The Boyfriend of the Week
September 8, 2003
About a year and a half ago, I was in the local movie rental place with my husband, looking for something to rent that we both would watch. We have radically different tastes when it comes to film, with the primary difference being that he actually has taste, whereas I will watch just about anything, the badder the better. So, as I'm sure is true with most couples, picking out movies together can be a bit of a challenge. I was just starting to think I might have to give up and watch some Academy Award winner after all, when a DVD on the shelf in front of us caught both our eyes.
It was for the movie "Evil Dead," which is a campy horror movie from the 70's typically described as a "cult" hit. Since I like horror movies and my husband likes enigmatic movies, a cult flick about zombies seemed like one we might be able to compromise on. Especially since it was starting to look like if we didn't pick something out soon, we'd have to either give up and go home or set up camp for the night. We'd forgotten our sleeping bags, not to mention the requisite materials for s'mores, so we grabbed "Evil Dead" off the shelf, plunked down a debit card, and headed for home, victorious.
Now, at this point, I really had very limited knowledge about this week's Boyfriend, Bruce Campbell. His name was familiar, but it wasn't until I actually saw him that I was able to place him -- hey, I'd know that chin anywhere! That's "Brisco County Jr."! How fun is that? Answer: really darn fun! I had always wondered what had happened to that guy, and while I wouldn't say I was a huge fan of the show, I enjoyed it when I saw it, and have often thought about it since (mostly in a "whatever happened to that weird show about the Old West bounty hunter with the big chin?" kinda way)
So, first and foremost, it was just great seeing Bruce again, especially as a much younger man (I believe he was about 20 in "Evil Dead"). Then, of course, there was the fact that "Evil Dead" is just absolutely delightfully terrible -- in fact, I dare say it's one of the greatest bad horror movies ever made and after seeing it, it was obvious how humongous an impact it has had on the horror genre ever since. It's about a group of teenagers who go to a cabin for a weekend in the woods and find there the Necronomicon, a book that, when read aloud, turns people into evil zombies. I loved it, and loved Bruce Campbell in it. But in my excitement, I made an extremely crucial mistake. A mistake that I would forever rue. Or at least, that I would rue for about 18 months.
I ran back out and rented "Evil Dead II."
Ohhh, Mama, now that's a bad movie. And this time, when I say "bad," I mean, "If I had to choose between watching that again and getting oral surgery, I might actually to stop and think about it for a minute." Because, and pardon my French, but what the enfer (French for "hell," I think) was that movie about, anyway? Was it supposed to be a sequel or a remake? It was the weirdest, most confusing thing I'd seen since "Rowing with the Wind," that god-awful Hugh Grant movie about a bunch of famous literary icons and a sailboat. And, like "Rowing," I didn't make it through the whole thing. I sat through the first 30 minutes or so and started to get a headache from making that squinty face I always make when I have no idea what the hell is going on. And because the headache was pretty bad, I started to get cranky. And being cranky made me lash out. And the person I lashed out at was Bruce Campbell. Don't make movies that befuddle me, Bruce! I just don't like it! (In Bruce's favor, however, I will say for the record that I thought the third sequel to Evil Dead, "Army of Darkness," was extremely entertaining, although no less bizarre (Bruce's character is sent back in time to the medieval period, where he again is forced to fight zombie "Deadites" in order to save the world). It was kind of like a cross between the first Evil Dead movie and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" -- extreme silliness. But at least I understood what was going on in this one. And, by the way, if you loved "Evil Dead II" and you want to plead its case, go ahead and email me. But I make no promises.).
Anyway, I kind of intentionally forgot all about Bruce for many months (retribution, I think, for that whole oral surgery dilemma), until my brother brought him back to the forefront of my thought processes by recommending Bruce's memoir, "If Chins Could Kill," to me. Since a few readers had also suggested it, and since it had such a faboo title, I decided it was a safe bet that I'd enjoy it, so I checked it out from the local public library. And it was just as terrific as everybody had said! Not only absolutely hilarious, but it's primarily about all the crazy things that go into making low-budget horror movies (like "Evil Dead") and I found that stuff both wildly entertaining and extremely interesting too.
The book got me all jazzed up about Bruce again (who knew he was such a great storyteller, and such a totally ridiculous goofball?), and I couldn't wait to see "Evil Dead" again after reading about what Bruce and best friend Sam Raimi went through putting that puppy together. I promptly rented it, popped in in the DVD player, and the moment I saw Bruce's face again, I was sunk. He was a Boyfriend, and he was a Boyfriend SOON. (By the way, make sure you watch the movie at least once with Bruce's commentary playing -- it's a whole nother experience that way. He's very funny, has great insider stories to tell, and uses the word "cheeseball" a LOT. It was very cute.)
"Soon" didn't leave me a heck of a lot of time for preparation, however. And, really, aside from "Evil Dead" and "Brisco County," I wasn't sure if I'd ever seen Bruce in anything else. Luckily, Netflix seemed to have a lot of his stuff in stock, so I immediately put a bunch of his movies in my queue. And then, browsing the TV guide, I noticed that another one of Bruce's movies, "Congo," was actually coming up on cable. "How fortuitous!" I announced to my empty living room. "Indeed!" it replied.
