BUBBA-HO-TEP. Hail to the King

Don Coscarelli’s poignant monster movie gets a 4K-UHD treatment from Shout Factory

Bubba Ho-Tep entertains and charms off a simple premise, one proposing that Elvis and JFK did not die, and are seconded at an retirement community in Texas. The King himself (Bruce Campbell), tired of the trappings of fame and leeches that surrounded himself, switched places with an impersonator, restoring himself to a life on the road amongst regular people. Fate leading to the death of his double, and an injury putting him into a coma for many years, awakening to a miserable convalescence. JFK (Ossie Davis), having survived the assassination attempt in Dallas, now finds himself in a new (“dyed”) body. Two legendary figures, reckoning with their past, in a poignant meditation on aging and lost love, that just happens to be occuring at the same time an Egyptian mummy starts stalking the halls of this retirement home, feasting on the souls of it’s denizens.

This monstrous B-movie aspect offers touches of thrills and horror, as two old men feel a rush of danger and get a chance to engage in some heroics. From dealing with a penile infection and hip damage, Elvis soon has to content with an infestation of scarab beetles and an Egyptian soul feeder. An undead figure, deposited in the area after a shipping mishap dumped archeological artifacts in the nearby river. Draining the incapacitated residents to sustain itself, its presence is far better understood by JFK. Together, they uncover the truth behind a spate of deaths at the facility, and set upon a plan to do something about it.

Based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, writer/director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster) delivers an offbeat comedy with a quirky sense of horror, but deftly prioritises the sweetness and sincerity of this duo that comes during quieter reflections on legacy, affirming their acceptance of, and belief in each other. Davis is sparkling as JFK, while Campbell turns in perhaps his career-best performance as the King. It’s very much a warts and all portrayal of Elvis, but one always tinged with a reverence. Paying respect to the legend, but also the man, and the weight and sadness that came with fame. The work of this duo stands out as the highlight, especially against some of the weaker parts. The execution of the mummy is undeniably cheesy and stilted, and a cumbersome finale that leans a little into action rather than guile to feel convincing. Some may find the shift from something weighty into weird saps the film of potential, but despite this, the film still coalesces into something memorable and moving.

The Package

Having previously seen Bubba Ho-Tep on the big screen and DVD format, this 4K is a solid step-up in quality. A rich, detailed image, with solid blacks, naturally represented and robust colors, and a natural grain. Now granted, most of the film is set in the humdrum surrounds of this dilapidated retirement home, but the quality still impresses. All extra features come on the included Blu-ray disc version of the film:

  • Audio Commentary with Writer Joe R. Lansdale: The film is an adaptation of Lansdale’s short story, so it’s a great addition here to hear his intent and impressions of how the tale was adapted, as well as his involvement with the film
  • Audio Commentary with Director Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell: Coscarelli is an enthusiastic soul, always worth a listen, while Bruce Campbell is legendary with the banter, and adds assorted witticisms to his recollections of making the film
  • Audio Commentary with “The King”: Worth the purchase price alone
  • The King Lives!: Just over 20 minutes, this is a frank interview with Campbell as he talks about how he selects a project to work on, his impressions of the story, joys at working alongside Ossie Davis, possible audiences that might see the film, and also the oft-considered sequel ideas
  • All Is Well: An in depth interview with the director, who discusses his discovery of the story, experiences during production, and again the ideas of a potential sequel
  • Mummies and Makeup: Interview with Robert Kurtzman concerning the practical effects in the film
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary By Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
  • Footage From The Temple Room Floor: The footage that is interspersed into flashbacks showcasing the origins of Bubba Ho-Tep
  • The Making Of Bubba Ho-Tep: An EPK-type making of from the original DVD release
  • To Make A Mummy: A short dive into the makeup work on and other practical effects in the film
  • Fit For A King: Showcases the costume design in the film
  • Rock Like An Egyptian: A short featurette in the score and soundtrack
  • Joe R. Lansdale Reads From Bubba Ho-Tep: The author recits select passages from his book
  • Archival Bruce Campbell Interviews: Over 30 minutes of Campbell goodness
  • Music Video, Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, and TV Spot

The Bottom Line

Bubba Ho-Tep is a delightful marriage of beguiling and hokey fare. It entertains, but delivers more than simple monster romp, as two legendary figures reckon with their lives and legacy. Sweet and sincere, with a touch of humor and horror.

Bubba Ho-Tep 4K-UHD is available via Shout Factory now

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