A real Brucie bonus tonight folks. We've long been fans of Bruce Campbell, so when we finally got our grubby mitts on a mint Region One version of his latest offering, Bubba Ho-Tep, we just couldn't resist devoting a Zombie Club double-bill to the double-chinned one. And to go with Bubba? Well, it just had to be the 1988 horror classic Maniac Cop.
Chin up people, bring on the Campbell.
Bubba Ho-tep (2002)
Plot An old 'Elvis' teams up with a fellow nursing home resident (a black JFK) to battle an evil Egyptian mummy.
Zomblee A film about a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy on the rampage in a rest home where (a still alive) Elvis Presley is residing, everyone believing him to be an Elvis impersonator named Sebastian Haff. Throw in a mad-as-a-biscuit Ossie Davis character who believes he’s JFK (even though he’s black) who is hell bent on stopping the evil Ho-tep, and you've got yourself one hell of a left-of-centre motion picture experience. The soundtrack is pure quality. The acting couldn’t be better. The script is incredibly funny. The film looks way more expensive than it really was. It makes you laugh, and could make you cry too.
Bruce Campbell gives a career-high performance as a 68 year-old Presley, and delivers with appropriate vigour and zeal. He couldn’t do a better job, and neither could anyone else for that matter. His lines are instantly quotable and although I will do my best to refrain in this short review, I may not succeed – its just too damn tempting! Ossie Davis plays a similarly aged nut who believes he’s JFK, his room complete with JFK-related photographs – Ruby, Oswald, etc…
It’s quite amazing that the man responsible for the Phantasm movies came up with this piece of genius some 25 years later! Don't get me wrong - I love the first Phantasm film, but this could easily be the work of a much younger, uncompromising film-maker, but it also makes sense, as Rawshark pointed out at ZC, that there is an assured hand of maturity and experience at work here.
I best keep this as brief as possible – I’m halfway through an EatMyBrains.com review for this film. All I can say right now is that it WILL get a 5/5.
“Never, never fuck with the king!”
Jim Well - what do you know? The guy responsible for 80s classics Beastmaster and Phantasm comes of age and delivers one of the most touching movies I've ever seen. It's no joke - the tag line 'Elvis battles mummy' makes you think of something swinging and funky and 70s - well it ain't. What you get is the tale of two crazy ass old guys who work out there's a 3000 year old mummy sucking soul's out of pensioner's arseholes in the Texan rest home they live in and they decide to do something about it even though they know that 'taking care of business' could well be the last thing they ever do. But when you're 70s cripple with a growth on your pecker (or an 80 year old white guy dyed black with sand for brains), what have you got to loose?
Charming, touching and heart warming, Bubba Hotep deserves every accolade it's going to get over the next few years. It's slow going - yes - but it is about being old and it's handled with the kind of respect for the aged you don't usually get in our youth obsessed culture. But rather than be depressing the whole story is oddly amusing with both Campbell and Davis excelling in their lead roles so much so that the 'Elvis and black JFK' gag never gets tiring - who'd believe that?
But the best thing about this film - the very very best thing - is watching Bruce Campbell do a 70 year old Elvis do karate. Watch the trailer over at www.bubbahotep.com and tell me you don't want to see some Elvis kung-fu ass-kicking. Go on, I dare you...
"Don't make me use my stuff on you man..."
Rawshark I first heard about this film over a year ago, when two friends literally could not stop singing it's praises. Twelve months later and I finally got my chance to see it, and all I can say is that it blew all my expectations away.
Stick with the slightly slow opening (as Jim says, it's set in a rest home, so you've gotta get into life in old age) and you'll be treated to one of the best horror-comedies in ages, and yes, that does also include Shaun of the Dead.
Not much actually happens in the film, Zomblee and Jim have pretty much covered the plot above, but it's the attention to detail that really makes this film. The toilet humour heiroglyphics, glimpses of panties and the Lone Ranger wandering the corridors with two capguns muttering 'Asshole, asshole' (you'll understand why when you see the film).
With a great simple story, touchingly tender characters, lovely subtle humour (the two undertakers in particular - "Be nonchalent") and one of the best face-offs in movie histroy this film really is one of a kind. If your face doesn't crack into a smile when you watch Elvis and JFK tool-up for their battle with Ho-Tep - "Scissors - Check, Nice Shoes, Check" - before they walk in slow motion towards the camera, you're obviously made of stone.
