Bubba Ho-Tep

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis and Ella Joyce
Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
RRP: 16.99
Certificate: 15
Available 21 March 2005

In a gloomy and depressing nursing home for the elderly in East Texas lies Elvis Presley, alive but far from kicking. It seems that years ago, tired of the fame and pace of his life, he traded places with a talented Elvis impersonator. However, when the pretender died, Elvis was left with no career but impersonator. When he gyrated off the stage and broke his hip even that came to an end. Now, years down the line, he is a shadow of his former self, suffering the indignity of having his (possibly cancerous) puss-filled pecker greased by a nurse who talks to him as if to a child and, of course, doesn't believe for one moment he's Elvis. When the death toll in the home rises dramatically, Elvis and his new friend (a black man who is convinced he's JFK) discover that an ancient Egyptian mummy (part of an exhibition lost in transit) is entering at night and sucking the souls out of any available orifice. With only the two men having any knowledge of what's happening it falls on the pair to rise from their beds, prepare an offensive and take on Bubba Ho-Tep in a fight to the death...

It sounds crazy, doesn't it? Well, it is. Bubba Ho-Tep is a load of old nonsense, but it's a very enjoyable load of old nonsense. If you sell this film on the premise of Elvis fighting a mummy, the best you could possibly hope for is a chuckle at the vision it inspires, but I don't think many people would be intrigued enough to check it out. And that would be a crying shame, because this story is much more about the central characters, the mummy merely being the catalyst by which a sad old man becomes the king again. Two old people regain some purpose and dignity in their lives when they and everyone around them believes they are no use to the world and simply waiting to die. For these two men it's time to live again one last time.

So what classification does Bubba Ho-Tep come under? I hear you ask. Is it horror? is it comedy? Yes, it's both of those, but it's fundamentally a feel-good piece; a sort of reverse coming-of-age film. It says to you: "There's life in the old dog yet!" Bruce (The Evil Dead) Campbell's portrayal of the singing legend is uncannily good; there's no hamming-it-up here, and the character is treated with great respect. I'm no fan of Elvis Presley's music, so it's fortunate for me that the low budget didn't allow the use of any of his songs; doubly so, because the music by Brian Tyler which replaces it is nothing short of superb. Seldom does a film score composer manage to accurately capture the mood of each scene, so that you feel like rocking one minute and crying the next.

It's worth mentioning the men behind the film. Firstly, Joe R. Lansdale who wrote the original short story. Having read several of his books, I already had knowledge of his work. His style is a little like that of Richard Laymon. But his most popular books follow the misadventures of two middle-aged men in the deep south, one a gay black man, the other a straight white. I urge anyone to read Mucho Mojo; you'll laugh your socks off. But as for the short story, this is the last one Lansdale expected to be optioned for a film. The other man behind the project is, of course, Don Coscarelli, screenplay writer and director whose other works include the Phantasm films.

Aside from 5.1 and Widescreen, other special features include an entertaining Audio Commentary by Bruce Campbell and Don Coscarelli, an additional commentary by Bruce Campbell in character as Elvis, and an Introduction by Bruce Campbell. The second disc contains a veritable plethora of extras (more even than the region 1 version). Joe R. Lansdale reads an extract from the story; there are deleted scenes with optional commentary; the Making of Bubba Ho-Tep featurette, with To Make a Mummy, Fit For a King (costumes), and Rock Like an Egyptian (music) featurettes accompanying it; The King and I (interview with Don Coscarelli), and a question and answer session with him; an Interview with Bruce Campbell; an excellent music video; photo gallery; trailer, TV Spot and Biographies. What more could you ask for? The packaging by Anchor Bay is also great, with a slip cover containing the DVD case with a different cover and an information booklet inside.

If you're expecting CGI think again. This is a low-budget film. The mummy is done for real, and the attacking scarab is a series of models. But don't associate no money with no good, quite often they prove to be better. This film is funny, corny, sad, poignant, and generally over-the-top, and I can't stress enough how you need this in your collection.

In the words of Elvis: "Come and get it, you undead psycho sh*t!"

Ty Power

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