When Bubba Ho-Tep was released back in 2003, I did not watch it in a movie theater. As an independent film made on a shoestring budget, its run was mostly limited to the film festival circuit. However, it received much critical praise, and by the time the Bubba Ho-Tep came out on VHS, there was enough buzz to make it a ‘must have’ for me. I loved it. Because it was about Elvis, I was predisposed to like it, but this film won me over on its merits.
For those of you not familiar with Bubba Ho-Tep, let me fill you in. This is the short version, so we will skip the involved set-up and back-story. Two men in their seventies discover that their retirement home is under siege – by an ancient Egyptian mummy. One man is Elvis, who the staff and residents think is a former Elvis impersonator named Sebastian Haff. The other is a black man who believes he is John F. Kennedy (and who the staff and residents think is nuts).
The mummy, nicknamed Bubba Ho-Tep by Elvis, has been on a killing spree at the rest home, sucking the souls of elderly men and women through various orifices. This doesn’t sit well with Elvis and JFK, and they decide to rid their retirement home of this menace. Their brave efforts provide Elvis with the opportunity to spout wonderful gritty lines like “Let’s take care of business. We’re gonna kill us a mummy.” and “Never, never f… with the King.”
The lead roles in the film were Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as Jack Kennedy, and both gave touching, funny and eccentric performances. The director was Don Coscarelli, who is known primarily for his Phantasm and Beastmaster series. I have never watched a movie about Elvis where the actor truly convinced me he was the King, but this is different. At no point did I ever see Bruce Campbell as anything other than a geriatric Elvis.
Bruce Campbell as Elvis
Bubba Ho-Tep has gained even more popularity over the years, and now is thought by some to have achieved cult status. The DVD was re-released last year as a limited “Collector’s Edition” with a new cover and special packaging. You can see in the photo below that the DVD now comes inside a cool mini-jumpsuit.
“Collector's Edition” DVD Cover and Packaging
Of course, I had to have one of these. The other bonus was all the extra features on the DVD. If you ever buy or rent it, be sure to watch the version of the movie with the sound turned off and replaced by audio commentary by director Coscarelli and Elvis actor Campbell. They have such a fun time talking about the movie and telling stories about making it. There is also another audio commentary by Campbell alone in character as Elvis. This suffers a bit without the interplay with Coscarelli, but it is definitely worth a watch.
I had no doubt that Bubba Ho-Tep had achieved bona fide cult classic status when I discovered there are collectible action figures based on the movie. For $14 each you can purchase Bubba Ho-Tep and Elvis. The manufacturer was clever to call the figurine Sebastian Haff, not Elvis, and thus avoid any hassle with Graceland. I’m pretty sure EPE can’t be too happy seeing an old Elvis with a walker out there in the market place. However, if they did embrace the concept, they could promote it as the first collectible Elvis Inaction Figure. They’ve licensed stranger things.
You may be wondering what type of movie Bubba Ho-Tep is. There are certain elements of horror in it, but they are rather limited. You won’t have to cover your eyes to be spared watching a lot of blood and gore. Comedy is an unexpected bonus in this film, but at its heart, this is a buddy movie. Elvis and Jack are languishing in death’s waiting room until Bubba arrives. He gives them something to care about, something with a purpose. It is wonderful to see these two old geezers come alive and embark on their mission. Unlike the Elvis movies of the 60s, this time Elvis is a genuine hero. Elvis fans will swell with pride at his display of courage. He may be 70-something and using a walker, but you know Bubba Ho-Tep is in for big trouble when Elvis declares, “Come on and get it, you undead sack of shit.”
© 2008 Philip R Arnold All Rights reserved www.ElvisBlog.net