The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Elvis lives to fight the undead in Bruce Campbell film

July 1, 2004
By Franklin Harris

Let the word go forth into all the land, and let it be known from this day forward that Bruce Campbell is The Coolest Man on Earth.

If you're a fan of Campbell's films, which include "The Evil Dead," "Evil Dead 2" and "Army of Darkness," you know exactly what I mean. Campbell is an unlikely superhero, an everyman who cuts down zombies with his chain saw and blasts demons with his "boom stick." He can take a beating and survive to pelt his foes with a barrage of one-liners.

Elvis (Bruce Campbell) faces down an Egyptian mummy in ''Bubba Ho-tep.''
Copyright © Vitagraph Films
Elvis (Bruce Campbell) faces down an Egyptian mummy in ''Bubba Ho-tep.''
In his newest movie, Campbell is still stomping the undead. But this time, he does it while wearing the sequin jumpsuit of an American icon, The King himself, Elvis.

Although it received only a token theatrical release, "Bubba Ho-tep" is getting the royal treatment on DVD.

Written and directed by Don Coscarelli and based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, "Bubba Ho-tep" pits Elvis against an ancient Egyptian mummy (Bob Ivy) with a taste for human souls and redneck fashions.

I know what some of you are thinking: Isn't Elvis dead? (Of course, some of you think you saw him last night working the fry station at Burger King.) Well, that is exactly what Elvis wanted you to think. Decades ago, burned out on his own fame, Elvis traded places with an Elvis impersonator, the best The King had ever seen. It was the impersonator who shook, rattled and mostly rolled through the Vegas years, swallowed an entire pharmacy and had a heart attack on the toilet.

All the while, the real Elvis led a relatively peaceful life as one of his own impersonators, getting all of the thrills of performing on stage without all of the hassles. Until, that is, he broke his hip and ended up in the heartbreak hotel, a dismal nursing home in East Texas.

Naturally, almost no one at the Shady Rest convalescent home believes Elvis is Elvis. The only person who does is certifiable. He (Ossie Davis) is an elderly black man who believes that he is President Kennedy and that his brain has been replaced with sand. "They dyed me this color!" he says every time Elvis tries to remind him that JFK wasn't black.

All is not well at Shady Rest. Elvis is deep in depression. How has his life come to the point where all he thinks about are the home's rotten food and his bowel movements? And what is that growth down there on Little Elvis? Not that he has much use for Little Elvis anymore, but it might be cancer. Elvis doesn't know, and nobody is telling him. Probably it is cancer, but the staff figures old age will kill him before the cancer does.

As if The King doesn't have enough to worry about, the home's residents seem to be dropping dead at a more alarming rate than usual. That is because of the mummy, who lurks the halls at night and preys on sleeping victims, eating their souls and, in the process, taking both their lives and afterlives.

Only Elvis and JFK have seen the mummy, but they can't tell anyone. Who would believe them? They're just a couple of crazy old coots who think they're Elvis and JFK.

Only Elvis really is Elvis. JFK, well, he actually is crazy.

So, it's up to Elvis and JFK to save Shady Rest. It might not really be worth saving, but it's home.

"Bubba Ho-tep" is a hilarious black comedy, headlined by Campbell's campy but sympathetic performance and Davis' ability to convey a kind of nutty stability. It has its share of genuinely heartfelt moments, too, as when Elvis confronts his recently deceased roommate's daughter, who never bothered to visit.

As Campbell once said in another movie, "Hail to The King, baby!"

MGM's DVD is packed with extras, including deleted scenes, documentary featturettes and two commentaries, one with Campbell and Coscarelli and the other with "Elvis." It retails for $27.98.

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