Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness) "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, John Dies At The End)! 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!
Bruce Campbell gives arguably the best performance of his career in 'Bubba Ho-Tep', a movie that's gained a cult following not so much for its horror storyline but more so for the fact that it's actually a pretty good movie about Elvis Presley, despite the fact that it's also about a killer mummy sucking out the souls of rest home residents.
The movie is based on a wacky – but not entirely implausible – premise that Elvis Presley didn't die on the toilet in 1977, but instead switched places with an Elvis impersonator a few years before that event, and it was the impersonator who died. Elvis had enough of his life of stardom and instead decided to perform as a faux version of himself to smaller crowds – allowing him to get back to his roots. However, a stage accident put him in a coma and now he's an aging man with some health issues (there's a possibly cancerous growth on...ahem..."Little Elvis") stuck in a Texas rest home where none of the staff truly believe he's the King of Rock N' Roll.
Strange things begin happening at the nursing home when residents start winding up dead. However, when Elvis has an encounter with a large scarab beetle in his room, he just chalks it up to a bug infestation. Another resident, Jack (Ossie Davis), is convinced that something more evil is stalking the place. Of course, he also believes he's John F. Kennedy – who survived the assassination attempt, but whose brain is not in his head but being battery powered from a secret location in Washington, D.C. (he also believes he's been dyed, explaining his dark skin tone). It's not long afterwards, however, that both men see the mummy (played by Bob Ivy) inside the rest home, leaving them determined to team up and put a stop to the evil.
The great thing about 'Bubba Ho-Tep' is that it would have been a really good movie if it didn't have the horror angle to it at all. In fact, there's actually very few scenes of "horror" in the movie (Shout Factory smartly hasn't cataloged this release under their 'Scream Factory' label), which may partially explain why the film was never a big hit. This is really a good character piece hidden inside a genre movie, and I actually enjoy the non-mummy scenes more than the ones when Elvis and Jack are fighting against it.
It's nice to see this movie finally on Blu-ray in Region A (a UK version was released in 2009) and shine a spotlight on it once again. The strength of the movie isn't in its presentation or special effects (which are rather low-budget and a bit on the cheesy side), but in its two lead performances: both Campbell and Davis treat their characters with respect when they could have easily gone with caricatures. The result is one of my favorite "Elvis movies" ever. If you've never seen this one, check it out. You'll thank me...you'll thank me very much.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout Factory's Collector's Edition of 'Bubba Ho-Tep' arrives on Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase. The keepcase has a reversible slick, with new artwork on one side and the theatrical poster artwork (and also the 2003 standard DVD release cover) on the flip-side. A slipcover featuring the new artwork slides overtop. There are no front-loaded trailers on the disc, whose main menu features a montage of footage from the movie with menu selections running horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
'Bubba Ho-Tep' was shot on 35mm film using the Arriflex 535. It is presented here in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Both the info on the box cover as well as Shout Factory's website say nothing about this being a new transfer of the movie, so does that mean this is the same transfer as the UK Blu-ray release (now out of print) from 2009? Probably, although I don't own that disc to clarify. Regardless, fans of the film should be pleased with the quality of the image here.
The movie's color palette relies heavily on browns and all its various shades, giving the movie very much an "art house" look to it. There are plenty of nighttime as well as just dimly-lit scenes in the movie, but thankfully black levels are pretty decent – although far from inky deep. Grain is present in almost every shot and does become a bit obtrusive at times, but – hey – that's how this film is supposed to look. Don't worry though, there's plenty of detail to be found, particularly in the scenes involving Elvis's room in the nursing home, which is better lit that some of the other set pieces. Skin tones and facial features are pretty well rendered throughout, and Bruce Campbell's old-age makeup holds up pretty well in 1080p.
I did pick up on a slight bit of aliasing along some of the walls of the nursing home (they have a pattern along the bottom part of them that is perfect for aliasing issues, and sure enough we get some), but otherwise there are no major glitches with the image.
The featured track here is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one that is nicely rendered, if ultimately unspectacular in terms of what it provides. As noted in my review above, there's not a whole lot of action in 'Bubba Ho-Tep', especially for a film that's often labeled as "horror". As a result, there's not a whole lot of surround activity from the speakers – they're primarily used for ambient noises (like birds chirping outside the nursing home), for a few F/X shots (like early in the movie when Elvis sees the rapid movement of the nursing home workers outside in the hallway), and to enhance the musical score.
Primarily the track is front-heavy and dialogue focused. Viewers/listeners actually don't lose all that much by choosing the 2.0 DTS-HD track, should they want to go that route. I didn't notice any obvious glitches or problems with either of the lossless tracks.
In addition to the 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks (and the various commentary tracks listed in the bonus sections below), subtitles are available in English SDH.
Note: All but one of the supplements listed in this section originally appeared on the 2003 DVD release of 'Bubba Ho-Tep'. The brand-new bonus materials are listed in our 'HD Bonus Content' section that follows. Also please note while all of the video bonuses in this section are listed as "HD", the vast majority of them come from standard-def sources that Shout Factory has boosted to 1080p output for this release (as they do for most of their Blu-ray releases featuring archival materials).
Although it could be easily dismissed as "Elvis vs. a Mummy", 'Bubba Ho-Tep' is actually a wonderfully performed character piece, despite the preposterousness of the storyline. In fact, it's quite possibly the best performance Bruce Campbell has ever given in his long career. This Shout Factory Collector's Edition gives fans a reason to check out this fun movie once again and offers the opportunity for first-time viewers to see what they've been missing out on. This one's highly recommended.