"Mr President, we’re gonna kill ourselves a mummy"
Director Don Coscarelli
Cast Bruce Campbell
Runtime 92 min
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Maniac Cop (1988)
Plot Man in cop uniform slays and strangles people in New York.
Zomblee Well, we were going to save this one for our Tom Atkins Night. Luckily for us he was also in Creepshow, Halloween III, Night of the Creeps and Escape from New York, so there’ll be other chances to dedicate a ZC night to his rugged man-of-action-with-shady-past existence.
I had never seen Maniac Cop until this night, although I was well aware of it. It's never looked so appealing to me, at least not until I realised that it featured two favourite actors – Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell! Wow, were we in for a treat! Were we? Well…maybe not…
Me being the 70’s film enthusiast, I don’t take so well to films that are almost entirely defined by their 1980’s-ness. Bad hair, stone-wash jeans, naff keyboard music throughout, and serial killers called…’Matt’. Matt? Excuse me while I shit my pants.
Maniac Cop had some saving graces. The plot was really cool and in time, it answered a lot of questions that badly needed answering, though unfortunately the dialogue used to get us there is flat, pedestrian and uninspired. This is especially apparent if you watch Maniac Cop after watching Bubba Ho-tep!
My favourite bit was Tom Atkins’ jacket – a black jacket with those gorgeous 1980’s white speckles woven into it. It looks like the worst case of dandruff ever.
Jim On the other hand, I'm a lot more forgiving of the 80s horror cheese-ballers than Zomblee is. Maybe I've just been playing too much Grand Theft Auto - Vice City, I don't know, but I can't get enough of big hair, shoulder pads and synthetic prog-rock 80s drum machines. Hell, I even dig Atkin's retro black dandruff jacket. I wonder where he got it - I couldn't find it on www.asos.com...
Anyway, I really like Maniac Cop. It comes out fighting - racking up a decent bodycount over the first half hour - and never really slows down, plus has a gaggle of well known B-movie faces. Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, Robert Z'Dar, Richard Roundtree - they all make an appearance, plus there's a whole host of cameos from well known B-horror directors and character actors of the time (Dan Hicks - the other guy from Evil Dead II makes a brief appearance, to give you just one example...)
So, if you can get over the eightiesness, this one's a winner. Lustig plays this a little less heavy than the preceeding Maniac (to put it lightly) so it's a lot more fun to watch. And you never know who's going to make it to the end reel, so at the very least it's intriguing to watch. Be warned though, there is a Maniac Cop 2 and a Maniac Cop 3...
Rawshark I so wanted to come away from this film liking it, but it has to be said that in reality it's not much better than an 'OK' film. It does have it's moments (cameo-spotting - oh look, that's Sam Raimi doing the news coverage of St Patrick's Day Parade), a high body count (I reached 15 deaths before the final confrontation, including an excellent 'drowning in concrete' moment) and one of the best 'fall from buildings onto car' scenes in movie history - take a bow Mr Atkins.
But somehow it never really seems to gel into the sum of it's parts. The central premise of a maniac cop (hey, what a great idea for a title) is so good, it's a shame to see it wasted. There's one moment when a civilian shoots an innocent cop thinking he's the killer which hints at how the story could have developed, but unfortunately it just then degenerates into a standard revenge film against an absurdly over-comic Mayor.
Bruce is, as ever, good in the role, although his heroic moments are few and far between, but one of the real sticking points is the Maniac Cop himself. What sort of film-franchise-killer is called Matt for God's sake?
An 'OK' attempt, but it's mediocre plotting and dialogue, just leaves you with the feeling that it oh, could have been so much better. C+ - must try harder.
Director William Lustig
Cast Tom Atkins
Runtime 85 mins
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Well, Maniac Cop really did have it's work cut out - having to follow on from the universally applauded Bubba Ho-Tep (three Five Star rating - That's never happened at Zombie Club before!) Seriously, this film kicked ass, and quite why it has still not been released in the UK is a complete mystery. It's been pencilled in for 'late-04' release by Anchor Bay UK, so make every effort to see it when you can.
Maniac Cop however, was an entertaining (if formulaic) experience, but to be honest, I think we were all still in love with The King to much to care about Matt and his stalk-and-slash revenge mission. Still, it's no dog's dinner, so if you do like no-brainer 80s flicks, you'll probably enjoy it.