Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition of Don Coscarelli’s film is better than a growth on yer pecker!
Writer/director Don Coscarelli is best known as the man behind the cult favorite Phantasm films, but like George Romero and his “Dead” movies some of the filmmaker’s best work are those beyond the franchise. John Dies at the End is a smart, funny, and creatively designed romp, The Beastmaster is a fun sword & sorcery adventure, and Bubba Ho-Tep? It took me fourteen years to finally watch it for no good reason, but now that I have ‐ twice ‐ I’m comfortable saying it’s my favorite Coscarelli.
A rest home in a small East Texas town begins seeing an uptick in deaths among their residents, but while the staff is unconcerned two old geezers take it upon themselves to figure out what’s really happening. Sebastian (Bruce Campbell) says he’s actually Elvis Presley and insists the nurses address him as such even as they’re squeezing his penile pustule. His friend Jack (Ossie Davis) insists he’s someone famous too ‐ John F. Kennedy ‐ and together the king and the president begin investigating the deaths. What they discover will astound you.
A 3000 year old Egyptian mummy is sucking souls out of octogenarian assholes, and our two heroes soon find themselves in a ace against time if they want to stop its messy and murderous reign of terror.
The film’s setup and execution are wonderfully nuts in the best possible way, and credit is due to everyone involved. Joe R. Lansdale’s original short story is lovingly adapted by Coscarelli, the practical make-up effects headlined by the folks at KNB are terrifically fun, and the two lead performances bring both humor and heart to every scene.
Bubba Ho-Tep is a legitimately funny film with sharp dialogue, visual gags, and low-brow jokes all competing for a laugh. They all succeed too with one of the best bits belonging to Davis as he riffs briefly on his chocolate Ding Dong. Witty banter and Elvis’ ongoing voice-over observations share the screen with bathroom stall graffiti ‐ in hieroglyphics of course ‐ and the energy remains at a high throughout.
Elvis’ narration goes beyond the funny business though to mine some affecting wells of remorse and regret too. There’s a clear sadness in his voice as he recalls the life he left behind and as he wonders if his daughter Priscilla would visit if only she knew he was there. Campbell finds the warmth beneath the old-age make-up to create a real character with very human concerns.
So yeah. My favorite Coscarelli is this delightfully odd creature feature about an ex-president and the king of rock n roll fighting old age and an evil mummy.
Coscarelli’s film gets an equally great Blu-ray release as one of Scream Factory’s Collector’s Editions, and while there’s no new transfer the HD still looks great and the extras are numerous and fun. We get three commentary tracks ‐ including a new one with author Joe R. Lansdale ‐ and the following special features:
- *NEW* The King Lives! with Bruce Campbell [22:01] ‐ Terrifically fun interview where Campbell discusses why he did the film, the great Ossie Davis, and the experience of making this cult hit. The two questions he had for Coscarelli before saying yes were “Are you going to show the cancerous dick? How long are you going to shoot for?”
- *NEW* All Is Well with Don Coscarelli [24:02] ‐ It should surprise no one, but Coscarelli had trouble finding funding for the film. That depressing nugget opens the interview, but what follows is an entertaining and insightful recollection of the production.
- *NEW* Mummies and Make-Up with Robert Kurtzman [8:56]
- Deleted scenes [3:16] ‐ A pair of deleted scenes available with or without commentary by Coscarelli and Campbell
- Footage from the Temple Room floor [2:09]
- The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep [23:34]
- To Make a Mummy [5:02]
- Fit for a King: Dressing Bruce Campbell [6:46]
- Rock Like an Egyptian: The Music of Bubba Ho-Tep [12:42]
- Joe Lansdale Reads from Bubba Ho-Tep [7:58]
- Archival Bruce Campbell interviews [34:41]
- Music video [2:19]
Bubba Ho-Tep [Collector’s Edition] [Blu-ray]
I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to watch this particular Coscarelli film, but now that I have I’m left in the same camp as the rest of you still waiting for the promised sequel, Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires. It’s a fun, highly entertaining, and surprisingly heartfelt genre picture with a pair of terrific performances leading the charge. If you’ve already seen the movie then this new Blu should be a blind buy. The rest of you should give it a watch elsewhere first… and then pick up the Blu.
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