Elvis: The Memphis Flash
The DVD comes in a cardboard slipcase and graces the famous picture of Elvis' first album release. A basic navigation menu that returns as bumper for the various chapters. Besides the documentary the DVD contains a quiz and overview of several kinds of record releases, including a Top 20 of promotional CDs. Unfortunately: text only; we wonder what's the use.
The narrator announces that this documentary contains the story of history being made, from the early days in Mississippi to the groundbreaking release of "Heartbreak Hotel". And it does. The set-up is the same as a lot of other documentaries but it was filmed more recently than most budget documentary releases. Interviews and old footage and photographs. Some of the names you'll see on screen are Alanna Nash, George Klein, Elaine Dundy, Bill Burk, Wink Martindale, old classmates and people from various stages of his life like school, Lauderdale Courts, the local Tupelo historian and several others. They share memories and putting those in chronological order we get the story of Elvis youth and how he collected his musical baggage and using on on his way to fame.
We hear many stories from "older" people, so we don't know if all memories are 100% correct, but we'll have to do with it. We don't know if the story of Elvis visiting the grave of his still-born brother Jesse, since we heard from the man himself he didn't know where his brother had been buried. The same goes for the legend of getting a guitar in stead of a riffle or a bike, in this story Elvis was present when his mother selected the guitar.
The story continues and Elvis picking up music sneaking in Church and listening to the local radio stations and his years at Humes High School. Several people, some who were there way back then, but also biographers shed their lights on Elvis picking up further music knowledge and influences. From there Elvis would stand out more and became more flamboyant wearing clothes bought at Lansky's Bros and his slick hair and sideburns standing out like a sore thump.
Elvis' first attempt at recording "My Happiness" was his imitation of artists he liked and artist popular at the time, not the artist we know with his distinctive singing style. And it was not the calling card Elvis might had hoped it would be for Sam Philips. Credit is given to Marion Keisker, who saw, or should we say heard, something in Elvis' voice convincing Sam to give the boy a chance. But also to Scotty, Bill and Sam Phillips, for their specific contribution to the sound and presentation of the three piece band. You can hear Elvis appreciation for the vibrancy of black music and combined with the poetry of white country on the first SUN recordings. Or " the birth of something special" as Alanna Nash puts it.
From the first radio play of the song to the The Louisiana Hayride, The Colonel entering the scene, and the continuous release of special records from SUN records Elvis was launched globally. Breaking out of the South with the sale of his contract to RCA and the groundbreaking release of “Heartbreak Hotel” with additional credit for the last name from the past, DJ Fontana, adding a distinctive drum to Elvis voice and Scottie’s guitar licks. The Colonel is credited for manufacturing Elvis for his breakthrough, but also for missing the genius of his client, focusing too much on the sale of the product. Removing the rough edges to please the general masses.
The basic tone is positive and almost all people expecting him to become a singer. Looking back, we can only confirm he not only became a singer, but the greatest entertainer ever. It is refreshing to see some new people talk about our man, adding new and updated details and views to the story we know. The documentary itself is a bit long for the short era the documentary focuses on, especially since it is so well known to us. For the general public, this will be a great documentary, with great footage and great original music by Elvis.