There’s a charm and joy to B-movie horror that you don’t quite get with other genres. It’s low budget, it’s campy, but it’s all done intentionally so and you can really tell that the people making it had a blast doing so.
One movie that perfectly encapsulates all it means to be a B-movie is 2002’s Bubba Ho-Tep. Written and Directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm), and starring Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and Ossie Davis (The Fugitive TV series, Do the Right Thing), the movie features an aging Elvis and JFK (who aren’t actually dead) fighting an undead mummy.
The film is every bit as ridiculous as its premise suggests, but it was made with a lot of heart and at its core is a really wholesome friendship between two elderly people who know that this is their last hurrah. So to celebrate this largely unknown film’s (at least unknown to the mainstream) 20th anniversary, here are 20 fun facts about Bubba Ho-Tep!
1. According to screenwriter/director Don Coscarelli, Joe Lansdale (author of the source novella) was shocked that anyone would want to adapt his Elvis vs. Mummy story.
2. The original novella featured a third character who was an elderly woman who believed she was a post sex-changed John Dillinger.
3. Upon reading the script, Bruce Campbell’s first question to director Don Coscarelli was whether or not they would show his character’s infected penis.
4. Coscarelli brought over many of the same crew members who had worked with him on the Phantasm series which he created, spanning (at the time) 4 films.
5. Phantasm star Reggie Banister has a small role as the administrator of the nursing home, along with other Phantasm actors, Bob Ivy, Ella Joyce and Heidi Marnhout.
6. The film’s production budget was only about $500,000.
7. Bruce Campbell’s Elvis makeup took 3 hours every day of shooting.
8. The Mud Creek Shady Rest Home was shot at an abandoned hospital located in Downey, California. First opened in 1888, it was the L.A. county Poor Farm, which served elderly, homeless and mentally ill. By the 1980’s it was abandoned and falling apart. And in 2017 a massive fire destroyed much of what was left of the building.
9. At one point during filming, Bruce Campbell actually used the bedpan to “go to the bathroom” since he was confined to the bed.
10. Shot over a period of 30 days.
11. Ossie Davis was actually born in the same year as John F. Kennedy (1917), so he was exactly the age JFK would have been had he survived.
12. Bubba Ho-Tep composer Brian Tyler would go on to compose scores for movies like Timeline, Constantine, AVP: Requiem, Fast & Furious, The Expendables, and Iron Man 3.
13. Only 32 prints of the film were initially made for distribution, as it was given a very limited “roadshow” release in 2002.
14. While it barely grossed $1 million, the film became a cult classic and received generally positive reviews from critics, who admired its charm.
15. Despite the main character being “Elvis”, there weren’t any Elvis Presley songs used in the movie since, according to Don Coscarelli, it would have cost half the movie’s budget to get the licensing rights for just a single song.
16. KNB Effects created the practical effects for the film as a favor to Don Coscarelli.
17. A prequel film Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires has been “in development” for nearly 20 years. At first Bruce Campbell was attached, but left the project following creative disagreements with Don Coscarelli. As of now, the project is still listed on IMDB but with no further updates. The plot summary describes a younger Elvis fighting a coven of vampires in Louisiana.
18. There was a graphic novel sequel that tied in Army of Darkness, which saw Ash team up with Elvis (both Bruce Campbell characters).
19. Won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay (Don Coscarelli).
20. Winner of the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for Best Limited Release, Best Actor for Bruce Campbell, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Ossie Davis).
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments!