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Bubba Ho-Tep

It began because I was lying around, coughing and bored. Couldn't read, couldn't write, couldn't do much else except find patches of sunlight and pretend to be a lizard and listen to Machine Gun Fellatio. Eventually, I figured I would go and see a film. Despite deborahb's less than glowing opinion of it, I decided on Bubba Ho-Tep. Afterward, I figured I should have paid a little more attention to Deb and maybe considered the fact that I had actually read the novella it was based off and didn't think too much of it a bit more seriously. I liked the idea, but Lansdale isn't much of a writer, and in the end, that's how I saw the film: I liked the idea, but Don Coscarelli isn't much of a director.

For those who aren't aware of what the idea is, it's simple: an aged Elvis and John F. Kennedy are in a rundown retirement home, and end up fighting a Mummy who is stealing the souls from the other elderly residents. Neither Elvis or Kennedy died when history says. Instead, Elvis swapped his life with an Elvis impersonator, who died instead, and JFK's brain is currently in a jar, kept alive by a battery, while the Kennedy lives out his life in a body dyed black and with sand in his skull instead of brain. It is, like I said, a nice idea from Lansdale.

(Speaking of which, am I the only one who finds Lansdale's fiction misogynist  in a distasteful way? Not all of it mind you--I quite like the Hap and Leonard novels, but even in them, you can make the same claim, though it's not as distasteful as it gets in some of his other work. In the case of the novella 'Bubba Ho-Tep', I know that part of the problem is that Elvis was characterised as a misogynist , but it just left an unpleasant taste when I was reading the story. As if I had seen this angle from Lansdale one to many times and I wanted something different.)

The only reason to go and watch Bubba Ho-Tep is Bruce Campbell. I've always liked Campbell. He has a nice presence on the screen, and he makes me laugh. What laughs I got from Bubba Ho-Tep came from Campbell's Southern, Elvis' drawl through the voice over and his interaction with the rest of the cast. My favourite bits mostly had to do with the growth on the end of his dick, but then I'm like that. But either way, loaded up with prosthetics, hobbling around on a walker, Campbell gives an authentic performance as an old Elvis making plans with a black Kennedy to take out a Mummy.

The problem, however, is with the director and writer, Coscarelli. It's hard to imagine that a film like this could be dull, but that's exactly how the film has been put together. Words like bland and tepid and workman like spring to mind, and it's not enough of an excuse to say that the film was done on a small budget, and this is why. There are enough small films out there to demonstrate to people that you don't need a big budget to make something that bubbles with life and excitement and pulls the audience along. You would, indeed, think that a film about Elvis and JFK was ripe for that, but it's not the case. Indeed, the film feels very stationary, as if it was filmed by one camera put on a track and pushed around from scene to scene, but was never removed, raised, lowered, or anything. Say what you will, but Bubba Ho-Tep is one static looking film.

In addition, the plot never really bothers to develop the threat. The fault is there in Lansdale's novella, and I suppose if pressed I had no real problem with the answers appearing on toilet walls, and in JKF's books, but a little bit more in this area would have been nice. If the film had been more than bland in the way that it had been fitted together, then I don't think I would have worried about this, but since it leaves me with plenty of time to think (mostly as Campbell hobbles from room to room) I found myself ultimately dissatisfied with the explanations. I think I wanted Elvis and JFK to work for it a little more.

In addition, the subtitles didn't work Lansdale's novella... it didn't work in the film, either. They were just intrusive in the bubble of believability that the film was struggling to hold onto.

From reading this, I guess it would be fair to say that I didn't like Bubba Ho -Tep, but that's not quite true. I didn't mind it. You can pass a couple of hours with it and at the end you don't think much about it. But it could have been so much better without much effort. Everything was there for a really excellent little b-grade film, but instead, what I was left with was a bland little thing with an excellent performance from Bruce Campbell. (I must admit, I also wanted some Elvis music. But there, I suppose, budgets come into play.) Still, if you're interested in it, check it out, but I'd wait from someone you know to have the DVD so you can borrow it. It's a free movie. Only your time need be given.

However, I will say, that despite all this, I loved the final scene.

Comments

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ashamel
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:01 am (UTC)
Now I'm confused, because deborahb loved it, as far as I can tell.

However, I'm with you on the film being underwhelming, but I did really like the short story.
benpeek
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:15 am (UTC)
that's what i thought, but she told me, no, she didn't think much of it. i reckon she'd probably go with underwhelming, but maybe not. i'm sure she'll set us straight, however.
deborahb
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:29 am (UTC)
>Speaking of which, am I the only one who finds Lansdale's fiction misogynist in a distasteful way?

No.

>(snip) As if I had seen this angle from Lansdale one to many times and I wanted something different.

I can't read Lansdale anymore.

I thought Bubba Ho-Tep was worth seeing because it was something a little different from the norm & I like to support difference. But I realised one week later that absolutely nothing at all from the film had stuck in my head, apart from that in-your-face opening scene, which still cracks me up. And that stupid rubber scarab.

'Static' is an excellent word for it, & I don't even remember the ending. I do remember the guy in the row in front of me snoring for a good part of the film, though, & now that makes me giggle more than the dick jokes.

You know, I certainly was more positive about it when I wrote my review. Even then, however, I thought it was a slow film, & kinda light on the substance, but I was willing to roll with it. Yet, the more time passes, the more indifferent I become. Strange.
benpeek
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:40 am (UTC)
>I thought Bubba Ho-Tep was worth seeing because it was something a little different from the norm & I like to support difference.

that's pretty much the reason to see it, i reckon.

i've done the change on films. i still remember seeing STARSHIP TROOPERS and hating it the first time. i like it now. guess it took a while for the satire level of it to jump in.
deborahb
Mar. 7th, 2005 04:32 am (UTC)
I still hate STARSHIP TROOPERS, & I'm unlikely to see it a second time. I got that it was satire, but I found it too heavy handed, & anyway, I'm not actually a fan of satire (a fact that became clear to me when I had to study Gulliver's Travels. 'It's long-winded because it's making fun of long-winded travelogues,' said my tutor. 'Oh, great, yeah, make fun of something by adding to the extent of its creations,' I muttered under my breath.)
benpeek
Mar. 7th, 2005 05:04 am (UTC)
i never lasted more than fifty pages of GULLIVER's TRAVELS. i think around the time i read it, there was a tv movie with ted danson, and while i never saw that, i saw him, and now whenever i pick up the book, i have the image of ted danson as the narrator.

after that i could never take the book seriously.
bodhichitta0
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:47 pm (UTC)
I didn't like Starship Troopers either. Something didn't click for me and I believe I was put off by the gore.

And misogyny in fiction is freakin' insiduous. I haven't read the things Ben mentioned in this entry but I find it extremely ironic that two of the most popular authors in the United States are also misogynsts--John Grisham and Stephen King (he HATES women. Jesus, it gives me the creeps.)
shadowsandice
Mar. 7th, 2005 07:50 am (UTC)
Heathen. Starship Troopers is one of the greatest films evah.
benpeek
Mar. 7th, 2005 10:33 am (UTC)
well, i wouldn't go that far. and what's with heatening me? deb still doesn't like it.
deborahb
Mar. 7th, 2005 11:53 pm (UTC)
Psychopath.
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