Elvis on Tour is a concert documentary that captures Elvis Presley and the cultural zeitgeist in the King’s last major concert film. Unfortunately, it does not break any new ground for Presley canon.
Between the 1968 Comeback Special and 1970’s Elvis: That’s the Way It Is, I’m not able to recommend this documentary unless you’re an Elvis Presley completist. The special and films only span a few years but even as the King nears his 40s in this documentary, he’s far from the same musician. I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to present a montage of The Ed Sullivan Show appearances but it’s a reminder that he’s not in his prime anymore. I have to say that I agree with Col. Tom Parker on their inclusion. Oh, sure, he can still sing and electrify the crowd but that just goes without saying. I would have loved to see more interviews than rehearsals between stops but that’s just me. It’s otherwise repetitive with the same thing happening at each airport with the fans.
After the success of the 1970 concert film, MGM made plans for another Las Vegas concert film. However, plans somehow changed from focusing on Vegas to covering the 1972 spring tour. Would the other film have made for a better documentary? We’ll never truly know. I like Elvis Presley but even with a 1:33 runtime, I found myself press pause frequently just to see how much time was remaining in the film. Does this say something bad about the film’s editing or pacing? Maybe. But again, there are so many changes in the four years between his comeback and the tour. In this film, he’s about five years and change away from his tragic death in August 1977. There’s no hiding his gaining weight, presumably because of his drug addiction that would hospitalize him in 1973.
If anything, Elvis on Tour works as a time capsule. By this time, he’s not solely performing his own hits but cover songs of hits from other artists. The film captures the Elvis zeitgeist when they focus on the fans waiting either at the airport or in the audience. I’ll say this: Martin Scorsese knows what he’s doing when it comes to the montage scenes. It’s just that they feel rather out of place while watching this film. The Sullivan appearances only remind us of the past while his film clips are the same because all of his movies were so formulaic. But anyway, the split-screen is used to the film’s advantage. It enables audiences to simultaneously watch different views of Elvis, the band, and the crowd. Co-directors Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel can only do so much to hide Presley’s appearance.
As far as Elvis Presley concert films go, Elvis on Tour is a film for Presley completists but that’s about it as the King heads into the final years of his life.
DIRECTORS: Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel
FEATURING: Elvis Presley
MGM released Elvis on Tour in theaters on November 1, 1972. Grade: 3/5
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