Picks and Pans Review: Elvis '56

updated 08/17/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/17/1987 01:00AM

Cinemax (Sun., Aug. 16, 9 p.m. ET)

A

A few minutes into this special I was sure I'd hear a voice boom: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was Elvis." On the 10th anniversary of his death (see page 84), this Cinemax tribute begins by practically deifying the star. "Elvis, 1973: His power and success seemed unlimited," says narrator Levon (the Band) Helm. "Before Elvis, there was nothing," reads a quote from John Lennon. But things get down to earth when the show gets down to business—recalling Elvis in 1956, when he recorded five No. 1 hits starting with Heartbreak Hotel and became a movie star with Love Me Tender. You see spectacular kinescopes from old TV shows. While Perry Como looks embarrassed crooning Hot Diggity on NBC, Elvis heats up CBS with Baby, Let's Play House; he follows a troupe of tap-dancing xylophone players on Stage Show to sing Shake, Rattle and Roll; he humiliates himself singing Hound Dog to a hound dog on Steve Allen's show. You even get pictures telling you, step by step, how to comb your hair just like Elvis did. They dug up some great stuff. Once the Elvis aura fades, you get to see, simply, a talented guy who happened to hit it big one year in the '50s. A real kick of a show.

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