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Don Coscarelli
Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Larry Pennell, Reggie Bannister, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger, Harrison Young
Writing Credits:
Joe R. Lansdale (short story), Don Coscarelli

The King Of The Dead vs. The King Of Rock N' Roll.

Bruce Campbell (the Evil Dead trilogy) "gives his greatest and most entertaining performance to date" (Premiere) as an aging and cantankerous "Elvis" in this "zinger-filled crowd-pleaser" (The Hollywood Reporter) from writer-director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm)!

When mysterious deaths plague a Texas retirement home, it's up to its most sequined senior citizen to take on a 3,000 year-old Egyptian mummy with a penchant for cowboy boots, bathroom graffiti and sucking the souls from the barely living!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$35.636 thousand on 2 screens.
Domestic Gross
$2.000 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 5/25/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director Don Coscarelli and Actor Bruce Campbell
• Audio Commentary with “The King”
• “Joe R. Lansdale Reads from Bubba Ho-Tep
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep” Featurette
• “To Make a Mummy” Makeup and Effects Featurette
• “Fit for a King” Costumes Featurette
• “Rock Like an Egyptian” Music Featurette
• Music Video
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer
• TV Spot


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 26, 2004)

Whatever else one wants to say about Bubba Ho-Tep, one can’t call it traditional. A decidedly unusual piece, Bubba opens with newsreel footage. We see the discovery of ancient Egyptian King Amen Ho-Tep’s tomb and mummy.

From there we leap to the present day and go to Mud Creek, Texas, where we encounter the residents of a nursing home. We see The King (Bruce Campbell), an elderly man who believes he’s Elvis. He’s fallen upon hard times, with little energy and a growth on his unit.

The King’s roommate dies suddenly. That doesn’t seem terribly strange – nursing home residents do tend to drop off – but it simply signals the first in a series of mysterious demises. The King meets his roommate’s sexy daughter Callie (Heidi Marnhout) when she comes for his possessions, and we learn his backstory. Apparently the King broke his hip 20 years ago when he fell off a stage during a performance as an Elvis impersonator, and he went downhill from there. He claims he really is the King but he swapped places with an impersonator named Sebastian Haff (Campbell), who is the one who died. A flashback sequence shows us these events.

We watch the King’s life at the home, which includes his interactions with his best friend, an old black man who believes he’s John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis). The film intercuts the present day with more flashbacks to the King’s past.

Matters weirden when a giant scarab beetle just like the one who attacked a now-deceased resident comes after the King. However, he defends himself successfully against this attack. It turns out that some force also went after his friend Jack.

The King chalks this up to little more than a bad bug problem, but Jack sees things differently. He starts to trace some sort of spooky Egyptian plot and believes the bugs are out to suck their souls. The rest of the movie follows the investigation conducted by the pair to get to the bottom of things and stop the mummy.

The weirder the concept, the tougher it becomes to execute a genuinely compelling film. Bubba demonstrates that tenet, as it mostly fails to live up to its potential.

Whatever else one thinks of the flick, it definitely comes blessed with an inspired concept. A couple of elderly nuts who believe themselves to be famous people need to stop a mummy from sucking the souls of their residence-mates? That’s not something you see everyday, and it offers the springboard for what could become a lively affair.

Unfortunately, Bubba seems only fitfully successful, mainly because it can’t quite decide what kind of film to become. Much of the flick’s first act concentrates on the misery of life in the rest home and the abysmal state of affairs in which the King finds himself. Bubba may present one of the more brutal indictments of the poor care enacted in this sort of facility put onto film, which comes unexpected from a warped monster movie.

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. Although the shots of the day-to-day drudgery should lend depth to the movie, they simply slow down the pace and seem moderately irrelevant. I won’t say that Bubba should have been nothing more than a fast-paced monster flick ala The Mummy, but something a little livelier would have been nice.

There’s just not a lot to the story, and the movie’s slow pace doesn’t fill out the tale. Instead, it just makes the narrative seem padded. It spreads a slight plot too thin.

Campbell proves surprisingly lackluster as the King. Surprisingly, he comes across as a better Elvis in the DVD’s commentary from “the King”, and he also seems more involved there. Some of that may be by design, as the movie Elvis is supposed to be down and out, but he still doesn’t manage to come across well in the part. Instead, Campbell seems more like any old shmoe packed into a fat suit and lots of makeup.

Easily the best parts of the movie come from those that involve Ossie Davis. Actually, his work actively makes Campbell look bad. Davis doesn’t try to impersonate JFK, but he really invests himself in the part. He appears spry and lively and adds genuine spark and bite to his sequences.

Sadly, those pop up too infrequently to make Bubba Ho-Tep more successful. I like the film’s concept and really think Ossie Davis brings a lot of class and pizzazz to his work, but unfortunately, the end result plods and seems to lack much punch.

Fun footnote: stick around through the end credits and the post-movie materials. You’ll find a funny comment from the King.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Bubba Ho-Tep appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mix of strong points and weaknesses, much of the picture worked well, but it presented a surprising number of concerns.

Most of these stemmed from print flaws. Given the age of the project, it should have come basically free from defects, but that didn’t occur. Instead, I saw quite a few examples of specks and marks. These weren’t continuous, but they popped up awfully frequently for a new movie.

Some other issues occurred as well. Sharpness mostly seemed fine, but not totally. I saw periodic shots that looked a bit soft and ill-defined. Most of the film was reasonably distinctive, but a little softness caused distractions. I saw no examples of jagged edges or moiré effects, but some light edge enhancement appeared throughout the film.

