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Arts & Culture

Rants and Raves: Happy Birthday Bruce Campbell

The inimitable Bruce Campbell. Here seen in "Evil Dead 2."
Anchor Bay
The inimitable Bruce Campbell. Here seen in "Evil Dead 2."

Hail to the King, Baby!

Today is Bruce Campbell's birthday and that's cause for worldwide celebration. Really.

There is a Bruce Campbell Day: Hail to the King Baby on FaceBook. The instructions are simple: "This is for fans of Bruce Campbell to dedicate a day to him! Watch his films, read the comics, read his books WHATEVER! Just enjoy the day! Don't forget: Shop smart, shop S-Mart!!!"

So let me just begin by saying I love Bruce Campbell. Amongst my friends he is looked upon as a god. As Ash in the "Evil Dead" films, he kicks ass. In person at panels, he's a riot. And when given the chance, as in "Bubba Ho-Tep," he can deliver a performance that's worthy of an Oscar. No wait, it's better than Oscar-worthy. SImply put, Bruce Campbell is The Man!


Campbell has a devoted cult following of fans, and deservedly so. Not only is he a talented actor but he's a consumate professional who knows how important his fan base is to his career yet he also knows how to tease and berate them in a manner that only makes them (umm, I mean us) squeal with delight.

I firmly believe that the only reason Fox made the Sam Axe prequel for their TV series "Burn Notice" was because Bruce Campbell (who plays the character Sam Axe in the show) was such a hit at all their Comic-Con panels. Campbell worked those Comic-Con crowds like nobody's business and overshadowed the show's stars Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar. Fans bombarded Campbell with questions and roared when he would get up and toss dollar bills at them. I think Fox execs were surprised to see the rapport Campbell had with the crowd and rewarded him (and his fans) with the prequel that ran in mid-April.

Trailer: 'The Fall of Sam Axe'

But Campbell is beloved to fans mostly because of his work on Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" films. As the character Ash, Campbell is allowed to fully exploit his manic skills. In "Evil Dead 2," he proves that no one, and I mean NO ONE, is better at fighting against himself or playing in scenes with his own alter ego.

Clip: 'Evil Dead 2'

And no one delivers one-liners like The Bruce in "Army of Darkness." Here's a sampling of his wise-ass remarks as Ash finds himself sent back in time and fighting witches, demons, and the undead. Here are a few of his memorable lines from the film.

Fan Video: 'Army of Darkness' Quotes

Campbell can also deliver the goods when asked to do a more fully rounded character as in "Bubba Ho-Tep" where is played an aging Elvis trapped in a retirement home and fighting a mummy.

Trailer: 'Bubba Ho-Tep'

Campbell was brilliant as Elvis -- both funny and poignant. The fact that Campbell did not get an Oscar nomination and has not been given more roles and is not starring in his own TV series is only proof that those in power in Hollywood are idiots. Campbell did have a great, short-lived TV show on Fox in the 1990s, "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." That show is perfect to watch as people eagerly await "Cowboys and Aliens" because it was a sci-fi western action comedy. The show also had John Astin as a kind of mad scientist. Here's a taste of the show's style and tone. And yes Campbell is a badass.

Clip: "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."

Plus Campbell will always have a special place in my heart because he took the time to be nice to my son. Campbell was introducing "Bubba Ho-Tep" at the Ken and then the Landmark La Jolla Village Theaters was showing "Evil Dead 2" at midnight. I got a chance to have my 9-year-old son meet Campbell. I explained to Campbell that my son was having trouble with bullies at school and that he was a little worried about "Evil Dead 2" being too scary. Campbell took my son aside and told him not to worry, that "Evil Dead 2" was perfect for him because it was "splatstick -- splatter gore and slapstick comedy." That completely reassured my son and turned him into a Bruce Campbell fan for life. I really appreciated how Campbell took the time to make my son feel special, so in my book Campbell is also a cool dude off screen as well as on.

Campbell has also written witty books ("If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor" and "Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way"). He has directed films that make fun of himself ("The Man With the Screaming Brain" and "They Call Me Bruce"). And he has hawked products in ways that only he could get away with.

Commercial: Bruce Campbell Old Spice

So I hope you will join me in celebrating Bruce Campbell's birthday by enjoying some of his work from film, TV, or books. Happy Birthday Mr. Campbell! You are The Man!