Now, I have seen "Congo" before, I just couldn't remember anything about it, including who Bruce played. But trust me, after watching it a second time, I can assure you that seeing Bruce is the ONLY reason you want to rent this movie. It's an absolute dog -- a hokey story about a killer ape creature in Africa, and a U.S. gorilla who has learned sign language and is somehow psychically being drawn to the killer ape's African lair (sort of). Add to that the fact that Tim Curry's attempt at a Slavic accent is like nails on a chalkboard, and I'm not sure I can come up with too many redeeming qualities for this one. However, the good news is that Bruce is easy to spot -- he's in the first ten minutes of the movie (and that's about it). But both he and Laura Linney, who I also really like, must have been pretty desperate for a role when this one came a callin'. Because it's a stinker, with a capital STINK.
The next movie I watched was one called "Tornado!" and even though I love a good bad weather movie, I have to confess I was a little wary of this one. It's never a good sign when the movie title contains an exclamation point, after all. However, this one didn't turn out to be all that bad, and Bruce has a starring role as a scientist who chases tornados around so he can study him. Ooh, baby, he looked good in this movie. Lots of khaki trousers, great yuppie hair, and an easy-going manner and smile. I missed at least half the dialogue wondering what it would be like to smooch that dimple in his left cheek (or that sexy scar on that gigantic, cartoon superhero chin of his). Grrrrrrowl.
Based on that alone, I'd say this one was well worth a rental. Plus, it costars Ernie Hudson, who I also really like.
Up next were a couple more rentals through Netflix. The first was the second disk in the sixth season of the X-Files, for an episode entitled "Terms of Endearment." I had never seen this episode, even though I was a big fan of the show, because I had quit watching the X-Files after about the fourth or fifth season, when I started to get kind of tired of the fact the major plotlines of the series, started in the first season and still going strong, just never went anywhere. The series started with "the truth is out there" and five years later, the truth was still out there, and we were no closer to it than we were in episode one. Yawn. Hey, Fox, call me when you finally figure it out, okay? I've got an appointment to have my wisdom teeth out.
But I was glad I rented that disk, because not only was Bruce's episode pretty entertaining (he plays a demon who just wants to be loved), but there was an episode about a haunted house featuring Lily Tomlin that was a lot of fun as well. Finally, Bruce found in the starring role of something that was serious (well, as serious as a show about a demon can be) and well-done. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him in this new light, and frankly, it revealed to me just how much talent he actually has.
When I popped in my other disk, for a 1999 movie called "Icebreaker" co-starring ex-Boyfriend Sean Astin, however, I got about half-way through its awfulness and had to stop and think about things for a minute. If you take a look at the list of films in Bruce's curriculum vitae, you'll see that about 98% of them are absolutely awful. Yet, he's an exceedingly talented and attractive man. So, what gives? After another lengthy dialogue between me and my empty living room, I finally came up with the only hypothesis that makes sense: Bruce is doing this on purpose. There's just no other way to explain it -- he must like being associated with terrible movies. I mean, really, based on what I learned about him from his book, I can tell he gets a kick out of being ridiculous. Of not taking things too seriously. Of just having fun. And all the movies he's made kind of fit that bill. Honestly, there's just no other explanation for what's going on with his career. Because even though Sam Raimi keeps putting Bruce in his movies, which are usually big-budget, commericial successes (like, "Spiderman," e.g. -- Bruce was the wrestling ring announcer at Peter Parker's first superhuman fight), Bruce doesn't seem to be using that exposure as an excuse to become more choosy.
Bruce, if you're reading this, email me to confirm or deny? I'm very curious about this now.
In the meantime, make up your own theory by catching up on these fine flops. Then watch for Bruce to show up in a few new things relatively soon. First, there's "Bubba Ho-Tep," which played in Seattle during our last film festival and got fairly good reviews. It's based on a short story and is about what really became of Elvis Presley (in short, Elvis is a rest home resident who, along with another octagenarian pal, sallies forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who is using their long-term care facility as a hunting ground). Okay, so, anybody want to argue with my theory about Bruce's film choices now? Didn't think so.
After that comes a much more front-and-center role in "Spiderman II" (he plays "Snooty Usher," and though I don't know enough about the comic books to know who that is and why he is such a big wig in the second movie, I'm very excited nonetheless), followed by what I think is the fifth installment of the "Phantasm" horror series, "Phantasm's End." And then, later this year, comes Bruce writing, directing, and starring in a television movie called "Man with the Screaming Brain." It's about a wealthy industrialist who winds up with part of his brain replaced by that of a Latino street hustler. Both were killed by the same woman, and then brought back to life by a mad scientist. Together, they form an unlikely partnership to track down their nemesis.
Wow, that sounds amazingly awful. You go, Bruce!
As for the biographical part of my write-up, I'm skipping that section this week as a way to push more of you into picking up Bruce's memoir, "If Chins Could Kill." Bruce is also hard at work at a second book, this one focusing on "relationships." That's probably a good sign, actually, because in his first book, he only mentions his wife in passing (well, two wives, I think -- he mentions a divorce in there somewhere, and then a remarriage. But no details. Not even names, I don't think.). We'll see if his second book sheds any interesting light on his ability to woo women. Although, to be honest, all he's had to do to woo me is just stand there with a chainsaw, hesitating for a sympathetic, sensitive moment before hacking his zombied ex-girlfriend into pieces. But then, you guys already knew this lady was a tramp.
MacGyver Factor Score: 94.657%. Points off because in "Icebreaker," he shaved his head. Bruce, your hair is one of my favorite parts of your body. Don't ever do that again. Points back, though, because not since me have I ever seen someone so dedicated to bad movies (I like to watch them, he likes to make them). It's nice having something in common. I think we'd get along really well in the local video store.
Campbell Online (Bruce's web page!)
Bruce's IMDB Page
Ladies of the Evil Dead