The 1968 Comeback Special
DVD Review

DVD REVIEW: Elvis: 68 Comeback Special Deluxe Edition (1968)
Stars: Elvis Presley
Director: Steve Binder, Gary Hovey, Todd Morgan
Review By: Jeff Rosado
Published: June 23, 2004

Both Complete "Sit Down" Shows
(6 pm and 8 pm June 27th, 1968)

Both Complete "Stand Up" Shows
(6 pm and 8 pm; June 29th, 1968)

All Takes/Pick-Up Shots/Raw Footage of the "Trouble/Guitar Man",
"Gospel Medley", "Guitar Man" Production

New Video For "If I Can Dream"

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+
It's the late afternoon of June 27th, 1968; the clock is a few
minutes shy of 6pm. Backstage at NBC Studios, the air is
fraught with tension as 33-year-old rock legend Elvis Presley
sits in his dressing room sweating profusely-and it's not entirely
caused by the custom-made leather outfit he's wearing A few
feet away, a studio audience anxiously awaits what will be Elvis'
first live performance in over seven years, a virtual lifetime in
the record business. While away making a series of fun but mostly
creatively unchallenging Hollywood musicals, the rock-and-roll
landscape has done a complete 180, thanks to the likes of The
Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles, artists who weren't
afraid to embrace change and expand upon their early material
that caught the public's attention. During an era of classic albums
including Rubber Soul, Pet Sounds and Blonde on Blonde, the
man that influenced a generation of musicians was now
churning out an average of three film soundtracks a year,
littered with inane titles such as "There's No Room to
Rumba in a Sports Car" and "Yoga Is as Yoga Does". In

other words, the pop cultural force known as The King
had all but relinquished his throne. With a strong
possibility of cancellation looming, director Steve Binder
rushes to Presley's aide. Over the course of months past,
the legendary musical program helmer (The T.A.M.I. Show,
Hullabaloo) has seen a different side of the performer during
preparations for his debut television special: a driven and
passionate artist anxious to emerge from a comfort cocoon and
recapture his artistic integrity left behind a half-decade earlier.
However, at this moment the panic stricken Presley looks
nothing like the force of creative energy that has ignited the
last few weeks of pre-production. Despite encouragement from
the director and Memphis Mafia entourage member Joe
Esposito, Elvis remains a nervous wreck. Urging him not to
disappoint his fans, Binder promises to throw the footage out
if the two scheduled performances turn out to be duds.
Originally conceived as a generic Christmas variety hour filled
with fake snow, gift-hungry kids, and holiday standards until
Presley took creative rein, the end result is a perfect blending
of white hot performances and exciting production numbers
that re-cast his classic hits in a modern, vibrant light. Looking
impossibly sexy with an urgent raw edge to his voice only
hinted at during his formative years, the boy who dared to
rock during the dawn of that genre has matured into a man in
complete control once more. Among the high points of these
classic performances: a thrilling sequence commencing with a
triple-threat medley of "Heartbreak Hotel", "Hound Dog", and
"All Shook Up" paves the way for a blazing "Jailhouse Rock"
(Elvis barely suppresses a laugh while maneuvering the tongue
twister lyrics) and beautifully re-arranged versions of "Can't
Help Falling in Love" and "Love Me Tender", which topple
their original 45rpm incarnations; a rousing gospel sequence
that pays homage to Presley's musical roots, including a
moving "Where Could I Go But to The Lord" and a furious tent-
revival take on the once obscure Leiber-Stoller composition,
"Saved", down and dirty jams on "Baby, What You Want Me to
Do" (featuring Presley's gritty, underrated rhythm/lead
combination riffing) and an earth- shattering "One Night".
Although the revitalized classics form the heart of the show,
its unquestionable highlight comes courtesy of a new song
written by composer W. Earl Brown. Inspired by an emotional
conversation Binder had with Presley in the wake of Robert
Kennedy's assassination, the director commissioned Brown
to come up with a reflective, soulful composition that not only
crystallized the feelings of its singer, but also incorporated the
mood of a country in the midst of one of its most turbulent years
in history.Moved to such a point that the performer asked the
songwriter to play his new pride-and-joy numerous times prior
to the recording session, The song "If I Can Dream" became an
unforgettable coda for the special, as Presley's passionate plea
for "peace and understanding" resulted in what may very well
be his greatest vocal performance, and a song that remains
just as relevant 36 Years later. Dual triumphs in both the record
charts and Nielsen ratings aside, the Peabody Award-winning
special only grew in stature over the years, particularly after
Presley's passing. Yet, there was more where this superlative
material came from. Disappointed at only getting stingy, "a cut
here and there" compilation album treatment of the unreleased
goods from RCA, adamant fans turned to enterprising bootleg
album/video specialists to fill the void. Mostly complete but
oftentimes lacking in quality (multi-generational sources; lack
of proper re-mastering), many longtime faithful wondered if this
legendary treasure chest of musical history would ever have an
official release. Well, this long overdue edition is finally here.

