Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor
Bruce Campbell currently holds an interesting place in the world of celebrity and fandom. Between Burn Notice, the Evil Dead remake, Comic-Cons, Wizard Worlds, the rise of horror and movie themed websites (like this one), social media and Ash Vs Evil Dead he is more popular and well known than ever.
However, I wouldn’t say that he is “celebrity" or even "Hollywood” famous. He’s not exactly a ‘that guy’ or a character actor either. Clearly, for those who love to pigeonhole people, it’s complicated.
What we can say, though, is he is an extremely talented, interesting fella with many diverse strings to his creative bow. An actor, a writer, a director, a producer, a documentary maker, creator of the most expensive audio book ever recorded, a long walker, fascinated by land management and, of course, an author, now, of three books. Not bad, right? you primitive screwheads...
Sixteen years since the first part of a planned trilogy of memoirs, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor and 12 years since his hilarious, semi-fictional novel Make Love!* *The Bruce Campbell Way comes his second autobiography, Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor.
If you have read Bruce’s previous books then you’ll know that he writes a lot like he talks. It’s relaxed, quick to read, matter-of-fact, not prone to needless poetry, it’s jokey in parts, informative in others and he keeps most of his emotions fairly close to his chest but he is one hell of an engaging story teller. His skills have been honed for many years on the convention stages and the post-screening Q&As that he does at an awe inspiring amount.
It you haven't read his previous books then, firstly, why haven’t you? and, secondly, rectify that immediately!!
Hail to the Chin is less a straight forward autobiography and more a series of stories about everything from low budget film-making, car accidents and trips to Iraq to pranking his friends in Bulgaria, injuries on set, the characters that scatter the southern Oregon landscape and strapping back on Ash's chainsaw.
In all honesty, for a longtime fan like myself, the book takes a little while to get going. The first few chapters fall, a little, into the category of "I've heard this before" and "I wonder why he chose to tell us about this". It see-saws from stories about filming two films in Bulgaria and making My Name is Bruce - all well documented on the Alien Apocalypse, Man With a Screaming Brain and My Name is Bruce DVDs (which, you're right, probably I'm the only one who owns them and has watched the extras multiple times but still...) - to stories about remodeling his home, crashing cars, battling with wildlife and other "tales from the Oregon homestead". These slice of "real life" stories are fine but can lack the emotion or personal details to really delve satisfactorily into what's being talked about. They do, however, of course, round out your perception of the man they call Bruce.
This is mild criticism though. The book, as much as it can, keeps its Deadite kicking boots almost firm on the ground. In a world where his fan base has increased and the internet brings more and more attention to his older work - that only hardened Campbell geeks like myself wax rhapsodic about - Hail to the Chin takes every opportunity to downplay the persona he plays on TV or film and every chapter offers up an opinion from or a look at Mr. Campbell that is as revealing as it is seemingly throw-away and average. He's a suburban, Michigan boy made good, lest we forget and/or blow his idolised persona out of proportions.
The perils of writing autobiographies in the behind-the-scenes, celebrity and social media age in which we live, no doubt.
However, I could've done with way more about making Sky High considering the awesome cast, it being pretty good and a relatively early entry into the "young adults as heroes" genre which has exploded post Potter and Twilight.
Once Chin launches into detailed chapters about Burn Notice, Iraq, new film Highly Functional and Ash Vs Evil Dead then it soars and the fanboy in me, ravenous for new stuff, was rewarded with vibrant, deeper and, most importantly, NEW stories.
It is wonderful to finally see Bruce break out of and write about the 'one and done' curse that had sadly befallen his first couple of solo starring TV series and see him, second on the call sheet, on, at one time, the highest rated show on cable, Burn Notice. I was a huge fan of the show and so it was excellent to get the inside skinny from "the man who would be Chuck Finley", Sam Axe himself.
Also, after reading the book, I cannot wait to see Highly Functional. I am a huge fan of American road trip movies and Bruce playing a washed up country star? what's not to love?!
His writing is packed full of dry wit, sarcasm and self depreciation. In his own life he is often the butt of a situation and not its hero but this doesn't mean his story is not inspirational. He is the every-man, aware of his strengths and limitations, always willing to try a new thing and fail or succeed, with a knowledge of his craft, an appreciation for a strong work ethic and a fairly non-judgmental, down to earth view of his fellow humans.
Hail to the Chin is grand addition to the continuing Campbell convoy, rolling 'cross the U.S.A.!!
When I think back to just a few years ago, when we would have to wait what felt like an age to get a TV appearance, a new, crazy B-Movie, or a whiff of information about what Bruce was up to, getting a new Evil Dead TV Series, plenty of con appearances, some interesting second tier movies, a brand new book, a book tour and the continual adventures of lollygagging via his Twitter feed, it seems like we are being utterly spoiled by the King.
Long may it continue.
Buy Bruce Campbell's books from Amazon, below...