Monday, September 27, 2010

An Ode to Bruce Campbell (Though, Really, It’s Not Actually An Ode)

Mondays are fun, aren’t they? Sure they are. To add to the singular joy that is Monday morning, let’s talk a bit about Bruce Campbell, shall we? Sure we will.

I’ve been a Bruce Campbell fan for a while, and I’ve seen a good amount of his work. I’ve even sat through (and kinda enjoyed) the 1990s vampire "classic," Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat.

But only because Bruce is in it.

Although, truth be told, there is a line reading late in that film that cracks me up to no end. The head vampire/bad guy in the film is played by David Carradine. The bad guys are getting ready to go out on a killing spree, and one of Carradine’s henchmen--whose name I’ve forgotten--asks, so ham-handedly that it’s simply hilarious, “Master?” (Longer-than-should-be pause, seemingly while the actor tries to remember his next line.) “Shall I get (another pause) the cross-bows?”

It gets me every time. (Which is to say, it got me that one time I watched the movie.)

Right. In any case, I’ve talked about Bruce Campbell before, but I’ve been on a bit of Bruce bender lately; buying up shiny, new Blu-Rays of Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness, and reading his first book, If Chins Could Kill. I’m working on his follow-up to that wondrous and funny tome, Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, right now.

And I’ve developed a new appreciation for an actor who I already respected a great deal.

In his autobiography, it becomes increasingly clear that Bruce is as he appears to be in interviews and commentaries--unassuming, witty, and not one to take himself seriously. What also becomes apparent is just how dedicated Bruce is to the craft of acting, and how much he appreciates the success he’s had in film and TV.

While he doesn’t take himself very seriously at all, he certainly takes his roles seriously, and it’s no mystery why he’s been such a workhorse for so many films, TV shows, commercials, etc., throughout his career.

If you’re a fan of his work, I’d highly suggest checking out the first book, If Chins Could Kill, which is as much a field guide for getting into independent films (as an actor, director, producer, or crew member) as it is a recounting of Campbell’s career.

I recently re-watched the original Evil Dead, and I was just as shocked by it as the first time I saw it. For me, it’s a film very much like The Exorcist, in that one viewing every few years is plenty.

Not because they’re bad films--quite the opposite, actually.

As far as horror on film goes, you’d be hard-pressed to find two better, scarier movies. What both films do in terms of building and maintaining suspense is nothing short of masterful, and there’s a reason they shine so brightly in the pantheon of great horror films. I rank them in the top three in the history of the genre, with John Carpenter’s original Halloween earning a place between them.

While the acting in Evil Dead can be rough around the edges at times--think certain performances in Kevin Smith's Clerks--there are definitely moments where you can see true talent developing as the shoot continues.

Once you get to Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, though, Bruce has figured it out. And his performances are classic. Watch Evil Dead II and AoD, check out Bruce’s facial expressions during the flicks, and try telling me that Jim Carey doesn’t owe Campbell some royalty checks...
There are other cult favorites, of course. The film adaptation of Joe Landsdale's short story, Bubba-Ho Tep, is waaay up there on my list of near and dear movies, with Bruce playing a very alive (though elderly) Elvis, and the recent My Name is Bruce immediately earned a spot on the DVD shelf with its self-aware hilarity.

These days, Campbell can be seen on the network show, Burn Notice, and he’s also scheduled to appear at the quickly approaching New York Comic Con, which is pretty cool. I’m sure his line will be long, but I think I might just give it a try.

I actually already own a Campbell-autographed book--I found it for $3 at a local library’s monthly used book sale a year or two back, and its inscription reads, "To Andrew, Shop Smart!"--but I’d love to get a DVD or a comic signed. Um, to me, I mean. That would be cool.

Some ode, huh?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too am a HUGE Bruce fan. I have for sale an autographed copy of evil dead, signed by all 3 ladies,bruce and Tom Sullivan. Horrorfest 2002. If anyone is interested, please email me @ thank you and "Hail to the King Baby!"