Image Transfer Review:
Image Transfer Grade: A
Released in the early days of DVD through Warner Bros. and
Lightyear Entertainment, '68 Comeback looked only marginally
better than its VHS cousin, to be honest. Although preserved in
the best conditions possible by the singer's estate, the age of
the two-inch master tapes were getting more noticeable by the
year, particularly the faded colors and ghosting- type artifacts.
Not anymore, folks. In a mastering job comparable to Warner
Brothers recent treatment of screen classics "The Adventures of
Robin Hood" and several others, Elvis Presley Enterprises in
collaboration with Complete Post has given this material an
extreme makeover. Flaws that have become second nature in

past video releases are delightfully eliminated; colors are
stunningly accurate (especially skintones and the shine of the
legendary Bill Belew leather suit) and grain has been mostly
exorcised without compromising quality. Audience members
standout like never before along with tiny details like the
fingerprints on Scotty Moore's guitar (which Elvis borrows during
the informal jam sessions) and beads of perspiration that cover
the superstar's face come across with surprising clarity. Though
very minor detriments remain, they are not enough to mar one
of the finest video refurbishings of '60s era television material to
surface to date, courtesy of the producer-editor Ray Miller; hats
off to him and his staff for a job well done.

Audio Transfer Review:
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Despite its monoaural source, just as much attention was
devoted to the "Deluxe Edition" audio with awe-inspiring
results. Presented in both 2.0 and 5.1 versions, the former
will likely find favor among staunch purists that prefer a
presentation that harkens close to its original 1968 audio
state with very little enhancement. For those who choose to
listen with an open mind, the Dolby Digital re-mix is
surprisingly effective by adding a nice expansiveness to the
rears during production numbers and arena performances
while playing it low key for the back-to-basics sound of the
semi-unplugged segments. Crisp, non-grating highs from the
fronts are notable as is an impressive low end that really cooks,
especially during the "Trouble/Guitar Man" medley that opens
the special. Although some super critical fans will wonder why
multi-track audio from the recording sessions for the project
semi-unplugged segments. Crisp, non-grating highs from the
fronts are notable as is an impressive low end that really cooks,
especially during the "Trouble/Guitar Man" medley that opens
the special. Although some super critical fans will wonder why
multi-track audio from the recording sessions for the project
weren't utilized for moments like the latter, the answer lies in
the simple fact that some of Elvis'television vocals were a
mixture of live performance and lip-synching during those
sequences; there's no way the two differing elements could

have been matched up to everyone's satisfaction.

Extras Review:
Extras Grade: A+
Unless some heretofore untapped NBC security camera footage
surfaces in the coming years,this should be the final word on
this legendary musical event. With over six hours of bonus
material spread out over this three-disc set (much of it never
released officially), you not only get the classic special in its
entirety, but all the pieces of the production in raw, unedited
form (mostly in the order of shooting) that put you smack dab in
the middle of a most pivotal period of Presley's career.

Both of the sitdown shows from the night of June 27th, 1968 are
released in their entirety for the first time (including the
performances of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" that were cut from
previous releases due to publishing rights). With virtually
no filler, one can't help but wonder why only 10-12 minutes from
nearly two hours of stellar material wound up in Binder's original
cut of the TV special. From the early gig's rendition of "That's All
Right" to the rarely performed "When My Blue Moon Turns to
Gold Again" that closes the late show, Presley and friends are
constantly mesmerizing whether revisiting gems from both the
Sun and early RCA eras,cracking in-jokes, recallling memorable
incidents from the peak of 1950s Elvis-mania (including a
memorable Jacksonville, Florida appearance filmed by police)
and poking fun at the script rundown ("Elvis will talk about....not
touching hands with, touching body with hands"). But
it's the electric, nothing-held-back performances that make this
section one you'll revisit again and again courtesy of hard-
driving highlights including "Lawdy Miss Clawdy", "Blue Suede
Shoes", and especially the uninhibited 8pm show performance
of "Trying to Get to You", where Presley's facial expressions are
almost identical to the black-and-white concert photo that
adorned the cover of his first album; as the wild crowd roars its
approval upon the extended thrashing of its final "E" chord,
watch his reaction: a mixture of orgasmic post-song relief and a
sense of pleasure that seems to say, "I made it. I'm back"-truly
one of the most transcendent moments in the history of rock.

