Celluloid Elvis

Despite the best efforts of several generations of right-wing extremists, it's impossible to watch this DVD, Elvis Presley: The Ed Sullivan Shows (Image Entertainment) today and truly understand just how electrifying Elvis Presley would have seemed to the kids tuning in to Ed Sullivan's weekly variety show in an age as repressed as the '50s. But this is as lewd as America got at the time — a kid in a sport jacket swiveling his hips to the beat while the camera does its best to downplay those gyrations, shooting some songs from the waist up, while, thankfully, girls in the studio audience keep you posted on what's going on below the shot with their shrieks of orgasmic approval. Elvis' first three historic appearances (as seen here in the context of the other less historic vaudeville acts that rounded out the bill) find him rocking through such early hits as "Don't Be Cruel" and "Ready Teddy." But the most revealing moment is a second run through "Love Me Tender." At first, he seems lost in a lonelier place than Lonely Street, until the girls start screaming and he cracks a smile, coming out of his spell to ham it up in full-on Vegas mode, already trapped inside the expectations of his audience.


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