Tuesday, May 25, 2004

If you’re in the market for a wholly original genre film, you need look no further than Bubba Ho-Tep, out this week via MGM Home Entertainment ($27.98). It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Directed by frightmeister Don Coscarelli (of the “Phantasm” series fame) from Joe R. Lansdale’s short story, “Bubba Ho-Tep” stars Bruce Campbell as an elderly Elvis Presley. Elvis, we learn, had switched identities with an impersonator years before and is now alive, if not so well, and living in a Texas nursing home.

When said home becomes the target of an ancient, soul-swallowing mummy, Elvis finds new purpose in life by teaming with fellow resident Jack (Ossie Davis), a senior who’s convinced he’s actually JFK, to combat the supernatural threat.

While “Bubba” sports its share of dark wit and (rather mild) scares, the film really scores as an endearing character study, a thoughtful meditation on the aging process, and a quiet celebration of the bonds of friendship. The odd-couple casting of cult thesp Campbell, late of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” trilogy, and the octogenarian Mr. Davis, one of the industry’s most respected figures, is a truly inspired touch, as the pair exhibits chemistry to spare.

Phantom recently spoke with Mr. Campbell about the challenge of playing a geriatric Elvis.

“Here’s the weird thing,” he recalled. “I played him at 70 when I was 42, but that’s how old he was when he died, so it shows you how he burned himself out. We played it like, what if he had just barely avoided disaster, got off the stuff just in time. He’d be a burned-out old man, a crabby guy in a rest home, basically, and that’s what he is.”

Tops among the disc’s many bonus features, including filmmaker commentary and behind-the-scenes segments, is an audio track by Mr. Campbell posing as “The King,” a deadpan, dead-on impersonation that makes you believe you’re really listening to Elvis today. And while “Elvis” almost totally disapproves of the irreverent film, adventurous viewers will likely disagree with his verdict.

The ‘A’ list

Speaking of kings, at the opposite end of the budgetary spectrum comes New Line Home Entertainment’s gala double-disc edition of the final installment of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien trilogy The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($29.95), complete with commentaries, featurettes, trailers and more.

And if you have a major Hobbit habit, you can splash out for the 6-DVD The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy ($89.99) set, containing all three films and extras galore.

Elsewhere, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment introduces a pair of comedies: the Broken Lizard troupe’s slasher spoof Club Dread, featuring Bill Paxton, and Welcome to Mooseport, starring Gene Hackman and Ray Romano as small-town mayoral rivals. Both discs, tagged at $27.98 each, include filmmaker commentaries and other bonus material.


Cult TV fans should plan on setting several hours aside for a brace of box sets from 20th Century Fox. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Sixth Season (6-DVD, $59.98) collects all 22 episodes from Season 6, along with a behind-the-scenes featurette, a panel discussion, select episode commentary, outtakes, karaoke music videos and more.

The X-Files: The Complete Ninth Season ($99.98) assembles 19 episodes, including the two-hour season finale, plus more than three hours of documentaries, deleted scenes, TV promo spots, select filmmaker audio commentary, a DVD-ROM game and more.

Paramount Home Video weighs in with the much-anticipated, Emmy-winning 1983 miniseries “The Winds of War: Special Collectors Edition” ($89.99), based on the Herman Wouk novel and toplining Robert Mitchum and Ali MacGraw. The six-disc set arrives with a documentary and featurettes.

Collectors’ corner, combat division

20th Century Fox is also active on the vintage war-movie front. The label’s fourth Fox War Classics package offers Tyrone Power and Dana Andrews in 1943’s Crash Dive, Robert Mitchum in a pair of combat films (1957’s The Enemy Below and the following year’s The Hunters), Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner in Morituri and James Cagney in John Ford’s 1952 remake What Price Glory. The discs are $14.98 each.

This week Dreamworks Home Entertainment introduces a bonus-laden, double-disc Saving Private Ryan: 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition ($26.99). And keying in to the current Brad Pitt epic, A&E ushers in The History Channel Presents: Troy (2-DVD, $29.95), which gathers a quartet of documentaries examining the Trojan War.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Any chance we’ll see one of my favorite TV shows, Sledge Hammer!, on DVD?

D. Franklin, via e-mail

Anchor Bay Entertainment plans a box set, due later this summer. Stay tuned.

• Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: phanmedia@aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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