Colors worked well. The movie mixed natural tones and more heavily stylized elements, and these came across nicely. The hues were consistently distinctive and well-defined. Black levels also seemed deep and tight, but shadows were more problematic. Low-light sequences usually seemed somewhat dense and thick. Overall, the image stayed watchable and often looked quite good, but the mix of concerns meant it didn’t deserve a grade above a “C+”.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Bubba Ho-Tep seemed more satisfying. The soundfield proved quite active. The mix offered good stereo imaging for music and also featured a nice level of involvement from effects. These appeared in appropriately localized spots and blended together neatly. Much of the movie seemed fairly chatty, but the supernatural elements brought the mix to life and gave it some real kick. The scenes with the beetles proved especially exciting, as the critters zoomed all around the spectrum.

The track lost a few points for the quality of the speech. The lines consistently sounded intelligible and reasonably natural, but they suffered from sporadic bouts of edginess. Effects were concise and accurate, and they demonstrated pretty good oomph when necessary. Music also seemed clean and bold, with nice range. I felt the soundtrack of Bubba proved generally satisfying.

Given the flick’s fairly low profile, MGM present a pretty packed special edition DVD for Bubba Ho-Tep. The set opens with two separate audio commentaries. For the first, we hear from director Don Coscarelli and actor Bruce Campbell, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They talk about sets and locations, the adaptation of the short story, character notes, and various production details, among other things. Their rapport seems good, and they make this a fairly likable and chatty piece.

However, it never rises above the level of “pretty good”. Some of Campbell’s earlier commentaries earned a positive reputation, but this one seems somewhat lackluster. It includes too much general praise and fails to catch fire at any point. It remains moderately engaging and that’s about it.

Next we get a commentary from ”The King”, who offers his own running, screen-specific chat. Yes, this means we hear from Bruce Campbell in character, and he presents a generally amusing piece. A lot of the time he acts puzzled by the on-screen events, and he also frequently reminisces about the old days. This occasionally wears a little thin, but it’s usually fairly amusing. Campbell knows his Elvis stuff, so he tosses out good asides and references to Presley’s history. It’s not a great in-character piece, but it’s mostly entertaining.

We hear from the author of the original short story in Joe R. Lansdale Reads from Bubba Ho-Tep. For this seven-minute and 57-second piece, he narrates the tale’s first chapter. It’s funny and it’s cool to be able to compare the original text with the filmed version.

Next we find two Deleted Scenes. “Hallway” lasts two minutes, 25 seconds, while “The Lady’s Room” runs 49 seconds. “Hallway” seems interesting just because it features narration from Lansdale that doesn’t appear in the final flick. “Room” shows a little more about the thieving old lady who becomes the mummy’s second victim. It’s fairly unnecessary. We can watch these with or without “optional commentary” from Coscarelli and Campbell. They offer notes on the scenes and let us know why they got the boot.

The “Deleted Scenes” area also includes Footage from the Temple Room Floor. This collection fills 129 seconds as it shows random snippets cut from the movie’s Egyptian flashback scene. These don’t seem particularly interesting, though we get a few more shots of the topless women.

After this we get The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep. In the 24-minute and 37-second program, we find a mix of behind the scenes footage, movie snippets, and interviews. We hear from Coscarelli, Campbell, Lansdale, producer Jason R. Savage, makeup effects creator Howard Berger, and actors Ella Joyce, Ossie Davis, Reggie Bannister, Bob Ivy, and Heidi Marnhout. They discuss the movie’s vague genre, the origins of the story and its path to the screen, casting, shooting the flick on a low budget and various production notes, stunts, makeup, the film’s attitude toward the elderly, and the flick’s reception. Overall, “Making” offers a pretty fun look at the movie. It progresses in a natural way and gives us a concise examination of the various topics. It falls far short of becoming exhaustive or a full look at the flick, but it touches on the most interesting topics and seems interesting and entertaining.

Three featurettes follow. We locate To Make a Mummy (six minutes, six seconds), which concentrates on makeup, effects and mummy clothing. Fit for a King (7:50) gets into the Elvis costumes, while Rock Like an Egyptian (12:40) focuses on music. In these various pieces, we get notes from Berger, Coscarelli, makeup effects creator Bob Kurtzman, Ivy, costume designer Shelley Kay, Campbell, clothing manufacturer Butch Polston, and composer Brian Tyler. All three come across as tight and informative. They cover their issues well and provide concise and fun packages of facts and background.

For the music video, we find a montage that shows composer Tyler at work along with movie snippets. He plays all the instruments himself in this two-minute, 27-second compilation. It already appears in “Rock” and seems pretty lame.

Within the Photo Gallery, we get 68 stills. These provide a good little collection. We mostly see candid shots from the set, but we also discover cool images like the design and implementation of both Campbell’s Elvis makeup as well as the mummy costume.

We also get the film’s trailer, a TV spot, and a collection of ads entitled Other Great MGM Releases. This gives us promos for Osama, Jeepers Creepers, Barbershop 2, Jeepers Creepers 2 and Touching the Void plus a general ad called “MGM Means Great Movies”.

Finally, Bubba ends with a 14-page booklet. This piece presents a letter from Bruce Campbell as well as a selection of production photos. These come with captions from director Don Coscarelli plus a few asides from Campbell as well. It’s a good little booklet.

Something of a disappointment, Bubba Ho-Tep enjoys a clever concept but suffers from disjointed execution. The movie combines various genres in an unsatisfying manner that makes it scattered and only sporadically entertaining. The movie presents surprisingly mediocre picture along with pretty good audio and a strong set of supplements. The latter factor should please the cult that surrounds the movie and makes this a recommended movie for them, but others with an interest in the quirky flick should take the rental path; Bubba falls too far short of its goals to earn my strong endorsement.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.125 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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