“Such is an actor’s life. We must ride the waves of every film, barfing occasionally, yet maintain our dignity, even as the bulk of our Herculean efforts are keel-hauled before our very eyes.” -Bruce Campbell.
You’ve very probably seen Bruce Campbell onscreen or flickering brightly (albeit briefly) as you channel-surfed the cable hinterlands at 1 A.M, even it you didn’t realize it at the time. He is the ominipresent “blue-collar” working guy of the film and television industry, a solid, industrial-chinned actor who pops up routinely (on such television shows as Xena, Homicide, Ellen; and in roles such as the (soon to be dead) scientest in Congo, a soap opera star in Fargo and, most recently, as the Ring Announcer in the big-budget hit Spider-Man), and has developed a long, somewhat twisted yet steadily successful career in the entertainment industry.
He also is a “cult” hero for his work in several B-movie splatter fests (The Evil Dead series), a well-known speaker on the convention and college circuit and, in If Chins Could Kill, a surprisingly good teller of tales.
If Chins Could Kill is part biography (touching on his misspent youth in the Detroit suburbs and the creation of the “Detroit Mafia”, a loose collection of young up-and-coming Detroit movie makers including his friend Director Sam Raimi), part how-to-make-low-budget-independent-films-involving-huge-amounts-of-karo-syrup (used for fake blood), and part philosphical musings on the entertainment industry, movie-making and of his place in the Hollywood foodchain.
Somewhat chaotic in style, and for the most part almost wholly irreverant throughout, the book mainly concentrates on Campbell and the Raimi brothers initial forays into film-making that culminated in “Evil Dead”, a low-budget ($350,000) horror flick that, using frugal special effect tricks, cheap actors and a determined crew, managed to create what author Stephen King termed “the most ferociously original horror film of the year”. The book is wildly funny at times and provides an excellent guide to any would-be film-makers on how to do more with less (ranging from the creation of a smoothly panning “vas-o-cam” (camera plus board plus vaseline equals smooth pan), to the best formula for fake blood).
If Chins Could Kill suffers marginally from the episodic tone as Campbell recounts his story, most significantly near the end of the book where much of the latter parts of Campbell’s career is crammed into a couple of chapters (none of them as fully fleshed out as the early pages). The end of the book almost feels like it was “rushed” through development, instead of being rewritten and “chewed over” properly.
Be that as it may, the first half of the book is a terrific romp through a life in B-movies. Campbell’s enthusiasm for his profession, his cynical asides and genuine enjoyment permeate the book, giving you a look at the Hollywood you don’t see in the more glossy tomes (Don’t believe me? Check out the back cover of the book and just read the blurb If that doesn’t give you taste of who you are dealing with, nothing will…).
If you are interested in more, check out Bruce Campbell’s own website (with complete filmography, complete with caustic commentary, and excepts from his book).
So as Bruce says “buy the damned book already and read like the wind!”
For more on movies visit The Internet Movie Database.
For fun, try out University of Virginia’s Oracle of Bacon (just so you know Bruce Campbell’s Bacon Number is 2).