Monday, October 26, 2015

Audiobook Review: If Chins Could Kill, Confessions of a B-Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell

Book Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (Highest Rating)

Audiobook Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars

Bottom Line: Bruce Campbell narrates the acting career of Bruce Campbell.  Do I really need to tell you this is a must-buy?

I’ll start this out with a confession:  I’ve long had a bit of a man-crush on perennial B-Movie actor Bruce Campbell.  There, I said it.  And I don’t feel a need to check into a homophobe clinic either.  He is a tough as nails man’s man, and a heck of a good actor even if the material had has received over the years has not always been up to his level of talent.

I was first introduced to Campbell back in the early 90’s when I got addicted to FOX’s Adventures of Brisco County Jr. TV series which he headlined.  From there, I discovered the Evil Dead movies which I loved and then I kept an eye on what he was doing with his career after FOX ill-advisedly cut short Brisco County after only a single season.  But I always wondered why such a great actor didn’t appear in more TV shows and movies and why he so often seemed to show up in cheesier flicks rather than the big budget entries.  After reading If Chins Could Kill, I now have a better understanding of that and how the film and TV business works, as well as a better appreciation of one of my favorite actors.

In this book, Campbell recounts his acting career from his early days doing semi-pro films when he was still in high school all the way into what he has been doing in the first part of the 21st century.  He grew up in Detroit where he was close friends with future directors/producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert and they all shared a love of making movies.  They produced quite a number of short films, often comedy capers, using Super 8 cameras which they showed locally in their neighborhood.  And then they made their first foray into professional film-making with The Evil Dead.  After a couple more additions to the Evil Dead franchise as well as a few low-budget indy films, Raimi and Tapert eventually graduated into A-List films as well as television production. Campbell tested the waters with some A-List films but ultimately decided he was less interested in being one of the elite Hollywood leading men and more concerned with steady work and enjoying what he was doing.

This book is definitely a must-read, not only for Bruce Campbell fans bur for anybody interested in getting into the entertainment industry, even if things have changed considerably from the time that Campbell first got started.  His recounting of how they raised money for the first Evil Dead movie is eye-opening considering that these days many indy producers often just turn to crowd-funding to get that initial cash influx.  And his tales of the grueling hours working on movies and TV shows definitely make his job seem much less glamorous.  It’s interesting to hear his take on the cancellation of Brisco County.  He enjoyed working on the show but also looked at its end as a break from the long hours he had to put in.  We wonder sometimes why some actors don’t lobby more heavily for a cancelled show to be renewed, but they are just as happy to get their lives back from the arduous shooting schedule.  Campbell ended up enjoying much more his recurring role as Autolycus on Hercules and Xena (we need a DVD compilation of just those eps) and also slipping behind the camera as director for a few episodes, even though he did speak fondly of Brisco County.

The audiobook version of If Chins Could Kill is read by Bruce Campbell himself.  And even though I usually insist that writers should stick to writing and leave the voice work to the professionals (Harlan Ellison being one of the few exceptions), could you imagine anybody other than His Chinness reading this?  Of course that said, he starts this out by delivering pretty much just a straightforward reading.  You could just see Campbell in your head sitting there and reading from a book he is holding in his hand.  But he eventually starts to get the feel of it and Campbell’s personality and snarkiness really starts to shine through after a chapter or so.  By that point, it was a sheer pleasure to listen to the audiobook and Campbell actually made me look forward to my commute for several weeks.  This one is definitely a great book, a great read, and a must buy!

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