Revelatory as the sitdown shows were, the more traditional
stand -up shows of June 29th, 1968 both contained on Disc 2
rival them for sheer excitement, thanks to Presley's revived
confidence and the wonderful support by NBC's resident
orchestra supplemented by girl group The Blossoms (including
legendary Phil Spector vocalist Darlene Love) and some of
L.A.'s best sessionmen of that time, including drumming legend
Hal Blaine and six-string wizard Tommy Tedesco. Egged on by
highly supportive audiences, Elvis' initial nervousness
disappears within seconds as stellar versions of "Blue Suede
Shoes" and "Don't Be Cruel" emerge among others. However,
the peak performance of both shows surfaces via an inspired,
impromptu jam on "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" to fill time
due to a technical delay in the production booth. Also included
are pre-concert audience warm-ups by producer Bob Finkel
("Does anybody have to go to the bathroom?") and between-
take banter between Elvis and fans at the front of the stage
(including a wacky spin at MacArthur Park and a hilarious
moment when he gets so in the zone that he momentarily
forgets that there's a piece of musical equipment on stage he
needs to utilize in order to be heard ("Shouldn't I be in front of
the microphone?") In a special treat for longtime fans who have
bought every home video version of this material, all four of the
concerts contained on the disc have been re-edited from scratch
by Miller, co-directors Todd Morgan (creative development
director for Graceland) and Gary Hovey. Using a rare video
source taken from one camera angle, the end result compliments
original director Steve Binder's creative visuals (midway cross
fades, overhead angles) by adding livelier, appropriate cutting,
more prominent close-ups of Presley and additional interaction
between him and his band mates. Filling out the remainder of
Disc 2 and all of Disc 3 is every take from the four production
numbers. With over 100 chapters allotted to these sequences,
watching them all in one sitting is next to impossible. Not that
the material isn't great, but witnessing the amount of work that
Presley and his cast go through (sometimes for edit pieces
lasting no longer than :30s to :45s) is draining yet inspiring. You
get a sense of how tight the Comeback unit was by many
moments of applause following the end of a successful take
along with abundant smiles and laughter. I also admired the non-
censoring of those rare working moments when Presley's
legendary temper came into play, not to the point of embarrassing
anyone, but agitated with himself over not coming in on cue,
missing a dance step and so on. But there's more hilarity than
huff including what may be the first recorded example of
"wardrobe malfunction" and an inspired practical joke courtesy
of the production crew. Great stuff. In addition to this digital
treasure chest of archival goodness, a brand new music video
for "If I Can Dream" (incorporating the original white-suit finale
with lip sync footage recorded during the arena shows), the
complete shooting session for the rare NBC "Huh-Huh-Huh"
promo for the special, a multi-page booklet with many unseen
photos supplemented by an essay by noted rock writer Greil
Marcus (Mystery Train) and the restoration of the smokin'"Let
Yourself Go" to the main special (part of a risqué sequence
that the sole sponsor of the show forced to be cut) round out
an indispensible set. One of the defining moments of Elvis
Presley's career is given its DVD due in an amazing multi-disc
set. Joining the ranks of "Monterey Pop", "Gimme Shelter",
"The Last Waltz" and "A Hard Day's Night", "Elvis: '68 Comeback
Special-Deluxe Edition" is truly an essential "must-have" for any
serious rock-and-roll and music fan.


In the orginal December 1968 broadcast version of the the ’68
Special as seen on the DVD set, the song "It Hurts Me" is
missing from the "Guitar Man" production number. Why?

The bordello scene in the "Guitar Man" production number was
cut from the original 1968 broadcast due to sponsor objections
and It Hurts Me appears to have been cut for time. A little-
known fact. Video and DVD releases up to now have included
the restoration of both these segments to the production
number. For this edition, only the bordello scene was restored.
Not restoring "It Hurts Me" was a freak accidental oversight in
going through mutliple original tape sources early on in the
project and was not caught - as evidenced by the fact that the
song is included in the track listing for the "Guitar Man"
production number medley in the liner notes. We’re sorry. But,
as promised, you DO get the original broadcast version with the
bordello scene restored. As for "It Hurts Me", you get all takes of
it as well as all takes of all components of the "Guitar Man"
production number elsewhere in the DVD set.

The 68 Comeback DVD set edits:

"It Hurts Me": of course everyone knows about the part missing
from the road medley, but I thought we were to get the raw
component takes. There is some, but only of the first 2 verses.
Nothing from the 3rd verse, NOTHING. But its on the previous
video release of the special. I would also like to point out that
on the first take of "It Hurts Me", they use a different audio take
for elvis to lip sync to than on the other takes: "It hurts me to see
him treat you the way that he does, it hurts me......." is how it's
sung on that first take. "it hurts me to see him treat you the way
that he does, OH it hurts me...." is the way it is on all subsequent
takes and is the version used as the video master only avaliable
on the previous video of the special. BUT this version has never
been released by RCA. I checked out the Ledgendary Performer
Volume 3 LP and the other releases and its not even on the boot
LP of the 68 comeback.

"If I Can Dream": There is about 10 seconds of footage
missing before the first take. "

"Trouble": take 1012. While elvis is waiting for the setup,
he puffs on a cigar. This is not on the dvd set.

"Big Boss Man" not an edit but I did anyone notice that on the
2nd to last take the guy half broke the guitar and on the final
take it looks like they just duct taped it.

"Nothinville": take 901, here is about 30 seconds of studio
chatter edited out.

Opening/Closing Live Production Promo Ads/Albums Etc. Candids Main Alt DVD Art