DVD Review:

"Protecting the King"

....based on a true story

"We all come to the end of our innocence...

for me it happened when I stepped onto the plane."

(David Stanley)


Buy Protecting The King (Australia)

(also available from Australian K-Mart stores for under A$20.00)

Buy Protecting The King (USA)

David Stanley's long awaited film about his coming of age as bodyguard to Elvis is now available in Australia on DVD (to be released in the US in October 2007). To be clear up front, Protecting The King is the David Stanley story, not the Elvis story. And it does not feature Elvis' music, either by Elvis himself or any tribute artist.

Some fans will not warm to Stanley's directorial debut. It is a film most likely to be appreciated (accepted) by those wanting to explore the complex shades of grey symbolising the totality of life around Elvis, with its pressures, temptations, and the inherent human frailties and weaknesses which afflict those experiencing such surreal and potentially destructive situations.

In many respects Protecting The King is a not uncommon story involving the abuse of power and the self which wealth permits, with just as common elements of reflected glory, nepotism and cronyism. (Shown opposite: Australian DVD cover)

Despite original expectations the film would get a theatrical release, it is a straight to DVD release. This is not a negative as the David Stanley story has some fine moments and offers a unique perspective on life and reactions around the King.

Matt Barr is very good as David Stanley. He finely exudes the single minded focus of a teenage boy finding his adulthood amongst incredible offerings, temptations and excesses. The film very successfully presents a picture of Stanley as a psychologically immature individual with significant anger management issues.

Kevin Dobson portrays Elvis. His interpretation of the King is an interesting one which some fans will undoubtedly decry. Particularly in the early stanzas of the film, he along with most of the Memphis Mafia, are not portrayed sympathetically. While you eventually warm to Dobson's portayal of the King, I personally found it too one dimensional and unsympathetic for most of the film.

Also, rather than showing the 'politically correct' slimline Elvis, Dobson should have been "beefed up" when portraying Elvis during the final year or so.

While David Stanley and Elvis maintain their real names, most other characters appear with fictional names. Having said that it is not difficult to determine who is who in the Memphis Mafia: Ronnie is Joe Esposito, Frank and Jeff are Red and Sonny; Darryl is Charlie Hodge.

The emotional and moral core of Protecting The King is carried by a fine actress, Danielle Keaton as Katie, David Stanley's long suffering wife. That Stanley cogently contrasts her behaviour with his is a telling honesty in his narrative.

There are several other interesting and challenging elements in the film. Elvis' shooting of the television set is mirrored by David letting loose with a gun after (wife) Katie leaves him; an alcohol and drug overdose almost costing him his life.

The Memphis Mafia come across as largely unsympathetic sycophants, although 'tough guy' Frank (Red West) has several sympathetic scenes. The Joe Esposito character, wonderfully played by Tom Sizemore, is unlikely to endear itself to the real Diamond Joe! Others are seen abusing their privileged situation, including in one powerful scene a tanked up Charlie assaulting a woman, resulting in a highly charged reaction from David Stanley.

Not surprisingly, Dee Presley is portrayed as a victim of 'on the road' excesses by Vernon Presley. Other accounts will suggest there is another dimension to Dee's story.

David Stanley:

A weakness of Protecting The King is that it takes some time before the viewer feels an emotional connection and warmth with the main characters (Danielle Keaton excepted). Having said this, while many of the characters are emotionally unengaging, a strength of the film is the way David Stanley as director and script writer leads the viewer to an emotional engagement with at least some of the primary characters by the film's denouement.

By 1977 Elvis is shown as regularly, if not always, "strung out", which in all likelihood was the sad reality. Stanley also draws attention to the serious effects Elvis' drug use had on his live performing - he is shown storming off stage after forgetting the words to a song.

Protecting The King also shows the sadly unsuccessful attempts by the Memphis Mafia to straighten Elvis out.

There are a number of visually and emotionally powerful scenes in the film. There is a very moving scene when Elvis finds out about the Bodyguard book, "Elvis, What Happened?"; and as he was after learning of Priscilla's affair with karate instructor, Mike Stone, Elvis is shown as determined to wreak revenge on those he perceives as having wronged him. And be forewarned, some fans will find a number of other scenes unsettling. There is, at times, a brutally frank edge in the filmmaking, an edge not normally seen in films with an Elvis theme.

At one important point in the film Elvis pronounces: "Hey David, who am I?" Those five words are unusually powerful, and on considered reflection enlightening, as they symbolise Elvis' ongoing search and struggle for inner peace and an understanding of his role in the world.

Despite these arresting scenes and insight a lack of scene consistency and plot exposition weakens the Film's overall impact. Greater exploration of some of its narrative themes would have provided greater depth. This weakness is arguably reflected by the film's rather short running time of 88 minutes.

On the set of Protecting The King (Peter Dobson as Elvis)

A very good film is often indicated by the sum of its parts providing the viewer with either emotional engagement or psychological satisfaction. While Protecting The King tries hard it ultimately just fails to deliver an emotionally satisfying viewing experience. As to achieving psychological satisfaction for many viewers, it is this element where it is more convincing.

