This is my entry in The Two Jacks Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room
What if? There are rumors, or at least there were, that Elvis faked his own death. Witness the many "sightings" of Elvis at the grocery store, or filling up at the gas pump at the station, or door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales.
Believe it or not, there have also been rumors that John F. Kennedy survived his assassination attempt. Not so many people claim to have actually seen him wandering the streets, true, but many of the inconsistencies surrounding his death and the aftermath have led to some admittedly crackpot theories.
A fascinating read on the subject is "Who Shot JFK? A Guide to the Major Conspiracy Theories" by Bob Callahan. The book covers everything from the reasonably believable (The C.I.A. or the Russians or the Cubans were involved) to the downright insane (aliens were involved). If I'm not mistaken that's where I first read about a theory that the body that was autopsied at Parkland was not the President but a look-alike and JFK survived the assassination.
My personal belief, after years of reading various theories, is that Lee Harvey Oswald may not have been the one who actually succeeded in his attempt, although I do not subscribe to the theory that he was not actually involved. I also do not subscribe to that theory that it was someone else that died.
However, it does make for an interesting "what if?" So that what if is a sub-context of today's post.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002):
Living in a nursing home, an elderly man lives in a barely coherent state, thinking about his past life, and watching the poor souls around him dying off, as will happen in such a place. After all, old age does come along in a stealthy manner. The old man lies in his bed, lamenting the decline of his sexual libido. And musing about his past, wondering if his ex Priscilla would come to see him if she knew he was there.
Priscilla. As in Priscilla Presley. For this isn't just any old man. This is THE Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell). Yeah, the one who supposedly died in the 70's. Only the staff believes his real name is Sebastian Haff, a former Elvis impersonator. Because, see, just prior to the death of Elvis, Elvis had gone to one of the best Elvis impersonators in the business and made a deal to trade with him. Sebastian would take the place of Elvis and be the center of all that attention, and Elvis would become Haff, just a normal Joe, albeit one who made his living impersonating Elvis.
(Just a note: I don't have any idea if such a thing existed prior to Elvis' death. I personally thought the rise of impersonators only became such a thing after his death. But maybe someone who has been around longer than me could clear that up.)
Anyway, Elvis/Sebastian's roommate dies and the daughter of the man shows up to collect his stuff. A rather self-centered girl, she had only been there once before, 20 years earlier, to drop him off. In the process of her visit, Elvis reveals his true past. He had made a deal with Haff to switch places, with a codicil in the contract between them that if Elvis wanted his old life back he could do it. But the contract burned up in a fire. And in the following years Elvis had been hurt while performing under the impersonator guise. And the imitator had died in a hotel room while still playing the "real" Elvis. So only the real Elvis knows the truth. And the rest of the world still thinks he's a delusional impersonator.
Elvis (I will call him that for the rest of the review) has only one real friend in the nursing home. Elvis thinks the old man has lost most of his marbles because this old man thinks he is John F. Kennedy. What complicates this matter is the old man (Ossie Davis) is black, and of course, JFK was white. The way Jack tells it is they dyed his skin black, among other things.
The nursing home garners a new resident, albeit not one who is registered with the staff. This new resident, instead, is a manifestation of the evil spirit of a dead Egyptian mummy(?) JFK and Elvis discover this soul eater, and Jack has some ideas. He has a book about the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Not the real book you may have heard of, however. This is one called The Everyday Man and Woman's Book of the Dead.
Jack thinks he's figured out what happened. This Egyptian mummy has risen from the dead and needs souls to survive. What better way to get it's nourishment than around an old folk's home where it's not curious that people are dying?
And what got Jack to thinking about this? He found some graffiti in the stall of one of the restrooms. Hieroglyphs, but still your standard fare for public restroom graffiti."Pharaoh gobbles donkey goobers." and "Cleopatra does the nasty." (Did I mention this is a comedy/horror film?)
Elvis is not entirely convinced, of course, and thinks Jack is just nuts. Until a few moments later when he meets the mummy face to face, decked out in boots and a cowboy hat, yet.
He also gets a vision of what happened, not only in the long past, as in how the mummy died in ancient Egypt, but even a glimpse into the recent past, when the rediscovered mummy is being transported by bus and the bus crashes off a bridge into the local river. Which explains how Bubba Ho-Tep, as Elvis has named him, came to be hanging around the rest home.
How the mummy came to be on a bus is pretty funny, too. It seems some thieves hijacked the mummy for ransom. (It wasn't like it was King Tut, with all the security guards around to guard the valuable relic. He was just a lesser known mummy, probably King Tut's brother...) But the thieves were transporting their illicit cargo by bus and ran into a storm in East Texas and crashed into the local river.
So Elvis and Jack know the truth, but since everyone else thinks their old coots who are losing their grasp on sanity, it's up to them to save the rest home and the rest of society from this scourge of the undead.
I'll leave it up to you to watch to see how it all comes out. Bubba Ho-Tep makes for some pretty good entertainment. And believe it or not, Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars (take that as you will). It won two U.S. Comedy Arts Film Festival Awards (Best Actor and Best Film) (Side note: I don't know that much about the USCA awards. It was an HBO sponsored event than only lasted about 13 years, from 1995-2008. And I can't find a page on the internet that lists what it was up against.)
It was also an "Official Selection" for several film festivals including one that is near and dear to my heart because of it's local venue the SXSW (South by Southwest) Film Festival in Austin. Hey, it's not Gone with the Wind, but as long as you can get a feel for comedy/horror it is just as good as say, The Evil Dead, (one of star Bruce Campbell's first films). And you get to see Ossie Davis put on a good tongue-in-cheek performance as a black John F, Kennedy.
Well, time to fire up the old Plymouth, and go "take care of business". Drive safely, folks.