BluRay/DVD Reviews

BUBBA HO-TEP

By • May 25th, 2004 •

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Anchor Bay
2 Disc Set

How can you not love a movie that pits the King of Rock and Roll and an iconic President against an undead mummy? Especially when the King is played by the EVIL DEAD trilogy’s Bruce Campbell and JFK by Ossie Davis? How can you not want to watch it?

The simple facts are these: Elvis didn’t die in 1977. Prior to this, tired of the fame and the lifestyle, he swapped lives with an Elvis impersonator, Sebastian Haff.

Elvis: So I signed everything over to Sebastian. Except for enough money to sustain me if things got bad. I was determined to make myself a new life. A better one. But me and Sebastian, we had us a deal. If I wanted to trade back, he’d let me. It was all written up in the contract. Thing was, I lost my copy in a barbeque accident.

So now, old, cranky with a dodgy hip and a ‘growth on his pecker’ (which he’s thinking of calling Priscilla), and unable to prove his identity, the King spends most of his days lying in bed in the Mud Creek Shady Rest Home in East Texas, where nobody believes he’s Elvis, just another old fool who thinks he is. After all, in the same home there’s a guy (known as Kemosabe) who wears a white Stetson and a black mask and sports two cap-firing six-guns and who keeps asking for Tonto. And also there’s Jack, an 80+ year-old black guy who says he’s John F. Kennedy and that he has a bag of sand in his head instead of the part of his brain he lost in Dallas.

Elvis: No offense, Jack, but President Kennedy was a white man.
JFK: They dyed me this color! All over! That’s how clever they are! Can you think of a better way to hide the truth than that?

When some of the residents of the Rest Home start dying prematurely Elvis and Jack begin an investigation. They find ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics inside a toilet cubicle and one night Elvis hears a strange sound and rushes, well hobbles with his walker, to Jack’s room to find Jack face down on the floor. Fearing the worst he tries to rouse him. Jack slowly comes round.

Elvis: Uh, Mr. President… You’re on the floor.
JFK: No shit? (Rising) He had me on the floor – had his mouth over my a**hole!
Elvis: A sh**eater?
JFK: I don’t think so. He was after my soul. Now you can get that out of any major orifice of a person’s body. I read about it.
Elvis: Oh, yeah? Where, man? Hustler?

The culprit it transpires is an Egyptian mummy that went missing a while back while on museum tour of the provinces and it needs souls in order to survive. Dressed in snakeskin boots and a battered Stetson, the wandering cadaver has found easy prey at Shady Rest Home. Elvis decides on firm action.

Elvis: What do I really have left in life but this place? It ain’t much of a home, but it’s all I got. Well, goddamnit. I’ll be damned if I let some foreign, graffiti writin’, soul suckin’, son of a bitch in an oversized cowboy hat and boots take my friend’s souls and sh** ’em down the visitors toilet!

He phones Jack in his room:

Elvis: Mr President, ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home.
JFK: Hey, you’re copying my best lines!
Elvis: Then let me paraphrase one of my own. Let’s take care of business.
JFK: Just what are you getting at, Elvis?
Elvis: I think you know what I’m getting’ at Mr. President. We’re gonna kill us a mummy.

Thus their bizarre adventure begins.

This is a very funny and warm film. It doesn’t matter whether our heroes are, or are not, Elvis and JFK: They think they are and that’s all that matters. They have a great bond of friendship in a world where the old are cast aside and thought of as worthless. Now they have a purpose and it doesn’t matter whether anyone believes them or not, and, refreshingly in our youth orientated society, here we have a movie with two geriatrics as the heroes.

Shot on a shoestring budget (a little over half a million dollars) the production values belie this. Don’t expect the in-your-face action of the EVIL DEAD trilogy; here the pearls are in the script, the performances and the characters. Bruce Campbell is terrific in the role and if this weren’t an Indie movie it would have been worthy of an Oscar nomination. Campbell disappears into the character and, if for one moment you lose that suspension of disbelief and think of him as an actor, the person who comes into mind, if anyone, is Kurt Russell. The late, great Ossie Davis, at 86, is also wonderful in this and gives his role such dignity and gravitas that you believe he really could be JFK. He also has some great comedy lines:

JFK (Studying the hieroglyphics): Now this top line translates into, “Pharoah gobbles donkey goobers,” and the bottom line, “Cleopatra does the nasty.”
Elvis: Say what?
JFK: Well pretty much, that’s the best I can translate it.

And later:

JFK: Hey, I’m thinking with sand here!

Add to all this a pulsing EL MARIACHI style guitar score from Brian Taylor (not a single piece of Elvis’s music is heard in the movie – the fees would have been too great), this is a fun film with extensive extras, the best of which is the audio commentary by Campbell, in character as ‘The King’, and watching the film for the first time. He eats popcorn, drinks beer, answers calls from his agent and struggles to get his head round what kind of a film it’s meant to be. A hoot.

To access the Audio Commentary By The King you have to highlight Elvis’s sunglasses on the menu page. Also there’s an Easter Egg on the Special Features menu: When the Pharaoh Hound begins to glow click the left arrow on your remote to highlight it and press enter and you’ll see an on set video diary.

Expect some strong language but this is highly recommended and destined to become a cult classic.

Elvis: Never, but NEVER, f*** with the king!


Special Feature Information:
Audio Commentary by Don Coscarelli & Bruce Campbell
Audio Commentary by ‘The King’
Author Joe R. Landsdale reads from Bubba Ho-tep
Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Don Coscarelli & Bruce Campbell
The Making Of Bubba Ho-tep
To Make A Mummy: Make Up and Effects Featurette
Fit For A King: Elvis Costuming Featurette
Rock Like An Egyptian: Music Featurette
Music Video
The King And I: An interview with Don Coscarelli
12-page scrapbook/behind-the-scenes photos with personal comments from Bruce Campbell & Don Coscarelli and a two-page letter from Campbell to his fans
Photo Gallery
Limited collectible packaging

Additional features on the Anchor Bay UK release:
Bruce Talks Bubba: An Interview
Bruce Campbell Intro
UK Premiere Q And A
TV Spot
Biographies
Original Theatrical Trailer

Cast:
Bruce Campbell – Elvis Presley/Sebastian Haff
Ossie Davis – John F. ‘Jack’ Kennedy
Ella Joyce – The Nurse
Heidi Marnhout – Callie
Bob Ivy – Bubba Ho-tep
Edith Jefferson – Elderly Woman
Larry Pennell – Kemosabe
Reggie Bannister – Rest Home Administrator

Crew:
Director: Don Coscarelli
Music: Brian Taylor

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