Protecting The King is one of those films which lends itself to greater appreciation after a second viewing.

Technical Elements:

Video: the DVD features a clear picture

Audio: 2.0 Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio: 1.78: 1 16:9 enhanced

Transfer Format: Widescreen

Disc: picture disc; single layered DVD 5 format

Incidental music: unsubstantial but convincing

Rating: MA 15+ (in Australia)

Shown opposite: USA DVD cover

Special Features:

  • The Real Life Story of David Stanley including:
  • Personal accounts of the life with The King
  • Actual Photos of the King
  • Behind The Scenes of Protecting The Kings
  • On the set interviews with the stars
  • Photo Gallery

Verdict: Regardless of your perception of the David Stanley story and its truth, Protecting The King marks a strong directorial debut by Stanley. The film has value in offering us a view of Elvis' world and its flaws through the eyes of a young man with unlimited access to a surreal and destructive existence.

Read EIN's interview with David Stanley

Visit the Impello Films website

Comment on this review

What others have said about "Protecting The King" (from IMDB messageboard)

Dr Dago: Just saw a screener version of "Protecting the King", I have to say at first I did not think anyone can play Elvis, Until I watched this screener, I take my hat off to the actor Peter Dobson for doing such a AMAZING Job, I know he played Elvis in "Forest Gump", and to play such an Icon like Elvis is not an easy Job! This is this first time since Kurt Russel's performance as Elvis in a TV movie back in 1979! I wonder if Peter can sing?

Beatrice Marot: I am a psychic in Los Angeles and Elvis Presley has been around me for several years and uses me to help people from the other side. One morning I awoke hearing Elvis Presley saying, "Tell Billy to play me. Tell Billy to play me." So I called Billy Zane and I told him, "I just got a hit from Elvis that you should play him." and Billy said, "That's funny, I just got a script about Elvis today." But he said he coundn't do it. So, I said, "You know Billy when Elvis himself asks you to play him . . . you really should play him."

Three days later I was reading for a comedian named Luca Palanka and I told him the story and he said, "My best friend Peter Dobson just got that role today!"

I ended up toasting Peter Dobson on his role as Elvis with Peter Dobson that very evening and I told him, "The director will tell you that he feels that Elvis guided you to him." I found out that the director told him exactly that.

In June, I read for a young lady. Mr. Stanley, Elvis's stepbrother and the writer/director of the movie stayed at her family's home while shooting the film.

Thank you very much Elvis . . . dead or alive . . . you are the king. And Mr. Stanley, just know if you read this that your bro appreciates your love and sends his blessings.

If you want to know more check out http://www.myspace.com/psychicbea

John Crisp: I just viewed a screener of this film (mine was entitled "Riding with Elvis") and it's not only "not great," it's just plain bad. This biopic is not even worthy to be a Lifetime made-for-television movie.

Anyone who knows anything about the Stanley family shouldn't be surprised. It shows, once again, that they have the need to make themselves appear (more than) important in the life of Elvis. They're notorious for cashing in on the Presley name shamelessly and repeatedly*.

We're to believe that Elvis (who is never referred to by name in this production) actually relied on David Stanley as a bodyguard when he (Stanley) was nineteen years old, and was as an integral part of Elvis' entourage. One scene even has Stanley disarming a knife-wielding fan attempting to attack Elvis. In all of the biographies I've read about Elvis (barring any done by this family), Stanley has never been given much more than a mention, and certainly never elevated to the status of anything more than a hanger-on.

Though most names of the major characters were changed, we're also to believe that Stanley actually stopped a sexual assault by (who appears to be) the late Charlie Hodge (named changed to Darryl) on a female fan, and that he beat him (Hodge) within an inch of his life. This is only one of the more outrageous claims dramatized in the movie. The portrayal of who appears to be Joe Esposito (name changed to Ronnie) by Tom Sizemore is laughable, making Elvis' road manager to be little more than an angry thug.

In the end he seems to blame the wrong turn he took in life to the lifestyle that Elvis thrust upon him. His (Stanley's) failed marriage, addiction to drugs and lack of formal education (dropping out of school at 16 to go on tour) were all the price he paid because his mother married Elvis' father.

Of course, this film is all about Stanley. And it shows.

Cody (Miami): David Stanley was played perfectly by Matt Barr.Also Peter Dobson played the the "King" efforlessly and with great range of emotion. His performnace was so very real and full of truth. This is an orginal feature film that has so many great aspects. The spirit of independent films is making a story about compelling situations and charachters. The struggles of the "KING" were known for many years. This film shows one man's vision of how he helped and also learned life lessons from E. P.

Directed by Stanley the viewer is placed in a time capsule with great detail to all aspects of the "King's" life. I loved the "King's" plane and the authentic period detailing. Sizemore and Brian Krause do a smash up great job. The are raw and genuine.... Actually, the entire ensemble cast was quite good. Moreover, Mark Rolston's charachter was brutual and sincere. He also has a stand out performance.

It is really a very fine film with a moving story. I loved it..

































































































































































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