Cult Cinema : Volume 1
Religion is a beautiful thing. Provided you’re a Paleolithic savage who needs fairy tales and a lumpy fertility idol in the shape of a BBW centerfold to explain where babies come from. Anyone else still believing in magic and wizards should read a book that wasn’t written before humanity invented paper.
Unless you’re a member of the Cult of Cinema, in which case you’ve come to the right place. Every week, Sound on Sight takes a look at a different saint of the silver screen, or a cinematic genre revered as geek gospel. It’s like going to church at the video store.
This week’s installment: The Church of Campbell, as seen through My Name is Bruce.
Like many religions, the Church of Bruce Campbell is one of self-improvement. Revolving around arguably the most famous B-movie actor of the past thirty years, the church teaches that no matter how large your Firefly fan-fiction library, a lifetime of trolling Internet message boards with stale memes will eventually prepare you with the perfect comeback when rejected by the cute girl standing in line for Watchmen tickets.
Written in snappy patter and one-liners, the gospel of Bruce traces its history back to 1981, and the release of The Evil Dead. The first in a horror trilogy from Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, Campbell’s first film portrayed him as a nerdy but courageous hero, battling his demonically possessed housemates in a remote cabin. By the time the trilogy concluded with 1992’s Army of Darkness, Campbell had transformed into a boorish, caustic ladies man. This hero’s journey is one that all lonely high-school misanthropes hope one day to make, should they avoid being sidetracked by a black trenchcoat and mail-ordered semi-automatic weapons.
Since being canonized as a B-movie saint, Campbell has starred in dozens of low-budget sci-fi and horror films, many of which play off of his macho persona. He’s been immortalized in action figure idols from many of his movies, and been blessed with no less than three starring roles in TV shows (Jack of All Trades, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, and Burn Notice). He’s also written two best-selling books, all while remaining firmly beneath the radar of the mainstream.
But if you’re looking for a way to understand the mythical B-movie hero without having to watch too many of those Sci-Fi Channel movies with spelling mistakes in the TV Guide blurb, look no further than My Name Is Bruce (2007).
Directed by Campbell, and co-produced by Dark Horse Comics founder Mike Richardson, the film stars Bruce Campbell as, essentially, Bruce Campbell. Granted, it’s an exaggerated version of himself, in which much of his time is spent drinking and arguing with transsexual prostitutes, but it captures all the essential qualities of his on-screen personal perfectly.
In the film, Campbell is kidnapped by a rabid fan, in hopes the actor will save his small town from a Chinese war god seemingly weaned on Fu-Manchu novels and those Bugs Bunny WWII cartoons where he fights guys who look like William Hung.
As a film, My Name is Bruce suffers from many of the flaws that beset many low budget films, from shoddy supporting acting to cheap special effects. Even cameo appearances by faces familiar to Evil Dead fans, as well as Sam’s brother Ted Raimi, can’t liven up the film when the pace lags and the tension slackens.
But as a microcosm of Campbell’s heroic journey, as an examination of all the qualities that make the actor a charismatic leader to the B-movie community, the film is near perfect. The wit and sarcasm that Campbell presents in this film is an inspiration to the geek community, and will no doubt help many a nerd find the perfect comeback to handle the harshest of rejections. Provided the Beretta hasn’t come in the mail.
My Name is Bruce is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray