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Bubba Ho-Tep - Hail To The King Limited Edition

MGM // R // August 7, 2007
List Price: $22.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted July 31, 2007 | E-mail the Author
When you stand back and look at the thematic elements surrounding this little goofball comedy horror from Don Coscarelli, Bubba Ho-Tep might get stricken from your list of stuff to watch. However, doing so would be a very big mistake.

For one, make certain that you pay attention to the potential of Bruce Campbell as the King of Rock and Roll ... Elvis, if you will. Now, imagine how horrible such a movie like this could be and completely invert that feeling. With kick-ass production elements, sweet photography, and a seminally robust showing from Mr. Army of Darkness himself, Bubba Ho-Tep is surefire entertainment and, without question, the best film featuring a grumpy old Elvis and a black John F. Kennedy hunting down a redneck mummy. I have full confidence in that.

The Film:

Elvis (Bruce Campbell), as in the hip-thrusting musician of folklore persistently showered with women's undergarments, lies unpleasant and uncomfortable in a nursing home bed in Texas. Why is Elvis in such a crappy environment? Because people believe him to be a man named Sebastian, an Elvis impersonator. After suffering a heartbreaking injury during one of his performances, he ends up crippled, unable to do much walking, and with an unsightly, developing "growth" which shall not be discussed here. Older life has been cruel for Seba ... err Elvis. As if being an aging superstar without the fame and a "growth" wasn't enough, something dark and dismal has started to stalk the hallways of his nursing home.

Late at night, a growing number of the elderly people at the home have been inexplicably dying in their sleep. It's as if their life had just been quickly drained out. Though it might seem commonplace for this environment, a late night encounter with a nasty bug sends Elvis on a suspicious streak. With a peek out of his door, out pops a silhouette of a tall, bandaged-wrapped Egyptian monster dressed to the nines with a cowboy hat firmly at the top. And apparently, this mummy is after the souls of these older folk by use of a very, uh, interesting method. With walker in hands and no one else but a crazy old black man (Ossie Davis) who think himself to be JFK as his confidant, Elvis begins to see what must be done to this ... Bubba Ho Tep.

In case you couldn't tell, you're in for one hell of a bizarre trip once Coscarelli's little slice of schlock heaven hits the screen. Bubba Ho-Tep is an outlandish, crude, and absolutely riotous hybrid flick that oozes with originality and spunk. It's also only accomplishes this due to a tooth-and-comb script and a top-shelf display from Campbell. Without his presence and the sharply triggered dialogue jack hammering from his machismo conduct, Bubba Ho-Tep might've fallen smack dab on its face.

But Campbell is The King in Bubba Ho-Tep, and boy does he give us a display worthy of a thousand grins and chuckles alike. With each tag line you'd expect an aging Elvis to blurt out, Campbell delivers it with panache behind a literal layer of prosthetic testosterone. And, surprisingly, it's not dreadfully overplayed panache at that. Instead, there's a pseudo-believable keel about him that grasps a comedic level of depth. When Campbell does blast out a cornball signature line here and there, this preceding underplay works to the humor's favor and helps to sharply deliver the funny.

Bubba Ho-Tep, though a hybrid horror comedy piece of work, leans much further onto the dark and situational humor side instead of the terror side. Meaning, you're not going to get many thrills out of this film besides the thrill of some rather gross "growth" jokes which, by the way, stick around and nasty up the narrative a shade too long for my taste. I can only hear so many jokes about that kind of thing, you know? When it comes down to the extensive make-up work and an unsettling back story, Coscarelli's flick does deserve a hearty slap on the back. Genuine, hilarious gratuity is the name of the game in Bubba Ho-Tep. It's just not scary.

Instead, Bubba Ho-Tep chuckles and gurgles its way straight along its steadfast path. Accompanied by a ridiculously enveloping score that glimmers with a very low-key, '50-'60s rock feel, just about every tangible and thematic element feels in-line with the mood. Without much of other words to describe it, this flick is an outrageous, fanatical trip. I probably don't need to mention the fact that it's also not for everybody. Admirably, Bubba Ho-Tep's not afraid of what it is; those willing to stand in front of it will be sucked in by its wanton charm. And, quite honestly, do you think you could deny Bruce Campbell the honor of sharing his rendition of one of America's longest running jokes in the form of an Elvis impersonator?

Remember - it's never, ever, wise to $@%* with the King.

The DVD:

MGM has sent us this Bubba Ho-Tep: Limited Edition in a nicely presented, albeit increasingly flimsy, plastic box sporting an enticing little bonus ...

