The Man, the Myth, the Chin. Today is the 60th birthday of the one and only Bruce Campbell. In celebration I’ve brought together a list of what I believe to be his top 6 grooviest roles. Whether good, bad or just the guy with the gun, Bruce always delivers while he’s on the screen. With a multitude of performances to choose from, it was no easy task to narrow down the list – so you primitive screwheads, listen up!
6. Sam Axe (Burn Notice)
To be honest, I slept on Burn Notice. Had I known of Bruce’s involvement I would have watched it years sooner. Sam Axe, best friend of main protagonist Michael Westen, gets plenty of screen time through out Burn Notice. A retired spy with a decorated military history, he more so serves as oddjobs for the main cast. From his endless cycle of woman troubles to his penchant for the bottle, the character has his own vices but usually acts as a moral compass for his friend.
5. Jack Forrest (Maniac Cop)
With officer Jack Forrest we see Bruce take on more of a serious role. As a policeman in New York City he must prove his innocence while fighting to catch the real Maniac Cop. The stakes grow as the body count rises and Jack finds himself at the top of the list of suspects. With a strong mix of action and horror we get a movie that entertains and Bruce fills the role of hero well, even if we don’t get his classic one liners like we do from his other roles. Bruce reprises the role in Maniac Cop 2, but it’s the first film where he really shines in the role.
4. Surgeon General (Escape from L. A.)
While it isn’t a huge role, seeing Bruce as an antagonist is certainly interesting. The character in John Carpenter’s sequel may only have a single scene, but Bruce sure does deliver. The Surgeon General of Beverly Hills is a twisted sadist that threatens hero Snake Plissken. While on screen you’ll get a strange mix of amusement and being a little creeped out by him, and Bruce does it effortlessly. If you enjoy seeing an actor outside their normal roles, this quick fling as a villain for Bruce is a memorable one.
Bruce has portrayed himself multiple times over the years, but this entry specifically is for his role in 2007’s My Name is Bruce. Portraying a fictional version of himself he gets roped into a battle with supernatural forces, all while thinking its just another movie. The horror comedy follows the same vein of his other films like the Evil Dead franchise. He continues to perfectly play the bumbling hero that is in over his head. The movie plays off of the b horror genre that Bruce has cemented himself as a staple of, and pays tribute to his influence on the genre. While not the best written film, it does have a certain charm to it. There was talk of a sequel years ago, though its been quiet on that front since. I’d like to see another shot taken on it to improve upon the original.
2. Elvis Presley (Bubba Ho-Tep)
Bruce’s portrayal of an elderly Elvis Presley in a retirement home fighting off a reanimated mummy is over the top and entertaining. With such an over the top concept Bruce is free to flex his acting ability a bit and give a wonderful perfomance. His on screen chemistry with Jack, played by Ossie Davis, adds something special to the film. Bubba Ho-Tep garnered a cult following before it even had a DVD release and is now held in close regards as a cult classic. Critics even name Bruce’s portrayal as one of the greatest interpretations of the King to ever grace the silver screen.
Beneath all the humor that we know and love from Bruce, we get a pensive and contemplative Elvis that laments his old age and fights the regrets of his past to rise to the occasion to be the hero he knew he could be. Many would argue that this may be Bruce’s best role, and I agree that it was a strong contender had the other not been a role that has become synonymous with the actor himself.
1. Ash Williams (The Evil Dead Franchise, Ash vs. Evil Dead)
Hail to the king, baby. Was there any doubt that Ash would take the number one spot? Among the long list of roles, Ash is the most iconic. With 3 movies and a 3 season television show, not to mention numerous video games this is hismost prolific role. It also spawned a comic series that has seen Ash take on numerous horror icons including both Freddy and Jason, and even zombified versions of the Marvel superheroes. Ash even saved a fictional version of president Barack Obama.
From humble beginnings in a cabin in the woods, we watched as Ash grew from a bumbling reluctant hero to a loud mouthed braggart. From gore splattered action to over the top slapstick and cheesy one-liners, Ash Williams has found a home in the hearts of millions worldwide. Having portrayed Ash for nearly four decades, it’s difficult not to automatically think of Ash as his defining role.
Bruce Campbell is a prolific actor that has portrayed numerous roles over the years. Choosing the top ones was honestly a challenge, and any given fan probably has a different list. Bruce has a special place in our hearts here at Nightmare on Film Street, and it was an honor compiling this list in celebration of his 60th birthday. Comment below with your own thoughts on Bruce Campbell’s grooviest roles.