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If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
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If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor

4.6 45
by Bruce Campbell

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Okay, so at least you're interested enough to pick up this book and look inside. I think you and I are going to get along just fine.

Life is full of choices. Right now, yours is whether or not to buy the autobiography of a mid-grade, kind of hammy actor.

Am I supposed to know this guy? you think to yourself.

No, and that's exactly the point.


Okay, so at least you're interested enough to pick up this book and look inside. I think you and I are going to get along just fine.

Life is full of choices. Right now, yours is whether or not to buy the autobiography of a mid-grade, kind of hammy actor.

Am I supposed to know this guy? you think to yourself.

No, and that's exactly the point. Bookstores are chock full of household name actors and their high stakes shenanigans. I don't want to be a spoilsport, but we've all been down that road before.

Case in point: look to your left - see that Judy Garland book? You don't need that, you know plenty about her already - great voice, crappy life. Now look to your right at the Charlton Heston book. You don't need to cough up hard-earned dough for that either. You know his story too - great voice, crappy toupee.

The truth is that though you might not have a clue who I am, there are countless working stiffs like me out there, grinding away every day at the wheel of fortune.

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor is my first book, and I invite you to ride with me through the choppy waters of blue collar Hollywood.

Okay, so buy the damned book already and read like the wind!

Bruce Campbell

P.S. If the book sucks, at least there are gobs of pictures, and they're not crammed in the middle like all those other actor books.

Editorial Reviews

Probably best known for his work in several Sam Raimi and other "B" films, Bruce Campbell offers a memoir of his early life and his career in Hollywood. Campbell opts for humor over deep reflection in his descriptions of his work in , , and . Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

If Chins Could Kill

Confessions of A B Movie Actor

By Bruce Campbell

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2002 Bruce Campbell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-09927-3


The Campbell Boys

There is an L-shaped scar on the left side of my chin. People always ask me how I got it and I've told them everything from "One dark night in Bombay," to "A scuffle with bad, bad, Leroy Brown ..."

In actuality, it came about because I was a fearless kid. I played outside a great deal of the time, in any weather and in suburban Detroit, Michigan, that's saying something. In this age where laser surgery rushes to correct every imperfection, I'm not going to touch that scar — it reminds me of too much fun.

Bilbo Baggins would have felt right at home in my neighborhood — it was a magical place. The Braes of Bloomfield was created by commuters hoping to get away from the faded glory of the Motor City, and the results were impressive. As a kid exploring the woods between these upper-middle-class homes, the city might as well have been a million miles away.

Unlike the embarrassing names attributed to subdivisions today — like "Pine Meadows," where there are neither pine trees nor meadows — if a street in my neighborhood was called Old Orchard, it was because there used to be an orchard on that very spot. Rogue trees in many of the yards still produced apples.

With street names like Braemoor, Idlewyle, and Darramoor, you'd think you were in rural Scotland. Most of the traditional ranch-style homes weren't all that big, but they had land around them. The best part of all is that there were virtually no fences — this was long before the "planned" communities of today, with their guard gates, motion-sensitive lighting, and Neighborhood Watches.

Our neighborhood had an epic feel to it, and this broad range provoked a sense of unlimited possibility. As a result, the three Campbell boys (Mike, Don and Bruce) were "free range" and could explore at will.

I am the youngest of the three. Don is a year older. He and I wound up spending more time together than with Mike, six years our senior, but there were plenty of industrious summers spent as a threesome.

Sibling Rivals

Don and I were often mistaken as twins, although I still wonder why — his reddish brown hair and hazel eyes were a great contrast to my dark brown hair and muddy brown eyes.

As is normal for siblings, we competed for everything — particularly Mom's attention. That became obvious to me one school morning as I leaned down to buckle up my rain boots at the top of the stairs. Don saw this as the perfect opportunity to eliminate me from his world, so he planted a foot against my butt and shoved. I tumbled forward, sure of my fate, but Mom jabbed a finger into my belt loop and held me aloft just long enough to grab the railing.

