BUBBA HO-TEP UK Blu-ray Review

jackie-chan
Contributor; London
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BUBBA HO-TEP UK Blu-ray Review
Don Coscarelli's sublimely entertaining Bubba Ho-Tep hits UK Blu-ray this week, so what better time to revisit this remarkable film. The astonishing thing back in 2004 was quite how poignant and affecting Bruce Campbell's take on a nursing home confined Elvis turned out to be. Sure, Coscarelli is a pretty safe pair of hands for b-movie entertainment (most notably with the Phantasm series) and Campbell is the epitome of cult hero, but the pathos and humour they embued the story with took me totally by surprise.

Based on the short story by Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-Tep sees an infirm and regretful Elvis (Bruce Campbell) festering in The Shadey Rest Retirement Home, Texas. With an unspecified growth on his pecker, and a distinct lack of dignity things aren't looking up for the King. His only company comes in the form of former US president John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) who, contrary to popular wisdom, did in fact dodge his assassin's bullet all those years ago. In the fallout his skin was died black and mysterious forces at the White House messed with his head. Kennedy also has a theory on why so many old folk are turning up dead in the home, and it's not due to old age. An Egyptian mummy is on the loose, stealing the souls of fellow residents. Elvis decides enough is enough and it's time for one last adventure...

A leftfield fantasy on the face of it, Bubba Ho-Tep is actually a highly evocative musing on lost youth, and the regrets that come with age. That may sound like an overstatement, but listening to Campbell's faded star reminisce on past glories as he shuffles about a grim nursing home wondering where it all went wrong is genuinely heartbreaking. Of course, elderly men taking one last chance to make things right is a familiar story, tackled in everything from The Straight Story to Venus, but never with such a unique execution. Campbell gives a rare performance of previously unseen depth, instilling his Elvis with a healthy dose of humour without ever becoming a joke. There are as many laugh out loud moments as ones that'll bring a tear to your eye. Since Campbell's stardom peaked with Army Of Darkness, he's brought a tremendous weight of expectation with him, and Coscarelli wisely appeases the fans with a brief but thoroughly entertaining 'Elvis versus giant cockroach' battle, before letting that particular impulse lie.

 In many ways Bubba Ho-Tep was a perfect storm, originating in an inventive and offbeat short story that most would've run a mile from (and the studios did just that) but Coscarelli, Campbell, Davis and Brian Tyler's emotive score all combine to magical effect. It's not just a touching genre film, but one of the most affecting pieces of cinema in the past decade. A modern classic, with limitless re-watch potential.

The Disc

The transfer is a mixed bag. Some scenes have considerable grain, and whilst the detail on show is a vast improvement over the DVD there's a downside in how that shows up Campbell's heavy age make-up. Previously hidden under a lower res image and duller transfer, it's now on full show with less than convincing results. That said the overall low-budget feel means it doesn't detract too much and you'll quickly just live with it.

The sound is better with 5.1 and DTS tracks clear and sonorous.

The extras are all ported directly from the SE DVD so nothing new there, though they're still nice to have and do provide some worthwhile insight.

Bubba Ho-Tep is out on UK Blu-ray from 12th July 2010 through Anchor Bay Entertainment.

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Don CoscarelliJoe R. LansdaleBruce CampbellOssie DavisElla JoyceHeidi MarnhoutComedyFantasyMystery

Around the Internet

RussellJuly 26, 2010 7:29 PM

Love the fact it's out on Blu Ray at last. HATE the fact there's no news report at the end of the credits (like on the DVD) and no 'Be kind, Rewind' Elvis quote either. Spoils it in quite a big way really.