Chris's Disc Reviews

Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)

A review of the DVD release by Chris Harris, who has been going to the movies for half a century, so he's seen quite a few films in his time.


Disk format: DVD

Region: 1

Directed by: Don Coscarelli

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout and Bob Ivy

I recently added another film to my DVD collection: a somewhat bizarre film that goes by the name of Bubba Ho-Tep. It's currently on release in UK cinemas, and if you get a chance, you should go and see it on the big screen.

It's a very low-budget affair, directed by Don Coscarelli, the man who brought us both the Beastmaster and the Phantasm series of films. It tells the story of two nursing home residents, Elvis Presley (the one and only Bruce Campbell) and John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Ossie Davis) who are battling a 4000-year-old Egyptian mummy that is stealing the souls of their fellow residents.


"Jack, the President was white."


"Of course! They dyed me this colour!"

As you might have gathered from the scenario, weirdness abounds. How Elvis survived is explained in an amusing sub-plot, and everyone has fun with the continued existence of a black JFK who has a model of the Texas Book Depository (complete with Lee Harvey Oswald action figure) in a corner of his room. Then again, they are battling a mummy wearing cowboy boots and a stetson...

Ossie Davis gives an engaging and wonderfully deadpan performance as JFK. I was amazed to find out he's 86 years old. Campbell turns his performance as The King up to 11, just as we'd expect. There are even homages to his role as Ash in the Evil Dead movies, particularly where we watch him battling a distinctly unconvincing scarab beetle as it flies around his head from the beetle's point of view.

But the film shows glimpses of sweetness and emotion that go well beyond its humble origins. It addresses America's obsession with youth and what happens to the elderly with more sensibility and passion than a lot of mainstream movies. Campbell describes it in the commentary as "an Elvis/Mummy horror redemption movie" and that's pretty spot on. It romped away with prizes at several independent film festivals following its release.

The region 1 DVD is a treat, and they've pulled out all the stops to give us loads of extras. Not surprisingly American DVD sales appear to be doing well as a result and, joy of joys, Mr Coscarelli tells us we can expect to see the sequel "Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires" appearing on the horizon in the not-too-distant future.

Chris's rating: Five stars, baby. Oh yeah.

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