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The Burger & the King

Produced by the BBC. Associate producers, Jo Durden-Smith, David Adler. Based on the book "The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley" by Adler. Director, James Marsh; There's always room for one more on the Elvis Presley bandwagon, and director James Marsh has chosen to examine the King's diet. It's not particularly timely, and too snide by half, but surrounded by all the fluff is a potentially interesting look at the eating habits of some lower-income Southerners.

Produced by the BBC. Associate producers, Jo Durden-Smith, David Adler. Based on the book “The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley” by Adler. Director, James Marsh; There’s always room for one more on the Elvis Presley bandwagon, and director James Marsh has chosen to examine the King’s diet. It’s not particularly timely, and too snide by half, but surrounded by all the fluff is a potentially interesting look at the eating habits of some lower-income Southerners.

Overall tone is established early, withseveral Elvis impersonators seated at a long table chowing down; docu concludes with testimony of several people who claim to have encountered Presley after his “death.”

Film runs more or less chronologically, positing that as a child in Tupelo, Miss., Presley dined to a notable degree on critters — rabbits, squirrels, opossums and the like. Marsh checks with cooks at Humes High School in Memphis, who venture that Presley (like everybody else attending high school across the country) ate a lot of sloppy Joes; in the Army in Germany, we’re told, he consumed creamed chipped beef on toast.

Pretty banal, though Marsh tries to make such delicacies as pig’s feet, cheeseburgers and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches — Marsh fixates on these — sound exotic or declasse; this from a man whose nation feasts on jellied eel, steak and kidney pie and Wimpy burgers. Presley’s problem wasn’t what he ate, but the amount, and the lack of nutritious food to balance the fun stuff. George Christy, representing Hollywood, suggests that what Presley really needed was ” … somebody who’d say, ‘Let’s have a lovely filet of Dover sole.'” Dr. George Nichopoulos — the famed “Doctor Nick” — notes that Presley was experimenting with a diet of papaya juice toward the end, but doesn’t get into Presley’s reliance on medication prescribed by you-know-who.

Several friends, acquaintances and staff members are interviewed, some reeking of sour grapes (a Memphis reporter is still peeved, 40 years later, that Presley wanted to finish his meal before submitting to an interview). Others, including Presley’s longtime cook, Mary Jenkins, and nurse, Marian Cocke, clearly doted on the man, and still do.

Program features several recipes, plus a surprising definition of “chitlins” as “chicken feet.” Maybe in England. Here, they’re deep-fried pig intestines. Mmmm.

The Burger & the King

Production: THE LIFE & CUISINE OF ELVIS PRESLEY Cinemax, Fri. Aug. 16, 7 p.m.

Crew: Camera, Mike Coles, Bo Perrin, Richard Numeroff, Richard Terry; editor, Cliff West; sound, David Old. 60 MIN.

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