PictureHaving received a “meticulously remastered sound and picture” - according to the informative bundled booklet - I had high hopes that we would be seeing Elvis as sharply defined as never before. Sadly, it was not to be. The best thing I can say about this release is that image quality is better than the VHS version... and indeed that is saying very little. Yes, it is possible to see Elvis' eye shadow; his almost blue-rinse dyed hair; and yes, one can make out the make-up slapped on to his chiselled features... but there's also quite a bit of colour seepage as well as a severe lack of definition. It's all down to the vertical scan lines that rob the image of any semblance of quality, leaving us with a picture that at times seems almost out of focus... and by modern standards, quite poor. Meticulously remastered? Yes, the picture does seem to be quite “clean”, at least compared to VHS, but I was expecting a whole lot more.
SoundAs much as I hoped for the best image wise, I really expected the worst as far as audio was concerned - after all, the original NBC recording was made in mono! This time round I was pleasantly surprised; gone is the hissy, mono soundtrack, replaced with a choice between a dynamic 448Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 affair, as well as a stereo track for those who prefer their imaging slightly less sharp. I found that both formats have their merits, depending on the clips that you're watching... generally-speaking, I preferred the 5.1 track for the main, complete show. Elvis' voice is spread across the front soundstage of main and centre speakers, and there's enough clarity and dynamism that there were times that even an old Elvis aficionado like yours truly felt that he was hearing something new, even though I've heard this soundtrack many, many, many times before. There's a definite lack of serious bass... but for a TV show recorded back in 1968 things are pretty decent. .As I've suggested, though, it is worth tinkering with audio options... at times the Dolby 5.1 track leaks Elvis' voice to the rear speakers and during these clips I preferred switching to stereo. There are also moments of “coarseness” for want of a better word - listen to I'm Saved and you'll probably hear a rather badly stitching together of two different takes, with a small, but noticeable, glitch at the 00:27:23 mark.
All things considered this is a pretty decent audio transfer, and a testament to just what can be achieved with a, relatively speaking, poor quality master and I think most people will be quite impressed.
ExtrasIf you're an Elvis fan, then you'll probably love what's been included here! If you're not an Elvis fan... well, you may wonder what all the fuss is about, and view these extras as “samey”. This reviewer falls squarely in the first category and the only thing that's missing for me is an insightful commentary or interview with director, Steve Binder.
Supplemental features are simply filled with clips and outtakes showing Elvis as he's rarely been shown before - working hard at doing what he did best... entertaining. Despite being listed in the accompanying booklet the rather “amateurish” omission of the It Hurts Me part of the Guitar Man Production number, Graceland Enterprises have finally put together an Elvis DVD worthy of the format. I've always regarded the final track from the '68 Comeback Special as Elvis' career defining moment, and a rare glimpse of the man actually put some effort into his performance. With these extras we get to see him sing this “message song” time and again, hitting the same gruff notes over and over, leaving us in no doubt - this Elvis was taking care of business. There are also clips of him splitting his pants; looking like a complete dork as he miss-times a simple walk down a few steps, seeming a little geeky, and human - for me, this is where this Deluxe Edition really hits the mark... showing Elvis in a subtly different light from the usual “he will always be the King”, type fluff.
Always countering these thoughts is how the man could have suffered such a sad demise in such a short period of time - the '70s would see him merely going through the motions, appearing sad, dejected, lonely and starved of any professional goals. The '68 Comeback Special should have been a new starting point in Elvis' career; it seems history will show it as the beginning of the end.
VerdictIf you're an Elvis fan, well, you simply must own this DVD. If you're not an Elvis fan... then, picture quality aside, buying the Elvis '68 Comeback Special: Deluxe Edition could make you see what you've been missing! Seeing Elvis this good leaves me wanting more... but as this is regarded by many as Elvis at his peak, maybe the guy just didn't have any more to give. Recommended.
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