Tag Archives: Retro Reviews

John Carpenter’s Elvis Biopic Starring Kurt Russell; Yeah, That Happened

It’s one of those things that if you didn’t know, you’re mind just got friggin’ blown like a scene from Scanners.

I was one of those people, and I’m seriously pissed off that nobody bothered to tell me that this national treasure existed. FOR SHAME on you, while I hang my own head in humility.

Anway, upon learning about this hidden-from-me-gem, I immediately ordered a copy (and you should too) from Amazon, and gave it a view over this past weekend. I was not disappointed folks.

Fresh off the massive genre hit with fans Halloween, Carpenter aimed his directorial skills toward the smaller screen with 1979’s made for TV biopic Elvis. Starring in his first of many Carpenter films, Kurt Russell takes on the daunting task of portraying the man, the myth, the lip-curl himself, along with Russell’s real-life father Bing Russell playing Elvis’ father Vernon in the film as well. Which would totally account for the believability factor as far as paternal ownership in the movie. Shelly Winters (Roseanne, The Poisedian Adventure) tackles the important role of Mama Gladys- if you’re an Elvis fan, you know how much this man loved his mama. Also starring Halloween alumni Charles Cyphers, Pat Hingle, and Russell’s ex-wife Season Hubley as Priscilla Presley, Elvis is a wonderful Carpenter family affair on-screen that respectfully pays tribute to the trials and tribulations of rock legend without diving into his death.

Made only two years after the King’s passing, the 150-minute biopic focuses on the star’s childhood, the rise and peak of his fame, and the important relationships in this legend’s life that affected an empathetic man so greatly. According to reports, there are two other versions of the film that aired in the UK beginning with Elvis’ hair being cut before his entrance into the US army, and then the death of his mother. With a great deal of the story being told before these two incidents appear in the film, I’m certainly glad that wasn’t the final cut! We cannot be deprived of that wonderful Shelley Winters, now can we?

Apart from the obvious, and at times not so great lip-synching, Russell’s Elvis persona is by far, my favorite I’ve ever seen. You’re also talking to a born and raised Vegas girl here, and I’ve seen COUNTLESS impersonators in my lifetime; more than I even care to. But, Russell really does pull it off embodying the very spirit of the King right down to his signature movements and hell, he really does look like him too! So that’s a pretty great bonus. With portraying a personality as large as Elvis, it’s so easy to go overboard (haha) with it. However, with Russell, it seems natural. Which speaks volumes about his acting chops. Fun fact: Kurt Russell actually appeared in an Elvis film, It Happened at the World’s Fair in 1963, where a mini Russell kicked the King of Rock and Roll in the shins. Russell also dubbed the voice of Elvis seen in Forrest Gump in ’94 and played an Elvis impersonator in 3000 Miles to Graceland. So I suppose it’s fair to say Russell has had his fair share of defining Elvis moments in cinema.  However, Carpenter’s Elvis should, and I think is, his crowning achievement in his lip-curling legacy towards the once Graceland resident.

Originally airing as part of an ABC Sunday night special movie in 1979, Elvis went on to receive nominations from the Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture Made For Television and an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor (Russell). Didn’t win, but well deserved in any regard.

 

If you’re an Elvis fan or a lover of made for TV glory, I highly recommend picking this diddy up and adding it to your collection.

Click the image to pick it up over on Amazon!

Made For TV: “The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer”

If you were of sound mind in 1993, you may recall a horrific little made for TV movie entitled The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer.  Or technically speaking, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer.

Oh yes, we’re going to talk about this fuckery.

Image result for the secret life of jeffrey dahmer

Frankly speaking, I’m not sure why this film isn’t talked about more often in horror circles. Visually the 1993 film looks pretty dated however, the movie that in my opinion, has most accurately depicted Dahmer’s perception of life and twisted state of mind, to this day holds up as THEE legit Dahmer movie out of the several that have popped up since the twisted killer’s arrest on July 22, 1991. And regarding gorehounds out there, it’s DEFINITELY the most brutal and by far the most unsettling to sit through. I’m not sure how I got away with watching this completely fucked up movie with my virgin 10-year-old eyes, but I most certainly did. Bless the golden age of HBO and the days when the boob tube was an acceptable babysitter for rugrats.

Directed by David Bowen and starring a convincible Carl Crew as the infamous Dahmer, The Secret Life is told from the killer’s point of view and laid out through the horrific 14 years of Dahmer’s life of murder and madness that resulted in the deaths of 17 young men and ultimately, leading up to his arrest. Crew (Dahmer) with those hauntingly calming voice-over monologues as a well-aware killer with an eternal fear of abandonment throughout the movie and ability to go from calm as a cucumber to unhinged is in my opinion, pretty underrated as Crew’s performance is quite the treat for fans of this type of film.

The Secret Life was released two years after Dahmer’s real-life arrest and one year prior to his death in prison, so the terrifying discovery of the acts from Dahmer was still fresh in the world’s mind. And the fact that the film played the no hold’s barred card with extremely violent sequences involving the murder of Dahmer’s victims, really set some folks off in the sensitivity department. Curious audiences who had followed the case knew to an extent, of the horrors Dahmer unleashed upon his prey, but I’m not so sure anyone was really prepared for the brutal savagery displayed on film that seemed like something out of a snuff flick but was in fact, reality of the final moments of the casualties of Dahmer. Bowen’s telling of the grisly murders and semi-humanizing Dahmer in a way to look deeper behind the monster didn’t sit too well with a lot of critics and viewers back in ’93 so the film seemed to drop off the face of the earth with the ending of the VHS era until a few years back when Intervision released a DVD that includes the original trailer, audio commentary with director Bowen, and a featurette with Carl Crew.

The Dahmer true tale of torture and terror is unsettling enough as it is and this movie goes balls deep right into it without adding any flair or big-budget fluff. And frankly, it works better that way. It feels like you’re watching something maybe you really shouldn’t be looking at. However, the story is told so well that behind the brutality of severed heads proudly on display in Dahmer’s fridge, are secondary elements in Bowen’s movie. Even so, it’s not for the queasy folks. And I wouldn’t suggest eating any beef stew during a viewing.

For those interested in revisiting or for first-time viewers, The Secret Life is available over on Amazon.