There's good news, bad news, and annoying news regarding this Bubba Ho-Tep: Limited Edition. You might be thinking to yourself - didn't this already have a Limited Edition? Yes, it did. Let's get to the good news:

Pictures are worth a thousand words. This Bubba Ho-Tep: Limited Edition comes with a snazzy faux leather slipcase, similar to the Grease T-Bird leather jacket cover. It's a puffy Elvis suit, one directly replicating the very one worn in the film. The craftsmanship on it isn't too shabby and, lo and behold, actually has Bubba Ho-Tep printed on the sleeve/spine in nicely thought-out fashion.

Here's the annoying news:

That cover should look VERY familiar to anyone who owns the 2004 Limited Edition disc. It's the exact same disc, all the way down to the disc and coverart. Only this time the exclusive book and slipcover from the previous edition are not included. Major bummer.

And, last but not least, here's the "bad" news (it's not all THAT bad) that really doesn't show terribly well with a photograph. Though the puffy jacket is very, very cool, it does not sit well on a shelf with other DVDs. When you slide this new edition onto your shelf with the rest of your cases, the collar puffs out so far that a major ugly gap forms. Now, for some who might plan on placing this little trinket on a miniature easel (pictured below), this won't pose a problem. However, it's not a terribly practical little collectible for less rabid fans.

The Video:

Meh. For a low budget flick, Bubba Ho-Tep doesn't look too bad with its 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from 2004. Color and detail are fairly strong throughout. Black levels could've been just a bit stronger, as could the graininess of some moderately darker scenes. Flesh tones and textures on walls and clothing looked quite nice, though. On the negative side, there's a few speckles and dust marks on the print quite visible in the lighter scenes within Elvis' room. Of course, regarding the source and such, Bubba Ho-Tep might not be able to look too much better. It's a perfectly fine transfer, but nothing that reaches the limits.

The Audio:

Bubba Ho-Tep's Dolby 5.1 audio, however, still retains a potent level of strength. From the exquisitely strong music (which doesn't contain ANY Elvis Presley music in the slightest, mind you) to the rampant buzzing and flashing bolts of lightning, everything sounds pretty slick and up to snuff. I do wish that the vocal strength was just a bit stringer, as it had a remotely muted and lightly distorted level when it gets up to higher volumes. Even the LFE levels gets a bit of a workout with some of the sparse louder effects. With sporadically strong channel separation and full, rich sound accompanied by a great score, Bubba Ho-Tep sounds quite sharp. English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available where needed.

The Extras:

Here's a recap of all the bonus material from the 2004 disc:

Audio Commentaries from Don Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell
Audio Commentary from "The King", aka Bruce Campbell in character
Reading from the original short story from Joe Lansdale
Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary from Coscarelli and Campbell, including:
- A very long and ultimately unnecessary hallway scene
- An entertaining scene featuring the elderly thief
- A full-fleshed clip of Egyptian footage edited into Elvis' "thoughts". (no commentary available)
"Making-Of Bubba Ho-Tep" Gallery, including:
- General "Making-Of Bubba Ho-Tep" Featurette
- "To Make a Mummy" - Makeup and Effects Featurette
- "Fit for a King" - Elvis Costume Featurette
- "Rock Like an Egyptian" - Music Featurette
- Photo Gallery
Music Video
Original Theatrical Trailer
TV Spot
and ... a Special Thanks page.

Not only does this set include one of my all-time favorite DVD supplements in the gimmick audio commentary from Bruce Campbell in character, it has a fantastic gallery of "Making-Of" supplements spanning the entire film's lower-budget conception. Also, the second audio commentary from Coscarelli and Campbell is nicely focused on highlighting several other production elements and, of course, keeping a pleasurable keel with the eccentric Campbell prying with questions. Plus, all of the menus show a great panache in concerted effort to make the DVD watching experience a joy.

This is a very comprehensive, dense package that only lacks a few of the supplements that can only be found in other region formats (an extra deleted scene, an interview here and there, etc.). Though I would've liked to have seen a two-disc package with these extras and all the supplements in an anamorphic presentation on a separate disc, this 2004 presentation still tosses together a great after film experience.


Final Thoughts:

Bubba Ho-Tep is undoubtedly one of the more entertaining and amusing hybrid flicks ever cranked out. Fans of such films like Shaun of the Dead and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon that haven't looked into Coscarelli's goofball, mummified romp through a Texas nursing home should be very, very pleased. Though the horror element fades after the first viewing, the humor gets much richer with each sit-down and comes strongly Recommended, especially with such a loaded disc with great extras.

Thoughts on this new Bubba Ho-Tep Limited Edition w/ Elvis Jacket:

Plain and simple, it'll all come down to how much this appeals to you:

If displaying this nifty little collectible like this looks appealing, then you'll be very pleased with the quality. However, if you're a more downscale fan, then this Bubba Ho-Tep edition only comes very mildly recommended. The normal slipcover/book edition comes with a higher recommendation. Again, it all depends on what's important for you, bubba.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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