Heroes & Villains: E.A. Henson Goes Full Bruce Campbell

It’s time for yet another Heroes & Villains, the column that’s quickly becoming the internet equivalent of that damp towel you kicked under your bed and forgot about it for a while…and now it’s a problem.

I’m not sure if it ennui or some other undefined existential dread but finding something new to get excited about on a weekly basis is proving difficult for me. Maybe I’ve been spending a bit too much time thinking about finding the right kind of porch light fixtures that express who I am as a person…

Good news, my parents were finally able to get their first dose of the vaccine with the second dose slated for just a few weeks from now. I still have no earthly idea when I’ll be able to get my jab but it’ll get here when it gets here, I suppose.

The Cool Side of My Pillow: A Book of Essays
Bruce Campbell

For nearly the last year, I’ve been doing the responsible thing and staying home. Having parents that are in the higher risk groups for catching the corona virus and not wanting to get the damn thing myself has played a pretty big role in that. That being said, I’m always looking for something to pass the time, and I was super happy to see that Bruce Campbell had put out a new e-book.

Campbell is something of a folk hero around here (here being the Metro Detroit area) and he should probably be on the list of Greatest Living Michiganders for his contributions to TV and Film. The movies he made with Sam Raimi (Evil Dead 1 and 2, Army of Darkness) were all discovered by my friend and I during our formative years of the late 80’s and early 90’s and really did a number on us. I was never much of a horror fan growing up, but I loved Evil Dead since it was unlike any other movie from that genre I had seen. It was fun, scary, actually funny, and contained more gallons of fake blood than I thought possible.

The Cool Side of My Pillow is a collection of assorted musings from Campbell who CLEARLY made effective use of his downtime during lockdown by writing a fricking book. I had previously read If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor so I was familiar with his work as a writer. It’s safe to say Campbell has something to fall back on if this whole acting gig doesn’t work out. The Detroit Free Press still hasn’t replaced Bob Talbert (super regional reference) so he could always find work there.

As is the case with any book by a celebrity, if you’re a fan of theirs you always worry that you’re going to read their book and find out they’ve gone full James Woods or, if you prefer, Gwyneth Paltrow. Mercifully, Campbell comes across a genial everyman and not once in the text did he spout off a crackpot political theory or try and sell us on the concept of a healing jade egg designed to be inserted in one’s nethers. A bit of a letdown, I suppose.

Binge Bruce

Like I mentioned above, I’ve been staying inside and looking for stuff to DO. The thing that lead me to Campbell’s book was pure happenstance since I decided to drop in on his Twitter account while I’ve been working my way through his back catalog of TV shows. Yes, it’s true there’s a Bruce Campbell TV show for every walk of life and I just so happen to have most of them on DVD. Some of the following are streaming out there, others you may have to work a bit to find, but ALL are available on disc (at decent prices too) if you’re so inclined. #BingeBruce

The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.

A “one season wonder” The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. was the Fox network’s lead-in to The X-Files that ran for a staggering twenty-seven episodes between 1993 and 1994. At the time the pairing of the two shows was my equivalent of “Must See TV” for Friday nights.

Campbell was hot off of Army of Darkness then so I was stoked to see “that guy from that thing I liked” doing more stuff. Generationally, I was not predisposed to Westerns but my father was and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. blended that genre with sci-fi elements making it a show we could both enjoy together. Don’t get me wrong, my dad started me down the sci-fi path but getting to watch a show with him and having him recall the Westerns of yesterday was something special.

The show is a straight up the middle adventure show with Campbell cast as the titular, square-jawed hero tasked with tracking down the colorful rogues gallery that gunned down his famous lawman father. He’s joined by Julius Carry’s bounty hunter Lord Bowler, Christian Clemson’s fastidious lawyer Socrates Poole, and a laundry list of top shelf guest starts. My personal favorite was THE John Astin as Professor Wickwire.

Jack of All Trades

Way back in the year 2000, this show ran locally on Channel 20 WXON as part of the Action Pack, a syndicated block of half hour long action shows that were unceremoniously dropped on Saturday afternoons. Here’s the blurb from IMDb:

Jack Stiles, American spy stationed on a South Pacific island in the early 19th century, teams up with no nonsense British agent Emilia Rothschild to stop Napoleon’s colonizing efforts. Jack’s alter ego is the Zorro-esque Daring Dragoon.

Way to undersell it, IMDb. The show was, in a word, cartoonish…in the best possible way. On top of having an absolute banger of a theme song (that explains the show far better than the above synopsis) the show was able to cover an insane amount of ground in twenty-two minutes and was chock full of action (as federally mandated by being part of the Action Pack) and tons of anachronistic humor. It was also an incredibly horny show.

Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Campbell all served as producers on the show so it does tend to share some stylistic flourishes with the Evil Dead franchise.

Ash vs Evil Dead

A show that fans literally begged Raimi, Tapert and Campbell for since Army of Darkness ended in 1992, Ash vs Evil Dead ran for three gory seasons on the Starz network. It’s safe to say that whatever my expectations were for the show, they were blown out of the water and into a vat of fake blood.

Ash vs Evil Dead made FULL use of being on a cable network with almost no rules and the general vibe I got from the production was that the suits at Starz gave them the budget and told them to go nuts. Which they promptly did all while managing to strike a balance between hilarious and horrific. It’s legitimately fascinating to me that the show manages that balancing act for all three of its seasons without letting up.

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