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If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor

Also posted on Blogcritics.org

Even if you don't know his name, you know Bruce Campbell's face. The nerdy hero in the Evil Dead movies, the intelligent but unlucky bounty hunter in The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., and the suave and debonair King of Thieves in Xena:Warrior Princess are just a few of his more notable roles. In his 20-plus year career, he's done many "Hey, it's that guy!" parts (a fair bit of directing, as well) and seems to relish his B-star status...and the relative freedom it provides from the more onerous effects of fame.

This autobiography is as much Campbell's life story as a treatise on how to make a low budget horror movie, or really any independent film. It should absolutely be required reading for all nascent film directors. It might help weed out the starry-eyed Bergman devotees who regularly inflict their creations on unsuspecting film festival audiences to be subjected to a first-hand account of how much sheer animal effort making a film can be. Acting students would likewise benefit from study of this book. Campbell says he "danced a jig" when Brisco County was cancelled...he was happy that he could finally get some sleep.

Chins is a very entertaining read. The details of the making of the Evil Dead movies, in particular, sparked a marathon viewing during which my husband and I constantly poked each other, saying things like, "that's actually Karo syrup," and "they did that with Vaseline and a sawhorse." There are the usual first-name-only anecdotes that will have you running to IMDB to try and ferret out the true identity of the Asshole Method Actor, the on-set stories that go a long way towards explaining the final product that we see on screen, and probably less of the really personal tidbits than some of you would like, but you must remember Bruce is a midwestern boy and his mother will most probably read the book.

The only off note about this book is the somewhat detached tone of the narrative. At first blush, it may seem that Bruce Campbell is a guy things happen to. His prose is laid back, casual, and not imbued with a whole lot of emotion. But the more I think about it, the more I think that he's probably at bit like Joe Banks when he said, "I have no interest in myself. I think about myself, I get bored out of my mind." That despite years of association with Hollyweird he has managed to keep both his sense of self and his sense of perspective. And good for him.

Posted 09/23/02 in Bookage
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