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”Elvis” concludes with ‘68 TV special

Wed., May 11, 2005

The two-part “Elvis” (8 p.m., CBS) miniseries wraps up on a mythic note, a steaming hot serving of American Faust with a little Memphis-fried Oedipus on the side. After the death of his mother, Gladys (Camryn Manheim), Elvis falls for a 14-year-old girl. He keeps Priscilla (Antonia Bernath) around like a hothouse orchid, only marrying her nine years later. Much of her appeal is in her resemblance to the King’s dear, dead mom.

Colonel Parker’s (Randy Quaid) hold on Elvis only grows stronger as Presley’s musical career wanes. He scuttles a budding romance with “Viva Las Vegas” co-star Ann-Margret (Rose McGowan in a travesty of an impersonation) and ruins Elvis’s chances to appear in serious films, including “West Side Story.”

Doomed to appear in a parade of cinematic piffle such as “Clambake” and “Harum Scarum,” and increasingly addled by pills, Presley turns to self-help books and home-cooked religion. A scene of Elvis pouring his heart out to a philosophical hairdresser is among the more bizarre in this Passion Play. But even this is topped when the Colonel, frightened by his protege’s religious “kick,” organizes a backyard book-burning of Bibles and tracts.

“Elvis” concludes with Presley’s popular 1968 TV comeback special. This spares us his twilight years of jumpsuits and obesity. But it also robs us of the film’s essential third act – the sad, logical conclusion to the Colonel’s demonic possession, Presley’s creative claustrophobia and the fetid moral milieu. Bereft of healthy outside influences, surrounded by his high school posse and dissatisfied with his child bride, the King hunkered down in the gaudy desert bunkers of Las Vegas. The public was invited to visit him in his musical tombs, but as we all know, death was the only way Elvis could leave the building.

James Dean starred in only three movies and died at 24. But 50 years after his death, Dean’s influence continues to resonate. His friends and fellow actors recall him in the “American Masters” installment “James Dean: Sense Memories” (9 p.m., KSPS). Martin Landau, Lois Smith, Eartha Kitt, Mark Rydell and writer Budd Schulberg remember his gift for acting and his guarded, wounded nature.

Dean, who lost his mother when he was very young, was raised by relatives and estranged from his father. Each of his three films, “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant,” had themes that mirrored Dean’s troubled family dynamic. His ability to channel such emotions made him both a popular success and an enduring hero to those who champion the school of “method” acting.

“Forensic Files” (9 p.m., Court TV) turns some “CSI”-style technology on the case of the Lindbergh kidnapping case, the 1932 tragedy long considered the “crime of the century.” Seventy years after the conviction and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, many contend that the German immigrant could not have acted alone. But up-to-date handwriting analysis conclusively links him to the ransom note, and a detailed analysis of the wood used in the kidnapper’s ladder proves that it was taken from Hauptmann’s home.

Other highlights

Kate’s back pages on “Lost” (8 p.m., ABC).

A crypt in Prague may yield satanic secrets on “Revelations” (9 p.m., NBC). With so much travel, this religious-themed drama has become more “Amazing Race” than “Amazing Grace.”

The votes are tallied on “American Idol” (9 p.m., Fox).

Amy Irving and Joel Grey appear on “Alias” (9 p.m., ABC).

Tim Robbins, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gore Vidal and Norman Lear guest-star on the season finale of “Jack & Bobby” (9 p.m., WB).

“Breaking the Da Vinci Code” (9 p.m., PAX) explores the controversial claims of a popular novel.

A big-league rivalry turns deadly for one fan on “CSI: NY” (10 p.m., CBS).

A suspect in a decades-old arson murder claims his religious conversion shields him from prosecution on “Law & Order” (10 p.m., NBC).

Brats vs. Brits on “Supernanny Family Update Special” (10:02 p.m., ABC).

Cult choice

Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles star in the 1946 drama “Tomorrow is Forever” (5 p.m., TCM). No, it’s not a James Bond movie.


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