Elvis - The Last 24 Hours


Reviewed by: David Stanners

When it comes to Elvis, there's not much that's not already been said. In Elvis - The Last 24 Hours, his closest entourage, known as the Memphis Mafia, discuss the final count down before he walked through death's door in a hotel room on August 15th, 1977.

With a legend the size of Elvis's, it's often hard to cut the marrow from the bone. Where the objective truth lies regarding The King's death is anyone's guess. What we have here is a subjective account that leans towards shoving a good portion of the blame onto the shoulders of his infamous manager, Colonel Tom Parker. According to personal body guard Sonny West, his hairdresser and spiritual adviser Larry Geller and security chief Lamar Fike, Parker ran Elvis into the ground with a punishing tour schedule, orchestrated to feed his own gambling debts.

The action kicks off with some background narrative: his birth place in Memphis, his life as a youngster with looks, charisma and bags of "Southern charm" and his first hit at Sun Studios in 1954 - That's Alright Mamma. Then we are introduced to his closest allies, who comprised the Memphis Mafia. From this tightly woven unit, it seems Elvis rarely ventured into the real world and, outside of his personal life and that of Hollywood, he was very much cocooned during the road tours.

West and Fike are quick to point out the decadent lifestyle they all led inside the bars, casinos and hotel rooms. It was a fight keeping up with Elvis. Besides having an enormous appetite for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, his well documented love of food is taken to the forefront. Southern fried anything, particularly crispy bacon, sliced tomatoes, tatties and gravy were an insatiable culinary penchant. During his later years, when his drug habit had spun out of control, he found solace in the very diet that shot his blood pressure sky high, ballooned his weight out of control and forced his heart to work overtime.

We know all this anyway, so what's new? The most interesting part of this saga is the late Colonel Parker's role. Described by Fike as "probably the biggest degenerate gambler you could meet," he'd lose millions a night and is deemed to have turned Elvis into his cash cow, using the money from the tours to pay off his casino debts. Geller mentions how on the night Elvis died, The Colonel had stomped into his hotel room and, despite seeing Elvis on his last legs, demanded the tour to go ahead.

Aside from this angle, there isn't a huge amount new here. Endless tributes, adulation and back rubs from his closest allies tend to obscure the truth. And yet, that's what makes a legend a legend. The mysteries are as important as the facts.

Reviewed on: 29 Jun 2004
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Elvis - The Last 24 Hours packshot
Documentary outlining the final 24 hours of Elvis Presley’s life.
Amazon link

Director: Mike Parkinson

Starring: Elvis Presley, Billy Smith, Joe Esposito, Sonny West, Larry Geller

Year: 2003

Runtime: 55 minutes

Country: US


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