Bubba Ho-Tep

based on —
"Bubba Ho-Tep"
by Joe R. Lansdale

novella included in —
The King Is Dead, 1994
  edited by Paul M. Sammon
Writer of the Purple Rage, 1994
  by Joe R. Lansdale
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Don Coscarelli
Writers: Joe R. Lansdale (novella), Don Coscarelli (screenplay)
Cast:

  • Bruce Campbell — Elvis Presley / Sebastian Haff
      
  • Ossie Davis — Jack / John F. Kennedy
  • Bob Ivy — Bubba Ho-Tep (the mummy)
  • Ella Joyce — nurse
  • Heidi Marnhout — Callie

Silver Sphere: 2002

92 minutes November 2009

  

Bubba Ho-Tep is a singular movie: a realistic comedy-horror-drama about the convergence of three characters who are dead, or at least who have been assumed and reputed to be dead. Two are elderly inmates of a convalescent home for old and near-to-death folks in East Texas. The third preys on those inmates. The main players:

  • Elvis Presley / Sebastian Haff:

    Our principal character is Elvis Presley, one-time King of Rock and Roll, now far descended from fame and good health. He is entered in the records of the rest home as Sebastian Haff, a one-time career Elvis impersonator. So here we have a neat turn on the idea that Elvis isn't really dead, but is hiding out somewhere under an assumed name. The explanation is plausible, and it's up to the viewer how sure you are whether this is Elvis or only Sebastian.

    By the way, have you ever seen a professional Elvis impersonator singing on-stage, in person? Rather an odd experience. Of course, the impersonators almost always do the late-term Elvis of Las Vegas, when the real Elvis Presley not only was past his prime but seemed well aware that his stage act was a good-natured parody of himself.

  • Jack / John F. Kennedy:

    Jack is a neatly dressed black oldster who does research in the occult and on the assassination attempt on himself at Dallas in 1963. He has been hidden away ever since, and worries occasionally that Lyndon Johnson has sent some new assassin after him. Elvis gently points out to his friend that President Kennedy was a white man; but Jack explains that his skin was dyed black in hospital as part of his disguise.

  • Ho-Tep:

    A dangerous mummy from ancient Egypt. We may call him Bubba Ho-Tep, because after several millennia of desiccation he's found himself revivified in East Texas, and has assumed a little of the local color.
      

Elvis and Jack come to realize that it's up to them to do something about Ho-Tep. A brave decision, because neither of them is exactly spry. The comedy and horror imbedded in realistic drama all balance very nicely. You may shake your head, and laugh out loud.

Joe R. Lansdale's story conception is quite creative, and Don Coscarelli very skillfully makes the singular mix of Bubba Ho-Tep work so well on-screen. Bruce Campbell as Elvis, and Ossie Davis as Jack, superbly realize their roles. Ella Joyce as the main nurse dealing with Elvis is just right as the voice of indulgent reasonability.

A weirdly fine movie.

  

© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson


  

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