"Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:59 am

The New York Times didn't always "get" Elvis.

Below is one example, from 1973 -- enjoy!


Image

Elvis On Tour (1972)
Screen: 'Elvis on Tour': Performer Is Pictured On and Off Stage
By VINCENT CANBY
Published: June 7, 1973

A natural spin-off of the rock concert tour is the rock concert tour film, at which Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel ("Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "Let The Good Times Roll") are such experienced hands that I suspect they were inhibited by the magnitude of their latest subject, Elvis Presley. Or perhaps—dare I say?—his minitude.

The movie is called "Elvis on Tour" and it purports to be an intimate portrait of Elvis as he revealed himself on recent tours, while performing onstage and while getting on and off airplanes, on and off buses, and in and out of limousines. Strip away the storybook myth and—lo—there is a storybook myth underneath: a nice, clean-cut, multimillionaire pop idol who is, offstage, hard-working and friendly and something less than a riveting personality.

The essential blandness of the offstage Elvis has the effect of diminishing the impact of what we see of the onstage performances, which are presented with a lot of fancily photographed and edited split-screen frills that ultimately suggest that Elvis is much duller to watch than to hear.

Whether this is his fault or the fault of the moviemakers, I don't know. It is quite apparent that Mr. Adidge and Mr. Abel are treating him with the kind of respect that French television used to reserve for the formal appearances of De Gaulle. The camera never catches him in a truly candid moment. Close-ups do not reveal anything but, rather, they enshrine an ideal, like an official photograph of a President or a Pope.

Compared with "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," which chronicled the American concert tour of Joe Cocker in a way that reflected Cocker's tumultuous talent, "Elvis on Tour" seems almost stately. Elvis himself looks vaguely ill at ease in his baby blue (or scarlet), rhinestone-studded Batman costume, not really formidable enough to be announced (as the film does) with the first several bars of "Thus Spake Zarathustra."

The film opened yesterday at the East 59th Street Twin 2 Theater and other theaters.


ELVIS ON TOUR, directed and produced by Pierre Adidge and Robert Abel; director of Photography, Robert E. Thomas; editor, Ken Zemke; distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Running time: 93 minutes. At the 59th Street Twin 2 Theater, 59th Street east of Third Avenue, and other theaters. This film has been classified G.

With: Elvis Presley, Jackie Kahane, Kathy Westmoreland, The Sweet Inspirations, J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, Vernon Presley and others.

Image

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:32 am

Indeed, Doc.... not "getting" Elvis is a good way to put that.

Reckon this fellow never thought that they possibly edited out all the "telling" moments to keep that "G" rating....? I know there were more than a few "rock star moments" filmed by the MGM crews....

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:38 am

Such as?

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:48 am

Well, I was thinking along the lines of some of the more "adult" parts of the footage.... limousine, backstage, etc? It would have been hard to have shown that back then and keep the "G" rating.... but it seems to me as those moments to have been much more faithful to the "rock star image" both of Elvis and of other stars of the day.

Am I wrong in that assumption?

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:18 am

I dont see this as a criticism of Elvis,as much as the spin of the filmmakers.
I disagree with Canby(Ive seen this somewhere before)but in fairness to Abel and Addige,what else could they have done?Col. Parker would have vetoed anything that challenged the Elvis image.
Thanks for posting this DJC.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:04 am

Frankie -- I think I get what you're driving at.

jbnva58, thank you as well.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:32 am

Thanks for posting this review, Doc!
I don´t agree with Vincent Canby but it was interesting to read a review from when it happened.

Still waiting for that "ultimate" EOT release, wonder when that will happen.

Lennart

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:14 pm

Not a bad review of the clean-cut nature of the film, though I can't see that split screens etc were used to hide any shortcoming in Elvis' performance
Thnaks for posting

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:19 pm

Lennart wrote:Thanks for posting this review, Doc!
I don´t agree with Vincent Canby but it was interesting to read a review from when it happened.

Still waiting for that "ultimate" EOT release, wonder when that will happen.

Lennart


Not this side of 2010! :cry:

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:53 pm

What a strange review.

Vincent Canby reviewed the depth of candor, or lack of, captured by the film crew.
He totally ignored the quality of the live concert footage, which is still the primary reason
to watch any concert film.
It felt like I read the introduction to a review, and then it was over.

I really felt like Canby had an agenda, possibly a jealousy of his subject.
First time I've seen a candid Elvis referred to as "bland".

Good thing Canby didn't review EIC, I guess.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:04 pm

TCB TED wrote:I really felt like Canby had an agenda, possibly a jealousy of his subject.


The only agenda - if they were a good journalist - would be to review the movie dispassionately and objectively.

Why on earth would a journalist/reviewer possibly be jealous of Elvis?

We can't expect every reviewer to enjoy a film ... just because it was a less than flattering review is no reason to question the writer's motivations.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:59 pm

Sour Grapes that's all. I agree with you TCBTed.

Thanks for posting - the posters for On Tour were awesome.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:03 pm

Maybe he had a point, it's not as though the movie won a Golden Globe or anything like that.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:44 am

Scott wrote:Why on earth would a journalist/reviewer possibly be jealous of Elvis?


When he came on the scene he upset the comfy status quo that existed in the music world.

This pissed off a lot of journalists.

It showed in their reviews and write-ups on him.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:51 am

ColinB wrote:
Scott wrote:Why on earth would a journalist/reviewer possibly be jealous of Elvis?


When he came on the scene he upset the comfy status quo that existed in the music world.

This pissed off a lot of journalists.

It showed in their reviews and write-ups on him.


