ZERO STARS/**** Image B Sound B Extras D+
directed by Terry Moloney
by Walter Chaw Cynically timed to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of The King's August 16th death, Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers, the "video scrapbook" of Elvis's best friend "Diamond Joe" Esposito, is a mawkish self-parody that plays like some weird Masterpiece Theater sketch with neither a point-of-view nor a compelling reason for being.
Beginning with Esposito's first contact with Elvis in the army in the late-Fifties through to the performer's ignominious demise in his carpeted "commode," Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers is essentially a series of title card-introduced anecdotes, each of them beginning with Diamond Joe rasping, "I remember when..." as a fire crackles in the hearth over his right shoulder. The extreme unintentional hilarity of the enterprise is highlighted by the sad fact that none of The King's music underscores any of the vapid recollections (reminding of the Village People episode of "Behind the Music"); neither do any of his performances grace the "rare archival footage," which washes out as newsreels of the man walking onto an airplane or off of one.
Though you'll think it's happened many times before it does, Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers reaches its nadir during a sad epilogue montage scored by a horrendous new country ballad from something named "Tamara Walker." It's the kind of music a Care Bear with a guitar would create, making me wonder idly if there's enough room in The King's one-ton copper coffin for a few more spins. Esposito's tales of Elvis's generosity with new cars and love for Priscilla, and Esposito's jealousy of his best friend's way with the ladies are so generic and repetitive that I found Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers impossible to sit through in a single viewing. It's a perversely banal document for one of the most exciting performers of the late twentieth century, a pathetic grab for attention from a man who's spent the last forty-some years anonymously riding some extremely broad coattails.
Because they're sadistic bastards, UMVD's DVD release of Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers offers an additional eleven "I remember when..." vignettes that offer more of the same stunningly disinteresting recollections and soft-sold narration. There's never any mention of philandering or drug abuse, and the cause of death is hilariously called "heart attack"--more like self-defense, if you ask me.
The full-frame video transfer is fine considering that the documentary was shot on video--and as the Dolby 2.0 audio is only asked to reproduce Diamond Joe's guttural meandering, its clarity is a bane rather than a boon. A five-page text biography of our man Joe rounds out the special features on the disc, serving mainly as another repetitive bit of nothing. On the other hand, it occurs to me that if you really care who this guy is, have I got a DVD for you. Originally published: July 28, 2002.