What a sad but insightful film this was, chronicling as it did Elvis’s decline into mediocrity and often scornfully bad performances. However, what I hadn’t hitherto known about was just what an appallingly bad influence and a major part of Elvis’s fall from grace his manager, Colonel Tom Parker had been.
I was very young when Elvis was having his heyday, and somehow, the transition from being that wonderful, charismatic and beautiful man into the rather sad figure he became passed me by at the time, so it was intriguing to fill in the gaps courtesy of this film last night.
It was also interesting to hear Priscilla’s point of view. I have to say, I’ve normally always avoided those documentaries where people are vociferous about someone who’s not there to answer back, but in this instance, the negatives in Priscilla and Elvis’s relationship were simply fact, not bitter wife anecdotes. And she told them with no sign of rancour; just regret.
This documentary focused – as per the title – on Elvis’s “Vegas phase” in the late ‘50s when his decline was markedly affecting. A man who’d arguably been the father of modern music had become an overweight philanderer and was taking prescription drugs like sweeties.
But as I mentioned earlier, the effect Colonel Tom had on him was cataclysmically awful, and the man seemed hell-bent on destroying his protégé. The man was a leech basically, seeing Elvis as nothing more than a cash cow and oftentimes, Parker’s own personal issues held Elvis back from events which could well have turned around his failing career.
For instance, Parker – real name, Dries van Kuijk – wouldn’t allow Elvis to go on a tour of Europe simply because he himself was in fact an illegal immigrant and as such, couldn’t leave America. Who knows how that might’ve affected Elvis’s destiny? Perhaps if he’d gone and done that tour, his health and self-respect would’ve improved, with the possible outcome might’ve been that he’d have lived longer and better.
Parker was not only the antonym of altruistic where Elvis was concerned, as I again mentioned earlier, he seemed intent on reducing him to an object of derision. He arranged Elvis’s increasingly ridiculous and inappropriate wardrobe, and at one point during the later Vegas years, he wanted him to dress up as Santa to sing Christmas songs while the rich folks visiting sat down to their expensive Vegas dinners.
The majority of this film did in fact intimate – if not directly accuse – the extent of Parker’s role in Elvis’s downfall, right up to his ignominious death, so in that regard, it might better have been titled as something that directed the viewer to know that was going to be the content.
That said, there were lighter moments, such as Tom Jones describing the “good times” he and Elvis shared, and many contributions were of tender and/or funny moments when Elvis was just being a man, not a falling star.