Saturday, November 26, 2016

BUBBA HO-TEP (2002) (Blu-ray Review)

BUBBA HO-TEP (2002) 

Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Cast: Bob Ivy, Bruce Campbell, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Ossie Davis

In the surreal and dementia-riddled world of Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) we have Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness) starring as the elderly Sebastian Half, a former Elvis impersonator who fell off stage and broke a hip, having fallen into a lengthy coma he awakens bed-ridden at the Shady Rest Retirement Home, a dreary sort of place where the old folk go to die. Now aged and decrepit, and with a cancerous growth on his pecker, Half insists that he is the real Elvis Presley, who at some point in the 70s traded places with Sebastian Half, who was a humdinger of an Elvis impersonator, unfortunately he also had a hunger for drugs and died on the an undignified death on the toilet. All of this is told with a knockout combo of flashback and voice-over narration, and it's a kicker, complete with some groovy hip-shaking and with an explanation why Elvis did not reveal himself after the imposter's death.

Elvis seems mostly immobile at first, but once his long suffering roommate expires he befriends an elderly black gentleman played by actor Ossie Davis, who much like Elvis insists that he is not who he seems. He details how he is really former President John F. Kennedy, having actually survived the assassination attempt in Dallas, he a there was a plot against him, that part of his brain was replaced with a bag of sand, and they dyed his skin black so no one would believe his story. Point if fact, I choose to believe that he's a bit of a nut, but that Campbell's character is actually Elvis. 

Already this is a weird set-up, you possibly have an elderly Elvis and a dyed-black JFK whom have wound up at the same rest home in rural Texas, which is already a bit hard to chew on. Enter into the equation a ancient soul-sucking Egyptian mummy whom we come to know as Bubba Ho-Tep, so named by Elvis. This mummy feeds on the fading life-force of the elderly at the rest home, his soul-sucking begins with the death of an elderly woman who at the start of the film steals candies and assorted small trinkets from the other oldsters at the home, including swiping a pair of eyeglasses from a woman in iron-lung, what a bitch, so much for sentimentality for the old folks. Not to worry, she gets her comeuppance when she is attacked by a vicious scarab beetle, followed by a proper soul-sucking from our Bubba Ho-Tep, who has the strange proclivity of sucking souls straight from his victim's anus!

Elvis and black JFK team-up to sleuth the origins of this Egyptian menace, finding out just how an ancient Egyptian King wound up in rural Texas. They decide they're not just gonna lay down and wait for this soul-sucking mummy to drain their life essence from their asses, nope, they're gonna get up off their asses and face the supernatural being head-on in a battle to the death. 

Bubba Ho-Tep is a movie that delightfully defies any sort of standard categorization, on the surface this is a whacky horror comedy, but it is also a buddy movie about a pair of aging weirdoes, who come together to face a life-threatening menace, in the process they seem to find friendship and a renewed vigor for life. Beneath the bat-shit crazy premise lies a sweet character piece, with Campbell turning in his finest performance to date, his and David make for quite a pair in this supernatural slice of weirdness from the King of Weird, Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, John Dies at The End.)

Perhaps even more weird than the surreal and ridiculous premise of the movie is the appearance of actor and civil rights legend Ossie Davis (Do the Right Thing) as the black JFK, much like Campbell he infuses his character with more warmth and depth than what was probably on the page, he is the heart of the story. Campbell's crusty and curmudgeonly Elvis is far and away the best thing he has ever done, if you're a fan of Campbell's work you need to see this, it s unlike anything he has done before or since, superb stuff, by the end of the movie I didn't see Campbell beneath the make-up, I only saw old man Elvis, and it is awesome. . 

Audio/Video: Bubba Ho-Tep arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, and it has been a long wait for this one to arrive in HD here in the US - there's a now OOP French Blu-ray, but this is the first time it has been on Blu-ray here in the US. Scream Factory do not advertise this as a new 2K scan of the film elements so I would assume that this is the same HD master as used for that French release, though I have no concrete info on that. The image looks good, not spectacular, with the grain being a bit rough at times, it's not the most crisp image but the colors look good, skin tones appear natural and the lack levels are pretty decent, which is good because a lot of this film is low-lit and dark. Overall a very nice upgrade that probably could have been better with a new HD master had been struck by Scream Factory. That being said I was very pleased with the image upgrade over the 2002 DVD from MGM. 

Audio options on the disc come by way of both English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, the surround offers some fun use of the surrounds but does tend to be front-centric, the Brian Tyler score sound great, his guitar-based score is atmospheric with just the right amount of twang, it really adds a lot to the atmosphere of the movie with it's melancholy overtones. 

Onto the extras scream Factory have ported over all the extras from the 2002 MGM 2-disc DVD, including that great commentary with Campbell in character as the King! They've also added a few new Red Shirt Pictures produced bonus features, beginning with a brand new audio commentary from author Joe R. Lansdale who wrote the original short story, new interviews with Director Don Coscarelli and Actor Bruce Campbell, plus a third with Special Effects Artist Robert Kurtzman. 

The commentary with Lansdale is moderated by Michael Felsher who keeps it going at a nice fu pace with the author speaking not just about the source material and the movie by comparison, but about his career. He has a great good old boy drawl about him, it makes for easy listening, and there's never a dull moment. The new interviews with Coscarelli and Campbell are great, they've each had over a decade to reflect on the making of the movie since 2002 and looking back on it they offer some fun conversation, including both going into why the sequel Bubba Nosferatu has yet to happen, hopefully someday it will, but probably not with Campbell's participation. The single disc release arrives in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork and a slipcover, not a fan of the new illustration but a huge fan of everything else. 

Special Features: 

- NEW Audio Commentary With Author Joe R. Lansdale
- NEW All Is Well – An Interview With Writer/Director Don Coscarelli
- NEW The King Lives! – An Interview With Star Bruce Campbell (22 Mins) HD 
- NEW Mummies And Make-up – An Interview With Special Effects Artist Robert Kurtzman (9 Mins) HD 
- Audio Commentary By Don Coscarelli And Bruce Campbell
- Audio Commentary By "The King"
- Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Don Coscarelli And Bruce Campbell (3 Mins) HD 
- "The Making Of Bubba Ho-Tep" Featurette (24 Mins) HD 
- "To Make A Mummy" Make-up And Effects Featurette (5 Mins) HD 
- "Fit For A King" Elvis Costuming Featurette (7 Mins) HD 
- "Rock Like An Egyptian" Featurette About The Music Of Bubba Ho-Tep (13 Mins) HD 
- Joe R. Lansdale Reads From Bubba Ho-Tep (8 Mins) HD 
- Footage from the Temple Room Floor (2 Mins) HD 
- Archival Bruce Campbell Interviews (35 Mins) HD 
- Music Video (2 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- TV Spot (1 Min) HD 
- Still Gallery (50 Images) HD

The new disc from Scream Factory is the definitive version of this weird cult-classic, a movie that seems to utterly ridiculous on paper but Ossie Davis and Bruce Campbell infuse their characters with more poignant melancholy and pathos than would seem possible, and they nail it. This strange buddy movie is a winner, and Campbell's performance is his strongest and most affecting to date, acting through that elderly Elvis make-up like a champ, and the end result is nothing less than fucking awesome, this comes highly recommended. What's more, Coscarelli and Lansdale have give us a chance to see the King go out on top, not on the toilet, and that's mighty cool.