When I went on Amazon to look up Elvis: The Miniseries, this dvd popped up on the recommendation screen. I’d never heard of it before, but it looked interesting, and was rather cheap, so I went ahead and ordered it too. This is a fake documentary, a mockumentary if you will (although, judging by many of the comments on Amazon, it would seem that many buyers were unaware that this was meant to be satire, and become angry that it wasn’t the real Elvis). Writer/director Joel Gilbert plays himself, as a man filming a documentary about Elvis. There’s a trip to Graceland, looking around, and then things take an interesting turn when Gilbert files a request via the Freedom of Information Act, for all U.S. Government files regarding Elvis Presley.
The files arrive with many pages inked out, except the ink was still wet, so Gilbert and his crew (which includes Celeste Yarnall, who once co-stared with Elvis in the 1968 film “Live a Little Love a Little”) are able to remove some of the ink before it dries, and see things that the Government didn’t want them to know. They see some pages about a retired D.E.A. agent named Jon Burrows, which is supposedly an alias that Elvis used to use when he was alive, for things like renting hotel rooms in private in order to avoid the press. This agent lives in Simi Valley, California, so the crew goes out to see him. And, sure enough, Jon Burrows turns out to be Elvis. He makes a deal with Gilbert to be interviewed on camera, except they obscure his face the whole time, putting him in shadows, while he talks. But then at the very end, he agrees to have one picture taken, which is supposed to be the image on the cover of the DVD. So that’s kind of inconsistent, but I guess they just couldn’t find a decent enough actor who looked like old Elvis.
So the majority of the film is a recap of Elvis’s life. Fake Elvis talks about how he grew up, and started singing, signed with Colonel Tom Parker, became really famous and all that. This is stuff that most serious Elvis fans would already know, but it was still a nice trip down memory lane. There’s also a funny little running theme through the documentary where Elvis speaks of his love for the comic-book superhero Captain Marvel Jr., and how he modeled his life after him and saw many parallels of his life to the adventures of Captain Marvel Jr. in the comics.
Then it gets to Elvis’ infamous 1970 meeting with President Richard Nixon. It is there, according to this documentary, that Elvis become an undercover Federal Agent, who used his contacts in the entertainment business to investigate and set-up members of organized crime and political radicals such as The Weathermen. And it is eventually because of Elvis’ successful investigations against the Mafia that his life becomes in danger, and therefor it becomes necessary for him to fake his death and enter the Federal Witness Protection Program. Elvis’ inner-circle was in on it, and he goes through the details of how they set it up. Part of it is a little far-fetched, as it involved their being a terminal patient who kinda looked like Elvis (& they gave him plastic surgery to make him look even more like him), so they moved him into Graceland, and when he died they pretended the dead body was Elvis. The film addresses some of the same clues that Elvis conspiracy theorists have pointed to over the years, such as Elvis’ tombstone at Graceland spelling his middle name as “Aaron” when Elvis’ birth certificate says “Aron.” Elvis says that was deliberate, as he didn’t want to see his real name on a tombstone while he was still alive. And why Elvis, an Army veteran, didn’t get a military funeral with an American flag on his coffin. Elvis said that would have been an insult to the all veterans who really died, so he didn’t want one. And an early interview with Elvis’ best friend Joe Esposito, where Esposito says they found Elvis dead in his bed, when he was actually found in the bathroom. Elvis says that was just a mistake, that as they were first planning the fake death they originally were going to claim he died in the bed, then changed their minds, but Esposito just got confused and told the wrong story to the press. And there’s a picture of someone who looks like Elvis that was allegedly taken at Graceland a couple of years after Elvis died. Elvis admits that was him, that initially he remained in hiding at Graceland so he could watch all the visitors, until that got too risky and he had to move. It’s all rather silly stuff, but harmless fun, until it takes a rotten turn near the end.
The last part of the interview has Elvis discussing all the various criminal and political threats to America. Supposedly his biggest regret is that he was unable to arrest William Ayers of the 60’s radical group, The Weathermen. According to Elvis, that was his worst enemy, he refers to him as Captain Nazi, who was Captain Marvel Jr.’s worst enemy. So, of course, the conversation turns to President Barack Obama, whom Elvis paints as a willing disciple of Ayers, whom Elvis had been investigating for years as “Barry Soetoro”. According to Elvis, this was a plan hatched decades ago, for Ayers to help get Obama into the White House, so he could be a “Manchurian Candidate” (the exact phrase Elvis uses) and destroy America from within by turning us into a Socialist nation because Obama, like Ayers, hates his “White Middle Class background”. Elvis even claims that he knows that Ayers ghostwrote Obama’s biography, because Obama is “semi-literate”, and can’t string a sentence together on his own without a teleprompter. This DVD was released last fall, before the election, and Elvis warns that if Obama is re-elected that will be it for America, the nation won’t survive.
This is obviously not a coincidence. I looked up Joel Gilbert, and he is a dedicated Far Right anti-Obama conspiracy theorist, who also produced the documentaries Dreams From My Real Father and Atomic Jihad: Ahmadinejad’s Coming War For Islamic Revival And Obama’s Politics, and is regularly covered and contributes to the Far Right website WorldNetDaily, as well as
This isn’t all. Elvis, in this film, also criticizes Bill Clinton for, according to him, giving China Favored Nation Status, which he says destroyed America’s manufacturing base, and he also dismisses Global Warming as a hoax. While he also mocks Fox News as being no better than CNN or MSNBC, and claims he has no political agenda, this is clearly promoting a particular ideology. Now, I’m not even going to try to argue any of these points, people who believe this sort of thing are free to believe whatever they want. But I really feel like this was a bait and switch. The same reason why I would never would have bought Gilbert’s political DVD’s, I would not have bought this one if I’d known I’d be hit with this rightwing stuff. I thought it was a harmless funny documentary about one of my favorite icons, not a political screed.