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Don Coscarelli
Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce
Writing Credits:
Don Coscarelli

Elvis and JFK, both alive and in nursing homes, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $34.93
Release Date: 11/8/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director Don Coscarelli and Actor Bruce Campbell
• Audio Commentary with “The King”
• Audio Commentary with Author Joe R. Lansdale
• “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
• Archival Bruce Campbell Interviews
• “The King Lives!” Featurette
• “All Is Well’ Featurette
• “Mummies and Makeup” Featurette
• “Footage from the Temple Room Floor”
• Music Video
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer
• TV Spot


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Bubba Ho-Tep [Blu-Ray] (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 19, 2016)

Whatever else one wants to say about 2002’s Bubba Ho-Tep, one can’t call it traditional. A decidedly unusual piece, Bubba opens with newsreel footage, as 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 Presley. He’s fallen upon hard times, with little energy and a cancerous growth on his pecker.

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 our lead’s backstory.

The King claims that he switched places with Elvis impersonator Sebastian Haff (Campbell) back in the 70s, and he states that Haff was the one who died at Graceland in 1977. No one believes him, and a broken hip landed him in the rest home.

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).

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 threat. It turns out that some force also went after his friend JFK.

The King chalks this up to little more than a bad bug problem, but JFK 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 Bubba, it definitely comes blessed with an inspired concept. A couple of elderly nuts who believe themselves to be famous people must 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 it wants 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 seems unexpected from a warped monster movie.

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t 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 disc’s commentary from “the King”, and he also seems more involved there.

Some of that may be by design, as the movie presents a “down and out Elvis”, 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 segments 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 Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus A

Bubba Ho-Tep appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the movie’s relatively recent vintage, the image seemed surprisingly flat.

Sharpness mostly seemed fine, but inconsistencies occurred, as I saw periodic shots that looked a bit ill-defined. Most of the film was reasonably distinctive, but the sporadic softness caused distractions. I saw no examples of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. In terms of print flaws, I noticed a handful of small marks but nothing major.

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. Though never unattractive, the image failed to come across as impressive.

On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Bubba Ho-Tep seemed more satisfying, as the soundfield proved to be active. The mix offered good stereo imaging for music and also featured a nice level of involvement from effects.

These components 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 kick. The scenes with the beetles proved especially exciting, as the critters zoomed all around the spectrum.

Audio quality was fine. Speech showed a little edginess at times but usually appeared natural enough. 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 satisfying.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD release? Audio demonstrated a bit more warmth and range, while visuals seemed tighter and clearer. While the Blu-ray came with a lackluster image, it still improved upon the flawed DVD.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and it opens with three 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.

New to the Blu-ray, the third commentary involves author Joe R. Lansdale. Along with moderator Michael Felsher, he presents a running, screen-specific look at his novel and its adaptation as well as aspects of the production, his reactions to the film and other work of his.

While Lansdale doesn’t offer the world’s most informative track, he seems likable and engaging enough to carry the day. Lansdale delivers a reasonable number of useful details as well as amusing anecdotes. This isn’t a great commentary but it works.

We get more from the author in Joe R. Lansdale Reads from Bubba Ho-Tep. For this seven-minute, 58-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, 26 seconds, while “The Lady’s Room” runs 50 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 commentary from Coscarelli and Campbell. They offer notes on the scenes and let us know why they got the boot.

The set includes Footage from the Temple Room Floor. This collection fills two minutes, nine 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 23-minute, 34-second program, 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 (five minutes, two seconds), which concentrates on makeup, effects and mummy clothing. Fit for a King (6:46) gets into the Elvis costumes, while Rock Like an Egyptian (12:42) 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 featurettes come across as tight and informative.

New to the Blu-ray, The King Lives! runs 22 minutes, one second and offers a chat with Bruce Campbell. He talks about how he came to the movie as well as his thoughts about cast/crew, his performance and experiences during the shoot. As always, Campbell offers an engaging, charming personality along with fun notes about the flick.

Under All Is Well, we locate a 24-minute, two-second program with Don Coscarelli. Also new to the Blu-ray, the director chats about what led him to the film as well as budgetary/production issues, cast, crew and the movie’s reception/attempted sequel. Some of this repeats from the commentary but Coscarelli brings us a good overview.

Mummies and Makeup lasts eight minutes, 56 seconds and features special makeup effects creator Robert Kurtzman. He lets us know how he arrived on the project as well as aspects of his work. Short and sweet, Kurtzman gives us a solid synopsis of his approach to the material.

A collection of Bruce Campbell Archival Interviews fills 34 minutes, 41 seconds. We get Campbell’s message to a movie audience as well as his thoughts about his character/performance, cast and crew, and various related experiences. Inevitably we know some of this from other features, but Campbell remains such a delightful subject that he makes the compilation fun and entertaining.

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, 19-second compilation. It already appears in “Rock” and seems pretty lame.

In addition to the film’s trailer and TV spot. we find a Photo Gallery with 50 stills. 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.

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 Blu-ray presents decent picture along with solid audio and a large roster of bonus materials. The film doesn’t do a lot for me, but I’m pleased with this Blu-ray.

To rate this film, visit the original review of BUBBA HO-TEP

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