Bubba Ho-Tep – USA, 2002

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‘You know the legends… Now learn the truth.’

Bubba Ho-Tep is a 2002 American comedy horror film written, co-produced and directed by Don Coscarelli (John Dies at the EndPhantasm and sequels).

It stars Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley — now a resident in a nursing home. Ossie Davis plays Jack, a black man who claims to be John F. Kennedy, explaining that he was patched up after the assassination, dyed black, and abandoned.

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The film is based on the homonymous novella by Joe R. Lansdale. Originally the film was “roadshowed” by the director across the country. Only 32 prints were made and circulated around various film festivals, though these garnered critical success. By the time it was released on DVD, it had already achieved cult status due to positive reviews, lack of access, and inclusion of (and similar on-the-road hard work by) Campbell.

A sequel, Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires, was mooted in the end credits but has been in development hell ever since. Meanwhile, the original has been issued by Shout! Factory as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray:

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

  • New Audio Commentary with author Joe R. Lansdale
  • New “All Is Well” – an interview with writer/director Don Coscarelli
  • New “The King Lives!” – an interview with star Bruce Campbell
  • New “Mummies and Make-up” – an interview with special effects artist Robert Kurtzman
  • Audio Commentary by Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • Audio Commentary by “The King”
  • Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • “The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep” featurette
  • “To Make a Mummy” – Makeup and Effects
  • “Fit for A King” – Elvis Costuming
  • “Rock Like an Egyptian” – Featurette about the Music of Bubba Ho-Tep
  • Joe R. Lansdale Reads from Bubba Ho-Tep
  • Archival Bruce Campbell interviews
  • Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery

An elderly man at The Shady Rest Retirement Home in East Texas is known to the staff as Sebastian Haff, but claims to be Elvis. He explains that during the 1970s, Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) grew tired of the demands of his fame and switched places with an Elvis impersonator named Sebastian Haff (also Campbell). He claims it was Haff who eventually died in 1977, while he, the real Elvis, lived in quiet, happy anonymity and made a living pretending to be himself. After a propane explosion destroyed documentation which was the only proof that he was actually Elvis, he was unable to return to his old lifestyle.

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Twenty years later and living at the retirement home as the film opens, he is contemplating his age, frailty, loss of dignity, impotence, and “A growth on [his] pecker”. Elvis’s only friend is a black man named Jack (Ossie Davis) who insists he is President John F. Kennedy, claiming to have been dyed black after an assassination attempt, and abandoned by Lyndon Johnson in a nursing home.

Eventually, Elvis and Jack face off against a re-animated ancient Egyptian mummy that was stolen during a U.S. museum tour, and then lost during a severe storm when the thieves’ bus veered into a river near the nursing home. The mummy strangely takes on the garb of a cowboy and feeds on the souls of the residents of the home. It is dubbed ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ by Elvis, who is given a telepathic flashback of the mummy’s life and death when he looks into its eyes…

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Reviews:

“It has the damnedest ingratiating way of making us sit there and grin at its harebrained audacity, laugh at its outhouse humor, and be somewhat moved (not deeply, but somewhat) at the poignancy of these two old men and their situation.” Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com

Coscarelli’s horror dramedy is a wonderful balance of sweet characterization, well done performances, great special effects and an original story that’s both bittersweet and creepy. Bubba Ho-Tep is an original horror movie worthy of your attention; original horror movies are hard to come by these days.” Felix Vasquez, Cinema Crazed

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“A clever idea remains funny for a while but is done in by some supernatural mumbo-jumbo in Bubba Ho-Tep, a mismatched marriage of offbeat character study and unimaginative horror riffs. Most compelling element by far is Bruce Campbell’s inspired performance as a nursing home patient who insists he is the real Elvis Presley.” Todd McCarthy, Variety

“Despite having a fascinating set-up and an excellent turn from Bruce Campbell, Bubba Ho-Tep becomes a missed opportunity due to director/writer Don Coscarelli’s inability to take advantage of the bizarre premise.” Jeff Beck, The Blu Spot

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Cast and characters:

  • Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley / Sebastian Haff
  • Ossie Davis as John F. “Jack” Kennedy
  • Ella Joyce as The Nurse
  • Heidi Marnhout as Callie
  • Bob Ivy as Bubba Ho-tep
  • Larry Pennell as Kemosabe
  • Reggie Bannister as Rest Home Administrator
  • Daniel Roebuck as Hearse Driver

Wikipedia | IMDb

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