By David Hiltbrand
January 11, 1993 12:00 PM

NBC (Sun., Jan. 10, 9 P.M. ET)


This is a suitably garish retelling of Col. Tom Parker’s outlandishly remunerated handling of the career of Elvis Presley. As portrayed here, Parker, 82, is a shrewd operator who manipulated a talented yokel for two decades, siphoning off 50 percent of Presley’s earnings even after Elvis’s death in 1977. Beau Bridges plays Parker, a former carnival huckster with a fascination for elephants and midgets. Newcomer Hob Youngblood plays the Big E.

The movie waterbugs through all the ruinous career decisions the schlocky movies, the Vegas enshrinement—and Elvis’s bloated decline. Though the physical resemblance isn’t striking, Youngblood sounds more like the King than Kurt Russell or the dozen or so other actors who have portrayed Presley. Bridges gives a brazen performance as the sordid Svengali.

This treatment is jumpy and cartoonish, including the device of having a posthumous Elvis wander through the film. Other than suggesting that Parker maneuvered Elvis into marrying Priscilla, there is little here to earn the subtitle The Untold Story. The script does state, however, what some researchers have charged: that Parker was not from West Virginia, as he claimed, but was in fact an illegal alien, born in the Netherlands. Elvis never did an overseas tour, reportedly because Parker was afraid of the scrutiny involved in securing a passport.

Revelatory or not, the story is enjoyable. Elvis lore has been so overmined, a film like this is like a Bible story—familiar but colorful.