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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Change of Habit (1969)

Dr. John Carpenter: I've got a feeling there's a message here, that there's somebody else.
Sister Michelle: You could say that, yes.

- Elvis Presley, Mary Tyler Moore

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 29, 2002

Stars: Elvis Presley, Mary Tyler Moore
Other Stars: Barbara McNair, Jane Elliott, Leora Dana, Regis Toomey, Robert Emhardt, Edward Asner
Director: William Graham

Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: G for (drug use, attempted rape, violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:32m:24s
Release Date: July 30, 2002
UPC: 025192211829
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+A-B+ D+

DVD Review

Whenever the subject of Elvis movies comes up, those unfamiliar with it are often completely incredulous when they hear the basic situation of Change of Habit. Frankly, it's hard to believe that this last nonconcert Elvis movie ever got made. It's very much a creature of its time, steeped in social concern and Great Society desire to make a change.

Nuns Sister Michelle (Mary Tyler Moore), Sister Irene (Barbara McNair) and Sister Barbara (Jane Elliott) are sent by the Catholic Action Committee to an inner city neighborhood to assist Dr. John Carpenter (Elvis) at his free clinic. The catch is, to become part of the community, they don't let anyone, including Elvis, know that they're nuns. This works fine until Elvis starts to fall in love with Sister Michelle and the others start to get a little too involved in the community. Soon the church has to clamp down on the nuns, leading to a series of difficult decisions.

The picture starts off with an effective parallel sequence with the three nuns being greeted politely by a traffic cop, as compared to the rude treatment he gives them moments later, once they're out of habit. The film is actually pretty ambitious in its view of the city, presenting a good deal of good and bad from all sides. There are some howlers, such as Elvis curing a case of autism in about 90 seconds flat using the pop psychology flavor of 1969, and a rather pat resolution with the local loan shark, The Banker (Robert Emhardt), but by the same token there's some realism. The people that they're trying to help aren't all necessarily appreciative, and they aren't necessarily even helped either. While the social concern depicted will probably make conservatives wince, the handling is actually pretty fair and drugs, gangs, violence and crime aren't just glossed over. The Church is portrayed as having the capability for positive force, while acknowledging that many, if not most, of those in power may be reluctant or unwilling to do so.

Although it's classified as a musical (and with Elvis starring, it really needs to be), there are only four songs, and two of them appear right at the beginning and one right at the end. The fourth feels like filler just to get another Elvis song onto the soundtrack, but the other three are used to good effect.

Elvis actually does a pretty good job of playing the inner city doctor and manages to provide a depth of feeling and concern for the people that he treats that is pretty unusual during his often rocky film career. It helps that the music isn't allowed to get in the way of the story. He also gets to display some range, particularly in the sequence when he first learns that the women are nuns. Moore is earnest as always. The supporting nuns, singer Barbara McNair and newcomer Jane Elliott turn in good supporting performances as well. There's some interesting montage work as Sister Michelle tries to make the decision as to what course she will follow.

Although it bears a G rating, it should be kept in mind that a 1969 G probably equals a PG or even a PG-13 rating today, what with drug use, switchblade knives and nun raping all part of the festivities here.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer looks great. There's the occasional speck of dust, but the anamorphic widescreen picture is very attractive, with good color and clarity. Fine detail and texture are generally present (though a few scenes are a shade soft). Grain is present, but not to a distracting degree.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono sounds fine, without much in the way of hiss or noise. Dialogue is crisp throughout, and the music sounds quite nice for a mono track. Particularly notable is a short sequence where Elvis teaches Sister Michelle a few chords on the guitar; the presence is quite effective.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 4 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
0 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There isn't much here. There's a nice-looking full-frame trailer for the picture, as well as a set of 2-screen bios and filmographies for the principal stars (plus Ed Asner, later to play opposite Moore as Lou Grant, who is featured in a small part as a cop). There's also a decent set of production notes that don't necessarily answer all the questions one might have about this oddity, but it does at least provide a little background. The subtitles have some amusing gaffes, such as "exercising demons" and "fermenting revolution." Chaptering is adequate.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

The most unusual movie in the Elvis canon, given a dandy transfer but only mediocre extras.


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