Then & Now: Bubba Ho-Tep

Geoff Harris

Normally, I would be talking about the first time I saw a movie and how it made me feel followed by my thoughts about it after a recent viewing. For this edition of Then & Now, I’m breaking pattern and talking about one of my all-time favorites. So, without further interruption, I am very happy to present:


An aged Elvis Presley awakens in an East Texas retirement home after a presumed stupor caused by years of drug abuse. He slowly rouses to a functional level of comprehension (and a small rekindling of the man he was) to learn the true nature behind the mysterious deaths of his fellow residents. He is joined in his investigation by John F. Kennedy, now an old black man with a sweet tooth. J.F.K. claims he was the victim of enemies’ machinations and wicked sense of social justice. The killer is revealed to be an ancient mummy set loose after the truck carrying its sarcophagus crashed nearby. Elvis and the ex-president team up to stop Bubba Ho-Tep’s rampage of terror.

How could I not love this movie?

I remember sitting in a local theater which specializes in independent and limited run films waiting to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail when I saw the trailer for Bubba Ho-Tep. I had heard of the movie but not any real details. The trailer got inside my head like a virus. Shortly thereafter I tracked down a copy and have been a fan ever since. It’s weird. It’s odd. It has Bruce Campbell doing one of his best performances that I’ve ever seen. There are lots of little moments which enrich the whole and it’s very quotable. The hieroglyphic graffiti alone makes this a modern classic.

I do warn you, dear reader, that this film does have some rather “off-color” humor and is a tad non-linear in how the story flows. You either get this movie or you don’t. It’s not for everyone. One of the many reasons I’m thankful for having seen it is how unique it is and how beautifully strange. I like the odd and unusual.  The misfits of cinema. There’s nothing wrong with mainstream. Sometimes even I am drawn to a more straightforward “three acts and out” structure. But my heart will always yearn for a good story. Something different. Something off the beaten path. There are only so many different ways to tell a tale. What I enjoy most are the risk takers. I will confess that I don’t enjoy every avant-garde film I see. Some are just too off-center or just plain incomprehensible to follow. I’d name some but this article isn’t about movies I’ve disliked.

Bubba Ho-Tep will remain on my personal Top 100 list in the upper escalations. It inspires me to reach in different directions. To play with different colors and defy convention. To find my voice and use it.

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