I can remember the 2002 release of Bubba Ho-Tep fairly vividly. Well, as about as vividly as I can remember anything from fourteen years ago at this point. It had been announced that Don Coscarelli, of Phantasm fame, would adapt a Joe R. Lansdale story about an elderly Elvis teaming up with a man claiming to be JFK to fight a titular mummy. And the two leads would be played by Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. This was the type of inexplicable, batshit genre cinema that I craved for as a teenager and when something this wild was given a theatrical release, I made sure that I was up for the couple hour round trip to go see it. And I can’t say that I ever expected to see it land a Blu-ray release like this nearly a decade and a half later.
Bubba Ho-Tep is an odd movie, that’s made known just in reading any synopsis. But watching it (and re-watching it this many years later) only makes its wry, singular sense of humor more baffling. That a studio was willing to sign off on and release this is a testament to the strange status of the industry in the early 2000s. We wouldn’t likely get this today. Campbell and Davis make the movie work, both fully committing to their performances with Campbell’s dialogue delivery second to none and Davis’s ability to play decidedly against type rewarding. Coscarelli works wonders with Lansdale’s source, bringing it to screen as faithfully as possible and not overdoing it. When the effects come – especially the practical ones – they really shine, but this is first and foremost a character affair and he never lets that be forgotten, even going into the effects heavy climax. Bubba Ho-Tep is likely not for everyone and my feelings on it have tempered with time, but it remains unique and committed in a way that contemporary genre cinema tends to lack. Plus, it has Bruce Campbell playing a horny Elvis in a senior home with a growth on his dick. No other movie, regardless of era, has that.
Scream Factory bring Bubba Ho-Tep to Blu-ray in this Collector’s Edition that’s a welcome release for fans but it unfortunately doesn’t have a nice new transfer like some of their other tentpole releases this year. Still, Bubba Ho-Tep looks good, mostly. With how dark the film tends to be, some of the grain can become overly noisy at times and the colors don’t always pop like they should. This is still as good as this film has looked at home, and likely will at this point. Not a bad transfer at all, but this isn’t up to the par that titles like Child’s Play and Carrie set for Scream Factory earlier this year. Audio comes in DTS HD-5.1 and 2.0 options. Both tracks work really well, with the 5.1 picking up in the more action heavy sequences, especially the climax. Fans will get a great experience regardless of the track they choose on this one.
This may not carry a new transfer for its Collector’s Edition title, but Scream Factory went all out in the supplements, creating the most packed edition for the title on home video yet. We start with a brand new commentary with Joe R Lansdale, which is a very talkative track with moderation that keeps it moving (and not always about what is on screen). Lansdale has a lot to offer about the production and the adaptation of his source, it’s a great addition to the existing tracks that we’ve had for years. On to the new video content, we start with “All is Well” a 24 minute interview with Don Coscarelli which touches on various stages of pre-production, production and the reception of the film, even going through the difficulties with getting a sequel into production. Following that we get a 22 minute interview with Bruce Campbell titled “The King Lives!”, which also discusses trying to get a sequel made as well as working with the rest of the cast and how it was to play Elvis. The last new video content we get is “Mummies and Make-Up” with Robert Kurtzman talking about the various effects for the movie, including the make-up he used to turn Campbell into Elvis. After that, we get all of the content from the 2003 DVD release, including the fantastic commentary tracks with Campbell in character as Elvis and one with him as himself joined by Don Coscarelli which is a fun, thorough track well worth a listen for those who haven’t yet. And that’s on top of a wealth of interview and behind the scenes footage that’s well worth digging through for the first time or again, with HD upgrades.
Bubba Ho-Tep is a singular, offbeat contemporary genre cinema offering that can likely turn as many people off as on. It may not be for everyone but it has aged well and Scream Factory have released the best version of it available on home video yet. Recommended.