The Great Performances, Vol. 1 - Center Stage (US Edition)
The original documentary was very well received, since it contained some really new material and it was done in a very tasteful manner. Two versions were available at the time, the "Priscilla"-version and the "George Klein"-version. The second is the most common one and is used for the DVD release too. Two weeks ago the first part, "Center Stage" was released, the other part of the original documentary, "The Man And His Music", will be released late this month. A third ("new") volume, "From The Waist Up" presented by U2's Bono, will see the light in July. Of course we were looking forward to receive this great documentary on DVD. Are we satisfied with the result?
The cover design is in the same style as the videos were. For some reason the producers chose to use a different picture on the front. We wonder a bit why they took a 1970 picture since the documentary mainly focuses on the 50's. The 4 page booklet is not very special, but at least there is some information on it, something that is pretty rare with Elvis-releases on DVD.
The DVD itself starts with a language selection, which is done in a pretty stylish way. This goes also for the sound-setup (Dolby 5.1 or original stereo). Now watch close, since the company info is about the only good quality movie you'll get on this DVD.
The main menu gives you the choice between the complete documentary, the songs, the other footage ("Elvis in public and private") and a photo gallery. The songs-section has 3 different sub-menus, of which the second is very unclear. The first and last are better, but still you'll need a pretty large TV to be able to read (and recognize) the items properly. When the DVD entering through the song-menu, you are able to navigate from song to song, skipping the in between stuff of the documentary and after finishing a song, you end up at the song menu again (unfortunately there isn't a possibility to play all songs in a row).
Being able to access the songs easily is about the only positive we can say about the DVD-production. Basically they just "threw" the video on DVD, without noticeable remastering it. Therefore the image quality is way too poor for this medium. Okay, it will not decline further, like the video did, but our video was as least as good, if not better, when we first played it.
The photo gallery is just a bloody shame. The way the pictures, all stills from the actual documentary, are presented is stylish in a way, but the image quality is so poor that it really hurts your eyes. It's a shame that once again Elvis' work is treated this way. Maybe the fans should stand up and refuse to buy these half-products.
To many the content will be well known, but for those that missed the original documentary, we give a short overview. As said in the introduction, George Klein presents this documentary. He gives you some basic information about Elvis' career, together with Elvis himself - in the form of interviews he gave later during his life. The whole is decorated with rare footage (at least at the time the original was released) and parts of TV-performances.
The songs selection is pretty good, with some special, otherwise hard to get, gems like "Blue Suede Shoes", an audition version where Elvis lip-synced to his own record, and "Unchained Melody", from the CBS-tapes (1977). Especially that last one is pretty special since EPE is always ignoring this part of Elvis' career. This is understandable, since the press mostly jumps on the "fat, drugged" image of Elvis, but it is touching to see Elvis trying so hard to satisfy his audience.
The documentary ends immediately after "Unchained" with the knock-out version of "All Shook Up", taken from the "NBC-special", where Elvis was probably at his best physically. The difference between these two images is almost hurting, but at least you are not left with a sad "this was the end"-feeling.
If you don't know the documentary, you should definitely get it, but be prepared for the awful production. We really hope (in vain probably) they did a better job on the other two volumes.
Release Information: Company: Icestorm/ DVD Release Date: 2002
Edition Details: Region 2 PAL, Black and White / Color,
Digital 5.1 Surround / multi language