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Top 10 Elvis Presley DVDs

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Elvis Presley's overwhelming charisma made him a natural for television and the movies -- indeed, many of his most important, defining career moments occurred in front of the camera, one way or another. Therefore, Elvis DVDs don't just give you more Elvis than the CDs do... they open up a whole other side of his personality, which is essential in understanding someone so private. While this is far from a complete list of worthwhile Elvis DVD releases, it does represent the cream of the crop.

1. Elvis - That's The Way It Is

The cover of the DVD
One of rock's great live performance films, this documentary captures a pivotal 1970 Elvis show -- his return to Las Vegas, which had practically booed him out of town when he first approached it early in his career. Now, revitalized by his comeback special and recent hits, he attempted to translate rock for Vegas and establish himself as a mature performer in the process. A very detailed snapshot that shows how powerful Elvis shows were before excess got the best of him.

2. Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special

The cover of the DVD
The first and arguably best example of a rock and roll singer emerging into adulthood with his fire intact. Planned as a safe Christmas special, Elvis bucked his handlers to create a vibrant portrait of the artist as a slightly less young man. The arrangements are overblown in places, but that's more than made up for here by the revelatory "unplugged"-style jam session. Proving once again that Elvis really was an innovator, and not just in the studio.

3. Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii

A historic concert, and not just by Elvis standards: this was the first worldwide satellite broadcast, and the context made this another important moment in Presley's career. This expanded version is no mere TV special, featuring Elvis' arrival, his rehearsal concert, and songs not included in the broadcast (although the broadcast is presented as is on the second disc, if you'd like to wax nostalgic). The epitome of Elvis' concert years.

4. Viva Las Vegas

The best of Elvis' post-Army movies, benefiting as it does from the location and the presence of a genuine firecracker in Ann Margaret. There's actual chemistry between Elvis and his leading lady here, and the songs are far better than Elvis' movie reputation would suggest. And how can you not love The King as a race car driver? The film NASCAR dads, Vegas tourists, and Elvis fans can all enjoy.

5. King Creole

Possibly Elvis' greatest movie, if taken as a movie and not an excuse to see the King in action. It's based on a real story, and Presley really searches for a character that's not simply him, suggesting that Elvis might very well have become the serious screen actor he wanted to be if his isolation hadn't rendered him artistically impotant for so long. A movie that even people who don't like Elvis can appreciate.

6. Elvis '56: In the Beginning

Chronicles Elvis' breakout year -- and only his breakout year -- in an attempt to understand why his cultural breakthrough was so threatening to certain segments of society. It also paints a portrait, through interviews and clips, of a man blindsided by fame and then somewhat damaged by it. Essential to understanding the inner Elvis, before he hid under layers of professionalism.

7. Elvis: The Great Performances, Vol. 1 - Center Stage

The complete box set of this archival project repeats a lot of Elvis footage seen in other places, but this first volume gets it right, capturing the King at his early peak while gathering together legendary TV and live performances not readily available to most fans. The Ed Sullivan and Dorsey Brothers shows as well as his early film performances are all well-represented here.

8. He Touched Me: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley

It doesn't get talked about much, but Elvis was a major gospel enthusiast who knew his stuff -- you only need to listen to the Jordanaires' backup on his songs to know that he loved the sound AND the spirituality of it all. This DVD focuses entirely on Elvis as a gospel singer, and how his passion often conflicted with his rock and roll persona. Lots of footage and interviews.

9. Classic Albums: Elvis Presley

Part of a series that focuses on classic rock albums and the making thereof, this documentary utilizes film clips and interviews with rock scholars and musicians to explain just how Elvis made his first "real" album (and the singles from around the same time). Insightful in tracing the development of the King from Sun artist to his own man.

10. Elvis: The Definitive Collection

If all you need is sixteen hours that chart Elvis Presley's life and his amazing impact on the world of modern American music, this multi-disc set is the one for you. Joe Esposito is the executive consultant here, which means that this documentary is very thorough and very intimate, although it handles some of the aspects of Elvis' personality with kid gloves. Still, it's a great resource for both beginners and experts
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