Er. OK. Now, where do I start. It's like this. Elvis really
isn't dead. He did a life swap with an impersonator, you see,
and has ended up as an inmate in a Texan nursing home. And
JFK isn't dead either. In fact, he's in the same Godawful
institution. But he's been dyed black and looks uncannily
like Ossie Davis, the man who gave the eulogy for Martin Luther
King. Then, there's one other unannounced undead guest. He's
an Egyptian mummy with a penchant for cowboy outfits and is
sucking out the souls of the pensioners. Well, at least that
explains the title...
Take the plot. Take the title. Take the fact that Elvis is
played by Bruce Campbell. And what do you think you'll get?
A wild and wacky, built-to-order cult horror movie? Well,
that's part of the answer, but it's also the least interesting
part. Bubba Ho-Tep succeeds largely because its monster
and indeed its whole set-up are only a tiny chunk of what
the movie is all about.
it's an almost elegiac homage to Elvis, a chance for the King
to get some redemption. This septuagenarian rocker is in a
reflective, morbid mood, and potentially cancerous (in a place
you really don't want me to spell out here). With Campbell
in the role, you might expect lavishings of high camp, but
instead we get a gracious, subtle performance. And that leads
directly into the film's second main theme.
is a movie about respect for the old. It's often wistful,
perhaps occasionally overly sentimental. But as a response
to a society obsessed with youth, right down to who gets to
fight the villains in today's movies, its heart is in the
right place. And as well as Campbell gets a 70 year-old Elvis,
he's matched by Ossie Davis' African American JFK. The veteran
actor brings dignity, gravitas and wit to the role. God, he
makes you accept that he might, just might be JFK (OK, it
helps if you're a sucker for conspiracy theories, but there
of this means that the film is slow. Indeed, it is often wickedly
funny, profane and gleefully absurd. And, boy, is it different.
a film full of happy surprises, perhaps the biggest is the
director. Don Coscarelli is the man who brought us the profoundly
silly schlockfest Phantasm and that flying ball. Watching
how nimbly he juggles the various elements in Bubba Ho-Tep
will leave you wondering whether or not he has also done some
strange swap with an impersonator so he no longer has to avoid
geeks looking for his signature on oversized ball bearings.
film is not perfect. Harking back days to the great days of
independent cinema (before the likes of Disney bought Miramax),
this is a genuine attempt at professional but nonetheless
micro-budget filmmaking and, more important, at trying to
say a few things and do a few things that you just won't see
Ho-Tep has been building a US fan base on limited screenings
and at festivals for about a year. Its appearance on DVD now
gives more viewers a chance to join the club, and appropriately
it's a feature-packed release.
a veteran of innumerable Evil Dead commentaries, joins
Coscarelli for the main track and on the second contributes
some thoughts in character as The King. Both are fun and informative.
The 'making of' documentary is also done with more care than
usual. And alongside the obligatory deleted scenes, trailers
and photos, you get the author of the original novella reading
its first chapter, illustrated with Photoshop-ed stills from
the film. It's fascinating to listen to and check out how
the adaptation was worked through.
love to see Bubba Ho-Tep get a UK theatrical release
- anyone else remember those days when The Evil Dead could
make its reputation in Blighty before conquering America?
Having seen the film both with an audience and on disc, it's
fair to say that this has enough going on (and for it), to
be worth enjoying in both ways. Failing that, however, it's
definitely time to log-on to your favourite importer.
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