Spotlight On: Bruce Campbell
“Hail to the king, baby!” because among fans of horror and B-movies, actor Bruce Campbell is nothing short of royalty. As a young man, Campbell befriended aspiring filmmaker Sam Raimi, and their friendship would change the course of his life. Bruce Campbell was made the lead of Raimi’s indie horror masterpiece The Evil Dead as Ash Williams. The unexpected success of that film led to the actor finding more work in the genre and along the way displayed a wit and charm that genre fans found ridiculously likable. To this day he is a favorite among sci-fi, horror, and fantasy fans where he stands as a cult icon.
The Evil Dead trilogy (1981, 1987, 1992): The Sam Raimi horror masterpiece which first brought Campbell to people’s attention. When Raimi started making the original no-budget Evil Dead, he turned to his friend Campbell to lead the cast rather than an experienced actor. It featured a group of friends who’s trip to an isolated cabin turns deadly when they discover the Necronomicon which releases a demonic evil. The film went on to be a surprise hit and introduced the world to scary movie icon Ash Williams. This success warranted a sequel and Evil Dead 2 introduced the campy charm and humor which Bruce Campbell’s performance has become known for. The final installment of the trilogy, Army of Darkness, sent the dashing but bumbling hero back in time to be the reluctant hero to a kingdom besieged by the Necronomicon’s evil. Years later, the actor would strap the chainsaw back on for the small screen in Ash vs. The Evil Dead. Through physicality and his ability to deliver highly quotable lines, Bruce Campbell’s character of Ash has become nothing short of a cult film legend.
Maniac Cop (1988): A brutal serial murderer is prowling New York in a police uniform striking fear into the Big Apple. All signs point to Bruce Campbell’s less-than-perfect character Jack Forrest as the suspect. The hope of exonerating Jack lies with proving that a brutal former officer who was supposed to be dead is actually alive and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. This movie put in the lead of a cast full of cult movie icons like: Tom Atkins, Richard Roundtree, Robert Z’Dar, and Victoria Catlin on the brainchild of horror favorite Larry Cohen. Maniac Cop has gone on to be a cult classic among horror fans and spawned a sequel where Campbell reprised his character when the Maniac Cop returned from the grave once again.
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (1993-1994): When you need a dashing pulp hero for your western TV show it seems like perfect casting to turn to Bruce Campbell. After the murder of his father, Brisco County Jr. is pulled away from his legal career to work as a bounty hunter tracking down, John Bly, the outlaw responsible. This charming but short-lived series brilliantly mixed a Western with science fiction and fantasy elements for a show unlike anything seen before. While it was cancelled after a single season, the Adventures of Brisco County Jr. became a cult classic and the limited print DVD is still highly sought after.
Bubba-ho-tep (2002): From indie horror master Don Coscarelli comes a film with a ridiculous plot but a ton of surprising heart. Decades ago, the real Elvis Presley swapped places with an Elvis impersonator, so rather than passing away in his Graceland home the King has been a resident of a retirement home. He befriends a fellow resident played by esteemed actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis. He claims to be President John F. Kennedy; who was not struck down by an assassin’s bullet but rather had his brain put into the body of an African American man. Their home has become the target of an ancient Egyptian mummy who is claiming the souls of their fellow residents. In order to stop this undead monster, Elvis and JFK must join forces to kick mummy ass. A far better film than it had any right to be, Bruce Campbell turns in what is honestly one of the best performances of his career as the Elvis Presley.
Burn Notice (2007-2013): Former spy Michael Westen has been “burned” by his bosses and with no history, funding or resources is dumped in Miami, Florida. In such a state he needs all the help he can get, luckily he is friends with the charming and resourceful Sam Axe. Bruce Campbell is perfectly cast as the womanizing retired spy who is feeding the FBI the intel of Westen that is convenient. As Michael works as a PI and tries to discover who burned him, Sam proves the perfect ally. During its run Burn Notice was one of the most acclaimed shows on television and Campbell was a perfect part of its cast.