As great as Elvis was, he took a lot of bashings from the press in his day, some justified, most not. When you change the world as we know it, you tend to upset the apple cart, well with Elvis, he obliterated it!

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:31 am

Little Darlin wrote:Thanks for posting - the posters for On Tour were awesome.

Yes -- aren't they cool?

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:34 am

Scott wrote:
TCB TED wrote:I really felt like Canby had an agenda, possibly a jealousy of his subject.


The only agenda - if they were a good journalist - would be to review the movie dispassionately and objectively.

Why on earth would a journalist/reviewer possibly be jealous of Elvis?

We can't expect every reviewer to enjoy a film ... just because it was a less than flattering review is no reason to question the writer's motivations.


You're suggesting that all journalist's are objective for the sake of their art.
We all know this to be rubbish.
You missed my point entirely.
Canby didn't review Elvis Presley, he critiqued Adidge and Abel's filmaking style, and Elvis'
musical performances get nary a mention.
The title of this thread mentions "sour review", and I think that pretty much sums it up.
I don't expect every reviewer in 1973 to be a fan, but a balanced review from a professional
journalist would've been more appreciated than this narrow profile.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:22 am

TCB TED wrote: You're suggesting that all journalist's are objective for the sake of their art.


I said the good journalists are objective in their reviews, yes.

TCB TED wrote:Canby didn't review Elvis Presley, he critiqued Adidge and Abel's filmaking style, and Elvis' musical performances get nary a mention.


If that's the case, then your assertion that the reviewer was jealous of Elvis makes even less sense in that context.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:25 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Little Darlin wrote:Thanks for posting - the posters for On Tour were awesome.

Yes -- aren't they cool?


They are awesome, thanks for posting them Doc!

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:29 am

Joe Car wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:
Little Darlin wrote:Thanks for posting - the posters for On Tour were awesome.

Yes -- aren't they cool?


They are awesome, thanks for posting them Doc!

Yes, the posters are fantastic.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:47 am

Scott wrote:
TCB TED wrote: You're suggesting that all journalist's are objective for the sake of their art.[/quo
I said the good journalists are objective in their reviews, yes.


TCB TED wrote:Canby didn't review Elvis Presley, he critiqued Adidge and Abel's filmaking style, and Elvis' musical performances get nary a mention.


If that's the case, then your assertion that the reviewer was jealous of Elvis makes even less sense in that context.


No, not at all.
I sense envy in the author's prose, envy which followed much of Elvis' career.

Vincent Canby 's article describes Elvis as follows:


"something less than a riveting personality",
"essential blandness of the offstage Elvis"
"Elvis is much duller to watch than to hear."
"not really formidable enough to be announced"


So yes, even though the reviewer dedicated most of his print to Adidge and Abel, he did manage
to throw quite a few swipes at Elvis. I sense envy, and apparently, so do others.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:32 am

TCB TED wrote: So yes, even though the reviewer dedicated most of his print to Adidge and Abel, he did manage to throw quite a few swipes at Elvis. I sense envy, and apparently, so do others.


Yes, I know you do, but why?

Things like "something less than a riveting personality" and "Elvis is much duller to watch than to hear" could quite easily simply be one man's take on what he saw on the screen, and I think the leap to jealousy and envy of Elvis himself is a rather long one. So, are all less than flattering reviews based on envy in your opinion?

And I have to say, these two expressions above, whilst perhaps a little caustic, are not a million miles off the mark. I've shown On Tour to some non-fans friends of mine, and they said pretty much the same thing, and they're in no way envious of Elvis. Although, they enjoyed the on stage parts, and the film overall.
Last edited by Scott on Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:19 am

To me, the cheap reference to the Batman costume shows a little jealousy there...

To me the review said more about the reviewer himself, not the film.

Most shocking was seeing Jackie Kahane getting SECOND BILLING!

Axe

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:28 pm

Interesting review, thanks for posting , Doc.

I think Canby's review and our reaction to it is indicitave of a disconnect between our viewing the film in the larger context of Elvis's life, and the reviewer having his expectations set by the Elvis of the 1950's.

Elvis On Tour was my introduction to Elvis (many, many years ago), and as such I have always loved the film, and found it to be a good (if not really candid) portrait of Elvis during that era. Understanding the nature of Elvis's relationship with Priscilla and his depressed mindset at the time adds a certain poigniancy to the scenes of Elvis singing "Separate Ways" or the gospel jam session that might be missed by someone who was unaware of this.

And let's be honest, if your expectations of Elvis were set by things like Jailhouse Rock, the Milton Berle appearance, and most recently the 68 Special, you might be a bit dissappointed that there weren't more crazy or interesting things going on backstage. Especially if you were unaware of the Colonel's overprotective influence. Taking these things into account, I think it is Canby's article understandable.

Then again, maybe he was just a fan of histrionic Ray Charles impersonators like Joe Cocker, and didn't feel like he had any time for Elvis singing "Never Been To Spain".

Re: "Elvis On Tour" -> Vincent Canby's (Sour) Review

Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:50 pm

Claims of objectivity are out of place here. The practice of artistic critique is inherently subjective.

Canby does miss the boat when he steers past Elvis' performance. He is right on the money though when he mentions that we don't get a whole lot of an interesting person back stage. This is not because Elvis was uninteresting. It's because he was a guarded person outside of his music and in a musical documentary, with his participation, you were only going to get so much access to the real man. This wasn't Madonna inviting us into her bedroom. This was a guy who liked the fact that we only knew so much.

If Elvis didn't fit the 2001 theme, who did?

NY TImes always did have a beef with Elvis and rock n' roll. It's only been the last decade and a half or so that they've gotten any good ink. Wasn't the Times one of the big Goldman advocates?