Trivia Only 32 prints of the film were originally made as part of a limited platform release. The Soul of Southern Film Festival, in Memphis, Tennessee, paid for a thirty-third print, so that they wouldn't have to wait any longer to show the film. Several other festivals and theaters paid advances in order to secure prints.
KNB Effects agreed to make the Bubba Ho-Tep make-up and costume for cost of materials as a favor to Don Coscarelli.
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Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
27th Jul 04
Elvis and a black JFK team up to go to battle with an ancient Egyptian mummy.
When the opening line of a film involves an aging Elvis Aaron Presley’s voiceover talking about whether the growth on his dick has filled up with puss again overnight, it becomes apparent that Bubba Ho-tep is going to be a somewhat left-of-centre film experience. Elvis is still alive and is an impotent, bitter, disabled ‘older adult’ (I’m feeling all 'PC' today) living in a rural Texas rest home where by night there lurks an ancient Egyptian mummy who sucks souls out of the crumblies’ arses. Yes, really.
Bruce Campbell is perfect as The King. His look, the accent – its all there. You can tell he’s loving it. He’s got some of the best lines I’ve ever heard in a movie. A vital part of this film experience is permitting yourself to believe that this is in fact the real Elvis – it’s not difficult given Campbell’s assured performance.
A huge scarab beetle attacks some of the rest home’s residents. When it attacks the 68 year-old Elvis, who promptly stabs it with a fork, he compares its size to one of his infamous peanut butter banana sandwiches! Then at one point when his nurse, played so well by Ella Joyce, is applying some dodgy-looking ointment to his infected dick, he gets his first hard-on in “two presidential elections” and says to her “Come on now…why don’t you pull on it a little…?”
The script is first-class, as is the acting and the whole visual aspect of the picture. Nearly every line is quotable. Hence the ridiculous amount of quotes in this review. Don Coscarelli has surprised a lot of people with this piece of work, and deserves every credit possible for his (and his small independent crew’s) remarkable effort. Ossie Davis plays an elderly nutcase who believes he’s John F Kennedy, even though he’s black. He’s clearly barking mad but totally docile and instantly loveable. (“They dyed me this colour! That's how clever they are!”). Davis gives a performance that makes you want to see his other work. To say that he shines alongside Bruce Campbell’s Elvis is an understatement. The climax of the film involves Elvis and ‘JFK’ doing battle with Bubba Ho-tep – arse sucking mummy. In order to prepare himself for the final battle, Elvis dons his fabulous white Las Vegas-era jumpsuit and JFK puts on his Sunday go-to-meeting bests. They make their way towards us through the hallway of the rest home, accompanied by some great music (which the soundtrack is full of) – Elvis using a zimmer frame, and JFK in a wheelchair…ready to go to war with the Egyptian soul sucker. This scene was by far one of my favourites in an all-out laughter kind of way. All of a sudden I’m not feeling so politically correct…oops.
While the laughs come thick and fast, this is essentially a deep, touching and frightening film. It possesses an authenticity and attention to detail that is quite difficult to overlook. Small touches, for example in JFK’s bedroom walls are covered with framed photographs of his life and, strangely, his murder – Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jackie Kennedy – all hang there as a reminder of his past life, just as Elvis keeps his favourite jumpsuit tucked away for when he may have to go that extra mile.
A quick mention about the pacing of Bubba Ho-tep: The action is set-up in the first 30 minutes of the film and some viewers may find this whole set-up quite slow although it could easily be interpreted as being perfectly in tune with the structure and spirit of the narrative. The momentum is impeccably appropriate to the rest of the film. When you’re watching scenes like the King’s flashback to his earlier years, which includes the explanation for why no-one in the rest home believes he is the real Elvis, you will be hooked on just how convincing Campbell is and also how the mise-en-scene will totally convince you that he’s the bone-fide real thang, baby. Suspend your disbelief for 82 minutes – its not so difficult.
Not mentioning every single aspect of this production is quite difficult. Bubba Ho-tep is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time.
“Never, never fuck with the King!”
Versions Currently only available as Region 1 Collector's Edition DVD