This incident, no doubt, contributed to an altercation in our front yard years later. After provoking Don for some unknown reason, he chased me across our front lawn in a rage. Somewhere along my escape route, I managed to snag a screwdriver. As Don swung his fist, I raised the Phillips head and it promptly became impaled in his wrist.

"You stabbed me!" Don screamed, incredulous.

"I did not. You swung at me and I defended myself."

Aside from the occasional near-death experiences, Don and I actually got along well. As we aged and grew, our "roughhousing" became not only discouraged but feared. Epic wrestling matches encompassed the entire house and resulted in broken furniture. The fact that we were both on the junior high wrestling team only made things worse for my mother.

"What's the problem, Mom? We're practicing ..."

In the late sixties, war films like Kelly's Heroes, The Devil's Brigade and The Dirty Dozen seemed to be everywhere. Our favorite TV show, Combat, only encouraged this preoccupation with war, and Vic Morrow soon became my first favorite actor. He was the embodiment of laid-back cool and I loved how his cigarettes bounced on the edge of his mouth when he talked.

Years later, I worked with Michael Caffey, who had directed several Combat episodes. Instead of asking him for motivation, all I cared to know was who could kick whose ass — Vic Morrow or his commanding officer, Rick Jason? Don, on the other hand, was partial to the character Kirby because he had the coolest gun — a Browning automatic rifle.

Don took all this make-believe stuff a little too seriously. The difference between us was fundamental: I'd watch Combat and think, Gee, it would be fun to be an actor like that guy. Don would watch the same scene and think, Gee, it would be fun to be that guy. He went on to join the army reserves and got to play the ultimate "war game" in Kuwait during Desert Storm.

Don and I passed many hours with G.I. Joes. We had the basic ones — the Russian, the Cadet, the Japanese guy, the German — who didn't? They were cool, but unless you were Billy Jazinski, the spoiled rich kid down the street, there was a limit to how many you owned.

Fighting with "Joes" meant that our military engagements were restricted to "skirmishes." That wasn't enough for the post-World War II, pre-Vietnam kids that we were — Don and I wanted to stage full-scale invasions!

The only way to do this was with those little green army men. Down at the brand new Toys R Us, a bag of what seemed like hundreds only cost a couple bucks.

Somehow, it didn't seem right reenacting D-Day in our living room. Too may soldiers fell behind the sofa, so the great outdoors became the place to rumble.

The backyard, however, was a no-go. Our basset hound, Nuisance, reigned supreme back there. The dangers of fighting in her territory were twofold: running the risk of having entire platoons chewed to death or, even worse, mounting a frontal assault through scattered piles of "dog dirt."

Our front lawn wasn't much better. There were too many trees and tall grass, so battles weren't practical. We'd lose a dozen of them with each "engagement" and Dad sliced any MIAs to ribbons mowing the lawn each Saturday. Of course, that wasn't all bad, because we could round up their shredded carcasses and use them as "casualties." Even at that tender age, we knew war was heck.

Our driveway proved to be a better staging area for campaigns. Because it was dirt, you had a good color contrast and we never lost a single green man. The driveway was also elevated above the lawn on fieldstone. This was ideal, because a defending army (usually Don's) could hole up in hundreds of nooks and it might take an entire weekend to flush them out.

A garden hose added the element of water. With it, an army could be flooded out into the open, where they could easily be massacred. The defending army in this case (usually me) had a certain amount of time to build up damlike fortifications until the evil attacker (Don) turned the hose on, unleashing torrents of water. The battles usually were declared over when either the water broke through the defender's dam, or Mom came back from the grocery store.

Eventually, the thrill of these games wore off, so Don and I resorted to more drastic measures: burning the little green men into puddles of goo. In the late sixties, before Ralph Nader halted all the fun in the world, the plastic used in those army guys must have been toxic — they made the coolest zzziiiiip, zzziiiiip, zzziiiiip noise with each burning drip. This game evolved into "lava tossing," where you flung the napalmlike substance at your opponent (or brother), as it dripped from the melting man.

Mom stopped us before Nader did, though, because one day a big flaming blob of plastic sizzled its way into my finger. I am reminded of this, happily, every time I type.

