Okay. Deep breath. Today I am just going to go all-out fangirl, unabashedly, unashamedly. Next week you can ask me to discuss the Bechdel rule or the future of the term "mumblecore." But on Sunday, My Name is Bruce comes to Austin as part of a tour around the country, with its filmmaker-star Bruce Campbell in attendance, and my goofy inner fan is taking the upper hand over the professional film critic.
I realize that My Name is Bruce is unlikely to be one of the great films of the century, or even as fun as Army of Darkness. I'm fine with that. Look, I paid to see Man with the Screaming Brain in a theater (also with Campbell in attendance). I don't care. All of you who would go see anything touched by Joss Whedon, even if he remade an Oscar-Meyer Wiener commercial, can have your sweet revenge on me now. And I know I'm not alone -- in Austin, tickets for the My Name is Bruce screening sold out in five minutes, and they had to add two more screenings, which also sold out speedily. I talked my husband into watching the first Burn Notice episode with me on Hulu, and now we've watched all of them and he's coming with me this weekend, threatening to bring a yogurt container for Mr. Campbell to sign. We do have our limits -- you can watch the entire series of Jack of All Trades on Hulu too, but I figured once was way more than enough for me.
I keep hoping Campbell will appear in something as good as Bubba Ho-Tep again. In the meantime, I'm finding my favorite Bruce Campbell moments in film (and TV) to enjoy while keeping my fingers crossed about My Name is Bruce. So for the rest of you die hard Campbell fans out there, here are seven of my favorite moments. (I wish I had YouTube clips but the studios can be such spoilsports about copyright.) I don't need to tell you to feel free to point out what I missed, or where I'm wrong, in the comments. I'm hoping someone will let me know if I missed anything worthwhile in Serving Sara, The Love Bug, or McHale's Navy.
Attacked By Himself, Evil Dead 2
Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorite horror films (I like the scary-funny combination, as you can see from this past Cinematical Seven), and I'd recommend the whole movie. If you haven't seen it -- unlike Jack Black in High Fidelity, I won't consider you a "cinematic idiot," but you're missing out. Upon reflection, I'd have to say that my favorite parts of this movie are Campbell alone in the house, fighting the undead all by himself. I love the sequence where the undead have entered his hand, and his own hand is trying to beat him up. Really, I would consider that one of the finest moments of the Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell collaboration.
Slapped by Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hudsucker Proxy
Damn, you wouldn't believe the people who pop in for a scene or two in this Coen brothers comedy: Charles Durning, John Mahoney, Anna Nicole Smith looking as good as you'll ever see her on film ... and yes, Campbell as Leigh's obnoxious reporter pal Smitty, with the jaunty hat and everything. The scene in which she tries to slap him, he stops her, and she manages to whack him from the other side just goes to show that Campbell can take a punch (or slap) better than anyone else onscreen, except maybe Jackie Chan. (I always felt they should have done a movie together.)
Attacked By Himself, Army of Darkness
Evil Dead 2 has the best horror/comedy balance of the three Evil Dead movies, but Army of Darkness has the most quotable dialogue. I think it was about 10 years ago that I changed all the sounds on my computer to be Army of Darkness quotes, and it was a long time before I tired of hearing "Gimme some sugar, baby," every time I got new mail, or "Hail to the king, baby," every time Windows booted up. As with Evil Dead 2, my favorite sequence is Bruce alone in a shack fighting himself ... only this time, "himself" involves a number of tiny Campbell mirror images ... and later, one very nasty full-sized doppelganger.
Impersonating a female dancer, "Men in Pink," Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
You don't have to tell me that Cinematical is supposed to be about film, not TV, and that I really ought to limit this list to feature films. I know. But this Some Like It Hot tribute from Hercules is one of my favorite Campbell appearances ever and I had to share it with you. Campbell's recurring character from the show ends up being pursued by the authorities and has to disguise himself as a chorus girl. Later, he ends up falling for a real chorus girl and ends up doing Tony Curtis doing Cary Grant ... oh, my. This is one of the first things I picked to watch when we got the Netflix Roku box, and it was just as funny as I remembered it during its initial TV airing.
Getting the Axe, The Woods
I saw The Woods at Fantastic Fest in 2006 and was disappointed at first with Campbell's role. He plays a passive schlub who doesn't realize he's sending his daughter to a secret coven of tree-worshipping witches. And he seems remarkably easy to dominate and fool. But Lucky McKee didn't intend Campbell for a cameo role as a passive victim. Oh, no. By the end of the movie, he's roaring to go and when he finds an axe, you're ready to cheer. (I believe the Fantastic Fest audience did just that.) The Woods isn't Suspiria, but like I said in my review, it's "a good solid standard horror film."
Now Serving Peter Parker, Spider-Man 3
Campbell's friend Sam Raimi has given him a showy cameo in all three Spider-Man movies. Some of you might like the announcer at the wrestling match in the first movie, or the snooty usher in the second movie. But for my money, the best one (so far) is the French maitre d' in the third movie, because the role takes a turn for the unexpected, and because it's just so darned cute. Spider-Man 3 is my least favorite in the series (I prefer the second one), but I would enjoy watching all the bits with Campbell and in the newsroom again ... maybe I should follow this up with a list of great J.K. Simmons moments, too.
Hunting Evil Mummies, Bubba Ho-Tep
So ... Bruce Campbell plays an aging Elvis (who didn't die due to a switcheroo with an impersonator), Ossie Davis plays a disguised JFK ("they dyed me!"), and they're both in a rural Texas nursing home that's being preyed upon by an ancient evil mummy. For this, we have to thank author Joe R. Lansdale and writer-director Don Coscarelli. This isn't a movie carried or boosted by Campbell's performance, it's a well-written, suspenseful film with some great scenes -- I may actually love Davis more than Campbell in this film. When they're together -- especially in the key sequence where they sneak out to fight the mummy that's been sucking their friends' souls away -- it's brilliant and oddly touching. I think I may have just talked myself into watching Bubba Ho-Tep again this weekend.