The Searcher:’ A Look At The Newest Elvis Presley Documentary

In April 2018, viewers were treated to a unique new look at Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, when a brand-new documentary film called The Searcher debuted on HBO. In the years since his untimely death, every aspect of Presley’s life has been analyzed and dissected, until one might think that there’s nothing new or original to discuss – however, The Searcher is an exciting, intriguing look at how Elvis created his music and his image and might earn a place among the greatest rock and roll documentaries of all time.

What does ‘The Searcher’ explore?

This documentary is no simple fan film – it zeroes in Presley’s unique sound and shows the viewer how hard he worked to get to the level of fame that he ultimately achieved. The Searcher was directed by Thom Zimny, a Presley historian, and was made in full cooperation with the Presley estate.

There are a number of interviews with Presley’s former wife Priscilla throughout the documentary, and as she explains, “Elvis was a searcher.” The film doesn’t really address the much-documented personal struggles that Presley dealt with, including drug addiction, weight problems, and marital troubles. Instead, it explores how Presley grew up in a poor town and turned to music as a way to cope with his inner demons, including the loss of his twin brother, who died at birth, but whose influence never left Presley, as the film shows. Indeed, Elvis Presley spent years searching for the perfect way to create a musical sound that best expressed what he was feeling inside.

The documentary has a “dreamlike” quality

In addition to fascinating interviews with executive producer Priscilla Presley, the documentary also features contributions from megawatt musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Robbie Robertson, Emmylou Harris, and Tom Petty, who passed away before the documentary was released. These entertainers discuss the impact that Presley’s music had on them personally, as well as their own thoughts as to how Presley created his sound and image.

The Searchers conducts all the interviews off-camera, so the viewer’s focus is on archival footage, photographs, and musical performances. This keeps the viewer completely immersed in Elvis Presley’s world, and almost provides a dreamlike feel to the experience.

Elvis Presley and Colonel Parker

Elvis Presley, the King

Elvis Presley | AFP/Getty Images

While The Searchers mostly steers clear of controversial subjects, there is one very important aspect of Presley’s life that it deals with head-on: his relationship with his longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The documentary shows how Parker both helped Presley’s career get started, but ultimately, injected many of his own interests, and became a controlling force in Presley’s life. An interesting point that The Searcher makes is how Presley always wanted to perform internationally, but due to the fact that Parker wasn’t a U.S. citizen, he was afraid of traveling abroad and then not being able to return home. Thus, he was able to convince Presley to keep his concerts and appearances confined to the United States.

Why should Presley fans watch the new documentary?

There is a wealth of material available that pays tribute to the iconic singer, but there aren’t many that are given the stamp of approval by those who were closest to him. Priscilla Presley revealed in an interview that fans might wonder about certain decisions Elvis Presley made, like why he didn’t make more movies and what his relationship was with Colonel Parker. This documentary not only does a lot to dispel some lingering perceptions about Presley but reveals the level of artistry and intent that went into the music he crafted. After all, it’s his music that continues to speak to his millions of fans around the world, year after year.