© NEUE VISIONEN Filmverleih GmbH

Der Rote Elvis
Germany 2007

Opening 2 Aug 2007

Directed by: Leopold Grün
Writing credits: Leopold Grün

Nineteen-year-old American Dean Reed left Denver, Colorado, to live in Hollywood, Chile, Russia (where he was the “Soviet John Denver”) and finally the German Democratic Republic (where he was the “Red Elvis”). He was a David Hasselhof type: good build, nice looking, charming and friendly. He composed and sang pop songs in English and accompanied himself on the guitar. He had a knack for learning Spanish and German. He produced 13 LPs, played in 20 films, and performed in 32 countries. Especially in Eastern Germany, he was popular, not only as a musician, but because he rejected the American way of life and propagated Communism and world peace. At the same time, he enjoyed freedoms normal people lacked under that very same Communism. By the age of 44 he had acquired a wife, an ex-wife, girlfriends, and children in Germany, and his star was sinking. At this low point in his career in 1982, he was found dead in an East Berlin lake. Suicide was the professional opinion but murder made him more interesting. And nobody in the U.S. has ever heard of him.

In this documentary, which appeared at the 2007 Berlinale, German director Leopold Grün interviews contemporaries such as Isabel Allende, Armin Mueller-Stahl, a US radio host named Peter Boyles, and various female partners. His wife Renate was not on screen, because, according to Grün, she has signed over rights to Tom Hanks who intends to make a move on the same topic. It’s worth the attention, and I’ll anticipate another movie about a fellow expat named Dean Reed. (Becky Tan)

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