Born in 1952, my oldest brother Mike was a child of the Cold War. His favorite TV show, hands down, was Man From U.N.C.L.E., so everything he was interested in revolved around espionage. To protect sensitive information — sent mostly from himself to himself — he spent hours creating elaborate codes and writing them into tiny paper books. There was the Code of the Pointing Sticks, the Words-for-Numbers Code, and who could forget the O.O.R.A. Code (Off and On Reversible Alpha Code).

When not saving the world from evil invaders, Mike was making stuff. Never one for those goofy shop class projects, Mike went right to the real deal — like a memory device, an electric "stop" light over his doorway, and a metal locator.

It made sense that Mike went into computers because his mind worked like one. He made lists of everything: untrustworthy people (Don and I were often on it), his weekly income from 1959 through 1967 (in cents), and secret hand-to-hand combat routines. To this day, I still rely on "Routine number 6" (to "run headlong into them and tackle them") whenever I'm confronted by an enemy.

Rules of Engagement

Mike's use of extensive lists came in handy when it came time to determine the "rules" of our childhood. In a household of three boys who were always tormenting each other, a system of rules and fines was drafted and strictly adhered to. Many contained wording that would make a defense attorney proud and all fines were "payable on demand."

It became our own brand of justice that addressed issues important to us all. A rule stating that Don owns half of the hall in front of Don's room was a key property right. The rule If Don or Bruce leaves or throws belongings in my room, they are mine unless they want to pay 20¢ seemed a bit harsh, but I'm sure it was just Mike's way of saying "leave me the hell alone."

Simple crimes, like borrowing stuff without permission, calling names or socking someone only cost the perpetrator 5¢. More obscure offenses, like hanging around doorway, fooling with light switches, or Mike's legislative masterpiece, squealing when I want to look at something Don or Bruce has, shot up to 10¢.

Some rules were obviously the result of either a pet peeve, or a very specific incident. There would otherwise be no explanation for the 20¢ fine of taking something from me while I was looking at it, or the 40¢ whopper for damaging rocket controls. In our draconian world, you could even be fined for suspicion.

Some rules, however, did make sense. In the tight quarters of a garage fort, it was simply a matter of decency to place a ban on "dirtey boots or shous" (spelling unaltered) and "letting gassers."

Of course, all of these rules did absolutely nothing to stop the sibling abuse. Mike once laid out detailed plans to raid Don's left-hand drawer in his half of the room (that he and I shared) that included an overhead diagram, complete with escape routes and a comprehensive list of excuses to use if he got caught. For some reason, even though Don did "hit, disobey, lie, steal stuff, and destroy," I don't think my mom would have let Mike off the hook.

Because these "raids" happened so often, we each devised ways to protect our "secret stuff." Mike hid things in every possible nook and cranny — I know, because I went through it all. Don often moved his precious things around, or hid them in "secret books." With a sharp razor blade, usually from Dad's shaver, he hollowed out numerous hard-covered masterpieces from the living room. It wasn't hard to spot which ones were bogus — War and Peace isn't usually paired with The Cat in the Hat on a ten-year-old's shelf.

Because invading each other's room was such a big deal, I had to do it as often as possible. One day, a plan to bother Don worked flawlessly. I raced into his room, made all kinds of noise and stole a white gym sock. Don was close on my heels as I ran away down the hall and ducked into the bathroom. As he entered the doorway, he saw me flush what he thought was his sock down the toilet.

"What did you do that for?! I'll kill you!"

In reality, I had ditched Don's real sock as I entered the bathroom and flushed a strip of white toilet paper (preplaced) into the septic tank. In the end, our fines evened out, because Don promptly gave me a thrashing — roughly equal to my 30¢ worth of transgressions. I wouldn't have been surprised if Don invented a fine for pretending to flush socks down the toilet.

Even the bathroom wasn't a reliable sanctuary. There was a lock on the door, sure, but it could easily be opened with a credit card. To combat this, a drawer by the door could be pulled out to block the way. This worked until Mike drilled a hole through the wall of our linen closet and rigged a coat hanger to the drawer itself.

I mocked Don through the door one day, protected by the door lock, only to look down and see the drawer magically slide back in all by itself.

"You were saying?" