by Bill Hawk


Silver Sphere/MGM, 2003, Color, 92 mins.- MGM DVD

Bruce Campbell: "Damn, this here Jack was a nut. Maybe I was a nut too- but there was an adventure goin' on."

Campbell, as ol' Elvis Presley, isn't the man he used to be after a long, bedridden stretch at the Shady Rest Convalescence Home in Mud Creek, Texas. You see, many years ago he got tired of his life and switched places with an Elvis impersonator, who up and died, leaving the original to carry on in his own tradition until an accident laid him up......or so he claims. Anyway, he spends most of his time feeling sorry for himself- until something challenges him to finally be the hero that he always wanted to be. As it turns out, the rest home- a sad repository of lost souls waiting for their tickets to be punched- is a veritable smorgasbord for an ancient soul-sucking Egyptian mummy with the munchies. Campbell teams up with fellow resident Ossie Davis, a black man who's convinced that he's John F. Kennedy, to combat the threat to their little world. But do two nutty old guys with a walker and a wheelchair stand a chance against a supernatural menace?

This mini-budget labor of love is as funky as one of Elvis' peanut butter and banana sandwiches, with a tone that swings from cheesy horror to black humor to poignant character moments as smoothly as The King's gyrating hips (in the old days, that is). Horror fans will automatically groove on this one, with the involvement of "Evil Dead" cult fave Campbell, "Phantasm" writer/director Don Coscarelli, and original story writer Joe R. Lansdale. But is has an appeal that goes beyond its genre, with Campbell and Davis turning in performances that both sell and elevate the silliness. Sensitive viewers might be turned-off by some story details of questionable taste, but on the whole it's fair to say that this is the most touching, funny and scary movie about an aged Elvis battling a soul-sucking mummy in a rest home that you will ever see. Extras include audio commentaries and featurettes that will have fans saying "Thank you- thank you very much."

Selznick/RKO, 1948, B&W, 93 mins.- Warner Bros. DVD

Melvyn Douglas: "You've been taken to the cleaners, and you don't even know your pants are off."

Lawyer Douglas tries to be a voice of reason for his friends Cary Grant and Myrna Loy when they want to exchange their crummy Big Apple apartment for a house in the country. But Grant is fed up with being at the intersection of the Rat Race and the Middle Class Family Obstacle Race, and so he signs on the dotted line for a Connecticut farmhouse that he hopes will be a good "Fixer-upper." The fixing part, however, turns out to be vastly more complicated and expensive than Grant had hoped for, involving architects, contractors, and enough mishaps to drive him nutty even if he wasn't also saddled with a difficult account at his advertising agency. And to top it off, he starts to get a little paranoid about wife Loy's relationship with "Old friend" Douglas. Between the problems at home and at work, it starts to look as though Grant's attempt to improve his family's happiness may blow up in his face......

This charming comedy casts a jaundiced eye on America's postwar prosperity and its ideal of owning your own home, where your devoted-but-dizzy wife and your precocious kids can drive you affectionately to distraction. Grant's character toils away in a hard and cynical business, but he's enough of an idealist to put everything on the line for his "Dream house." And boy, does he pay for it, with an ever-increasing pile of receipts demanding his attention. In the end, it all proves to be worth it- a foregone conclusion given the time in which this picture was made- but the sentiment-to-chaos ratio definitely favors the latter. Overall, it's good, slick, harmless fun, recommended for classic comedy fans. Extras include a vintage cartoon, radio versions of the story, and a Grant trailer gallery.

Warner Bros., 1973, Color, 119 mins.- Warner Bros. DVD

James Coburn: "The harder you try to keep a secret in, the more it wants to get out."

And there are plenty of secrets to go around when movie producer Coburn invites some pals out to his yacht for a little cruise and a special "Game" that he has devised just for them. The outing promises some fun, some laughs, and a heaping spoonful of psychological torment from the supercilious Coburn- who has good reason to be pissed-off, as he suspects that one of the group is responsible for the hit-and-run accident that killed his wife, Sheila. Of course, these are Hollywood denizens we're talking about, so one reason for the get-together is to discuss profiting from tragedy- namely, making a movie based on Sheila's life (and death). But as the cruise continues, The Biz takes a back seat to the various suspicions and little "Accidents" that plague the group......and soon enough, the "Game" turns deadly serious.

This neat little item springs from a screenplay by Broadway musical great Steven Sondheim and Anthony "Norman Bates" Perkins, so you know that you'll get an amusingly-jaded view of showbiz types and some clever plot twists. Throw in a cast that includes Coburn, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, Ian McShane, and James Mason, and it's guaranteed fun for mystery fans. There are some slow spots, but they're part of the game, and if you stick with the picture you'll be rewarded with a suspenseful and delightfully cynical wrap-up.

The only extra of note on the disc is an audio commentary with Benjamin, Cannon and Welch.

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© Melt Magazine 2004