Almost Elvis: Elvis Impersonators And Their Quest For The Crown

Almost Elvis: Elvis Impersonators
And Their Quest For The Crown
featuring: Irv Cass, Doug Church, Eric Erickson, Quentin Flagg, and Steve Sogura

producer and director: John Paget

85 minutes (E) 2000 widescreen ratio 16:9
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon

All over the world, people devote their lives to the imitation of Elvis. Male and female, amateur and professional, in $1,000 costumes or homemade jumpsuits, they converge on the US every year to compete in regional heats leading up to the ultimate Elvis impersonators' competition - the Las Vegas-based "Images of Elvis." Paget's intimate documentary follows several hopefuls towards the 1999 competition, taking in their lives and the wider Elvis industry on the way.
Even if you're not a fan of the King, there's a lot to enjoy in this affectionate portrait of a worldwide obsession. Being Elvis is more than a hobby or a career - it's an act of adoration, almost a religious rite. A whole sub-industry has grown up around it, from the Elvis talent agencies to specialist costumiers who hand-fix thousands of gemstones to exact imitations of famous outfits. (And who'd have thought that Elvis' stage look was based on his childhood love of Captain Marvel comics?)
From the old hands to the small-town paperboy with pushy parents, a black Vietnam veteran to a grinning Belgian, the contestants are a mixed bunch with big ambitions. Some will succeed beyond their wildest dreams; some will end up back in minimum-wage jobs after a brief moment of glory. Watching their careful preparations, their dedication to the tiniest details of look or performance, it's hard to avoid being sucked into the tacky glamour of the competition, or the genuine emotional need the audiences seem to have to see their idol back from the dead. The competitors insist that there was only one Elvis and they can never replace him, but many speak as if they were all but channelling his spirit: the King is dead, long live the King...
The filmmakers are perhaps a little too respectful of their subjects, avoiding hard questions; and if you really can't bear Elvis, this documentary is unlikely to change your mind. But, more enjoyable and more psychologically revealing than you might expect, this documentary is a great tribute to human eccentricity and the need to believe in something bigger and more glamorous than everyday life. A modest package of DVD extras includes stills, a look at the history of Elvis impersonators, and a fun Mystery Elvis feature - famous people dressed as Elvis. Almost Elvis is an unusual and fascinating evening's viewing.