound.
"We found an overwhelming amount of previously unseen footage," said Jorgensen. "Although we were told in the beginning from various people who'd worked on the projects before, 'There isn't any more,' there was a lot! But it was like that when I walked into RCA 10 years ago. They said, 'No, we don't have this, this, this, or this.' But we did."
The new cut has roughly 40 percent new material, but Jorgensen added, "It's a difficult question. What is new? Is a camera angle that was never used before new? No, not really. Is another version of 'Suspicious Minds' new? In principle, yes! So these definitions, they're ballpark."
The Special Edition is actually shorter than the original cut — one hour, 37 minutes, versus one hour, 49 minutes — but because most of the extraneous footage has been cut out, there's actually more of Presley. The concert sequence that makes up most of the film features 16 songs in the 1970 cut, 19 in the 2001 cut (plus a live version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" during the closing credits). While 11 songs from the set appear in both films, they are not always the same version of the song — meaning that collectors will want to hold on to both cuts of the film.
Jorgensen also said he feels the new cut gives "a very good sense of the work progress. You as a spectator can actually see Elvis develop the show from the very early part of the film through to the performance." This is best illustrated by a sequence where Presley is seen rehearsing "20 Days And 20 Nights" in a Los Angeles studio, intercut with footage of his backup singers rehearsing to a recording of the song in Las Vegas. There's also a nice moment when Presley unexpectedly breaks into the Eddie Arnold hit "Cattle Call" and then even more unexpectedly breaks into a yodel — with his backup singers gamely trying to follow.
The Special Edition's producer is Rick Schmidlin, who worked on reissues of the films Greed and Touch Of Evil; sound remixing was handled by Bruce Botnick, who worked on The Doors' Complete Studio Recordings box set, released last year; Mike Salomon and Sean Weber-Small were the film's editors. The new release also includes the film's original trailer and an additional documentary, Patch It Up: The Restoration Of Elvis: That's The Way It Is.
"I think it's a document of what Elvis was like in 1970 without all the distractions of the original movie," said Jorgensen. "I think it shows him at the peak of his career. He'd come back twice now, first after the Army, and then after the NBC-TV special. I don't think anybody questioned in 1970 whether Elvis was in a class of his own or not. There was Elvis, and there were all the others. It must have felt like sitting on top of the world. And as we know — which Elvis of course didn't — it would be a troubled road from there on."
Remade Elvis Documentary Paints A New Picture, by John Beifuss
THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL
When MGM released Elvis: That's the Way It Is to theaters in 1970, Col. Tom Parker - Presley's manager and the documentary feature's "Technical Advisor" - was more interested in the film's effectiveness as a piece of promotional propaganda than in its accuracy as a behind-the-scenes and in-concert look at Elvis the entertainer and musical arranger.
Thus, the original Elvis: That's the Way It Is included unabashed and now campy fan testimonials to Elvis's kingliness alongside its rehearsal and performance footage.
When noted film researcher Rick Schmidlin was hired recently by Turner Classic Movies to produce a "Special Edition" of the movie, the 60,000 feet of original negative uncovered for the project allowed him to change the focus from Elvis-as-product to Elvis-as-artist.
Instead of simply adding new footage to the old movie, "We realized we had a different story to tell - the musical story of who Elvis was as an entertainer," Schmidlin, 46, said in a phone interview Wednesday from his Los Angeles home.
"If we let the footage speak for itself, we could show Elvis in a positive light, without being phony or corny. We could show him as a musical leader, as a very good, congenial, warm being, as someone who was fun to work with, which is why he kept those great musicians around all those years . . ."
The new version of Elvis: That's the Way It Is - about 40 percent of which consists of previously unseen footage - had its world premiere at the Orpheum during Elvis Week last year. The general public, however, wasn't able to view what Schmidlin calls his Elvis "jigsaw puzzle" until this week.
Elvis: That's the Way It Is - Special Edition, which debuted Monday night, will be screened again at 9 p.m. Sunday and at noon Saturday, Jan. 27, on the Turner Classic Movies channel as part of the cable network's monthlong birthday tribute to Presley, who was born Jan. 8, 1935.
Turner Classic Movies is at Channel 33 on both the SmartLink and Digital cable television services offered by Time Warner Communications. Those interested in more information on TCM's Elvis salute should visit the network's Web site at http://www.turnerclassicmovies.com
In addition, Elvis: That's the Way It Is - Special Edition was released on VHS this week by Warner Home Video. The video includes a documentary featurette on Schmidlin and his months-long effort titled Patch It Up: The Reconstruction of Elvis: That's the Way It Is. The DVD version of the film, which
Source: Email / Updated: Jan 23, 2001