Bruce Campbell will always be best-known as Ash in the Evil Dead movies, and for being Sam Raimi’s muse. But one of his other characters deserves just as legendary status as the man with a chainsaw arm – and that is of course, his role as Elvis Presley in Bubba Ho-Tep, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
The last couple of years have brought us a couple of young, hot Elvises played by Austin Butler (in 2022’s Elvis) and Jacob Elordi (in the upcoming Priscilla). But some interesting character actors have taken a stab at the legendary icon over the years, often in very weird ways. These include Kurt Russell in Elvis (1979), Val Kilmer in True Romance (1993), Jack White in Walk Hard (2007), and Michael Shannon in Elvis & Nixon (2016). And Bruce Campbell is one of the best to have played an older Elvis, in certainly an idiosyncratic movie.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), now on Amazon Prime, is in the genre that Campbell excels at – the horror comedy movie. Campbell plays Elvis who is enjoying life in a retirement home after faking his own death. Ossie Davis plays a man who claims to be JFK, despite being Black.
Campbell was only 44 when he played the elderly Elvis, which is only two years older than Presley’s age when he died – which all adds to the absurdity. Sebastian/Elvis (Campbell) and Jack/JFK (Davis) have to join forces to defeat a reanimated Egyptian mummy – the titular Bubba Ho-Tep – despite needing a wheelchair and a walker to get around.
Only 32 prints of Bubba Ho-Tep were ever made, and the film was ‘roadshowed’ around the US, mainly at festivals, with Campbell in attendance. This ensured that it achieved cult status early on, as it gained positive word-of-mouth, but was hard to access. This also meant that when it was released on DVD, it was in-demand.