Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Lone Racist Sparks a Movie Night

I really can't understand why some people have a desire to use racial slurs- the use of such language is a reflection on oneself, not on the targets of the slur.  This week, an asshole dressed as the Lone Ranger was thrown out of a Walker County, Georgia committee meeting for defending the use of the 'N-word' and displays of the Confederate battle flag.  Great, just great... 

Racists suck, even when dressing up as beloved figures from pop culture.  That being said, the image of an old man in a Lone Ranger mask immediately reminded me of a scene in the cult film Bubba Ho-Tep, in which an elderly man, suffering from dementia, takes a final stand, cap guns blasting away, against... you got it... a soul-sucking mummy dressed in a cowboy hat and boots:


The difference between the Kemosabe of Bubba Ho-Tep and the Lone Racist is that Kemosabe had a soul to steal, unlike our Georgia asshole...  That being said, this tawdry incident moved me to re-watch Bubba Ho-Tep, a film which I've only mentioned in passing while blogging.

Bubba Ho-Tep was predestined to be a cult classic, involving such titans of 'grade B' horror as author Joe Lansdale, director Don Coscarelli, and leading man Bruce Campbell.  The subject matter is also pure pulp, with a bit of a gonzo twist- it involves an aging Elvis Presley teaming up with JFK to fight a soul-sucking mummy killing off the residents of a nursing home.  The late, great Ossie Davis, playing JFK, managed to lend the role an air of dignity, even as his dialogue involves a mummy trying to suck his soul out via his butthole. Yeah, it's that kind of movie, but it's so much more.  It's a horror-comedy film, but it is also a poignant elegy concerning the plight of the elderly.  Giant, carnivorous scarab beetles and soul-sucking mummies aren't all that scary compared to being confined in a nursing home, all-but-forgotten by family and waiting to die.  

This emotional power sneaks up on the viewer, who had previously been watching a film which previously put Bruce Campbell's knack for slapstick to the test:


The main characters of the movie represent themselves as formerly great figures (King and President) who have fallen far from their pinnacles of wealth and fame... that is, if they aren't completely delusional.  They have their narratives, whether true or false, and they jump at the opportunity to achieve a redemption, a heroic last stand, that they had no hope of attaining.  When Elvis turns to JFK and delivers the patently ridiculous line "ask not what your nursing home can do for you, ask what you can do for your nursing home", it just feels right.

I was lucky enough to see the film when it first came to the theaters as a limited run- it was, appropriately enough, a midnight showing in one of Manhattan's art-house theaters, and the crowd was fairly small.  I loved the movie then, and I think I love it even more now.  Sure, it has some grossout humor (the woeful state of Elvis' aged pecker is remarked upon throughout the film), and the action scenes are jokey and hokey (a mummy, being the slowest of the classic monsters, is a worthy opponent for a decrepit old man whose hip gives out when he attempts to use 'his stuff' to kick ass), but the film has heart, and presents, among the crazy supernatural material, the genuine horror of the plight of the elderly.  Even if you are not into the horror-comedy genre, it's an interesting film, with two outstanding lead performances among the B-movie shenanigans.  It ends on a sad, yet uplifting note, with our two aged heroes managing to save... well, not the Earth, but their nursing home.  That's a more worthy accomplishment than wasting your waning years trying to champion the use of racial slurs and hateful symbols.


David N. Brown said...

I didn't see this in the theater, but I rented it not long after it came out on disc. Very good and very strange.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It really is a nutty movie... starts out as a drama, becomes a horror-comedy, then becomes a genuinely moving meditation on aging.