Better Late Than Never?

Inside is Nephren_ka’s book review of Bruce Campbell’s If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. I know its late, well extremely late, but it’s such a good book, we have to tell you about it. Read on for the review.
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
By: Bruce Campbell.
Published by: LA Weekly Books.
Reviewed by: Brian Sammons (nephren_ka).

Now this is a great book and how couldn’t it be? After all, it’s written by Bruce “don’t call me Ash” Campbell. The Man! The Myth! The idol of a legion of rabid, die hard fans. The voice, the face, and yes, the chin behind one of the most quoted characters in movie history. One of the most overlooked and underrated actors of our time. The… the… okay, enough fanboy blabbering. I felt that I had to get that all out of my system as I am one of those rabid, die hard Campbell Cultists. Now that I have purged myself of that bit of hero worship, let’s take an objective look at Bruce Campbell’s autobiographical tale of Hollywood, television, early life in Michigan, and many other interesting (if somewhat random) topics covered by Bruce in this moderately sized tome.

The book starts with a humorous forward by Ivan and Sam Raimi. Then comes 51 chapters that follow Campbell’s life in a mostly chronological order. While the bulk of this book covers Campbell’s career, there are plenty of candid glimpses into his personal life. Not enough that they become overly sentimental and sappy and not enough to invade his privacy either, but just enough to show some of the man behind the actor; which is a nice thing since Campbell has become so identified with his best known character (Ash of the Evil Dead series) that it’s sometimes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. This book goes a long way toward helping to define that often blurry line.

Naturally, this book begins with Bruce’s childhood, adolescence, school experiences and other normal, everyday events. Campbell describes the pertinent points of these subjects well and does so with a bit of wit and a good dose of self-deprecating humor that makes even the most mundane matters fun to read. However, it is important to note that Campbell does not seem to overplay the comedy. His stories about his family, school and whatnot ring true and do not appear to have been ‘touched up’ to make them more interesting or funny. This is a very good thing as too many biographies tend to deal with matters either too humorously or dramatically, depending on the picture they wish to paint of their subject. Reading this book, you get the sense that Campbell’s telling you things straight, albeit perhaps with a slight smile or a wink and a nod every once and awhile.

Next, Campbell describes all his early acting experiments. These include his homemade movies he did with friends and the various acting troupes he played with. After a quick recount on his six month stay at Western Michigan University, Campbell relates some of the jobs he held as he was “trying to find himself.” These include being a go-fer for a company that made local television commercials as well as a stint as a taxi driver. All of this is interesting and entertaining to read, but honestly, do you really care about that? Hell no, you want to know about the Evil Dead as, after all, this is Bruce Campbell. Well fear not my fellow horror-philes, Bruce knows which side of his bread is buttered and he?s not about to disappoint you. In fact, a good third of this book is all about the three Evil Dead films.
Bruce begins with the early concepts that he and fellow movie miscreants (Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi) thought up and tried out. This includes the now legendary prototype for Evil Dead called Within the Woods. Then comes the tales of scrapping together money, backers, crewmembers and cast, followed by a plethora of on set stories and behind the scenes goodies that will make any Deadite spew oddly-colored ichor with joy. Again, Bruce knows what made him famous (for better or worse) and so he delivers the goods in spades and then some.

But this book is not just an Evil Dead memoir. Far from it. Campbell delves into all of his “plum?” roles both on and off the silver screen. Even bit parts like his work on Congo and Escape From L.A. are covered, as well as near misses such as Bruce almost becoming the purpled tight-wearing superhero The Phantom; a part that eventually went to Billy Zane. Hell, Bruce even covers films that he was not in, only in for a second or two, or was supposed to be in but wound up on the cutting room floor. Two of his buddy Sam Raimi’s films come quickly to mind that fit this bill, they being Darkman and The Quick and the Dead.

As an aside I’ve got to point out that one of the funniest chapters of the book is about Bruce and his work on the Tom Arnold flick, the McHale’s Navy big-screen remake. This chapter is not funny because the film was funny (it really wasn’t) or because of the on the set hi-jinks (there were a few) but because you really get the feeling that Bruce thinks Tom Arnold is an ass. This bit of honestly from someone in an industry famous for ass kissing is very refreshing.

Bruce?s work on the small screen is also well documented. From his short lived series Brisco County Jr. to his recurring rolls on Lois and Clark, Ellen, Hercules and Xena. Even his one shot appearances are documented such as his work on Homicide: Life on the Streets and the X-Files. It is important to note that this book was written before the short-lived Jack of All Trades series came out so that is missing but it does cover the never aired pilot for a golf-centric sitcom Bruce was in called Missing Links.

Then there’s stuff on his Fanalysis documentary that he made (which is included in the ultra-cool Book of the Dead edition of the Evil Dead DVD), the various episodes of television shows that he directed, thoughts on living in Hollywood, dealing with fans_oh, and I didn’t even mention the countless pictures found throughout the book. Well I could go on and on gushing about this book but do I really have to? If you are a Bruce Campbell fan or you just want a humorous insider’s look at the entertainment industry then this book is for you. Well written, entertaining and insightful with more Bruce attitude then you can shake a boom stick at, what’s not to like about this book?

Rating: 5 skulls out of 5.

Source: Brian S. (nephren_ka)