Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Special

Elvis Presley in Singer Presents ... Elvis aka '68 Comeback Special.

Singer Presents … Elvis first aired in December 1968 in what has now become commonly known as the ’68 Comeback Special.

Today marks what would have been Elvis Presley’s 88th birthday so I spent last night watching the historic concert special. It’s long-overdue on my end but it made for a fun Saturday night evening. Believe me, it’s worth it! Happy birthday, Elvis!

While the special marks 55 years at the end of the year, it was beautifully restored and remastered for the 50th anniversary thanks to producers Thom Zimny and Alexander Hyde. Shortly after watching Elvis, I borrowed Elvis: One Night With You and the two ’68 Comeback Special DVDs that the Chicago Public Library had in stock. Strangely enough, they did not have the first disc with the special itself! Both Amazon and Vudu are among the digital retailers that currently has the expanded 74-minute special for rental.

If Col. Tom Parker and NBC had their way, this would have been an Xmas special. Thankfully, producer Bob Finkel made the right call in hiring Steve Binder to direct. Binder might go down in history as the guy behind The Star Wars Holiday Special but he does a superb job here. We’re all the better for it, too. The fact that they get Elvis in an intimate setting is one of the special’s strongest appeals. It’s certainly a reason for why we’re still talking about it over 50 years later.

All of the hits are on display here for fans to rock out to from home. There’s a new song for the special, too. What is surprising for me is that last summer’s hit film is the first time that I even heard of Presley’s single, “If I Can Dream!” Believe me, the air guitar is almost certainly going to be inevitable. Anyway, this is where the box set is highly recommended. As much fun as the show is to watch, the raw takes are even better.

The 1968 concert draws from a pair of Black Leather sit-down and stand-up concerts along with its opening, closing, and other production numbers. I’ve already seen one of the sit-down shows in its entirety and it’s worth it just for the reunion with his previous bandmates. It certainly does not hurt that it is a small and intimate crowd on hand. Had this been a stadium show, the result would certainly be different. In any event, the concert film also features “If I Can Dream,” which is the King’s response to the tragic assassinations of both Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Sr. To say that Elvis is at his best during this show would not be an understatement.

Elvis Presley is having the time of his life in the ’68 Comeback Special as he returns to the stage after seven years embarking on a movie career.

DIRECTOR: Steven D. Binder
FEATURING: Elvis Presley, The Blossoms, Fanta James, Jean King, Darlene Love, Buddy Arett, Barbara Burgess, D.J. Fontana, Alan Fortas, Susan Henning, Charles Hodge, Tanya Lamani, Lance Legault, Scotty Moore, Jaime Rogers, Claude Thompson

NBC aired Singer Presents … Elvis on December 3. 1968. Grade: 5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.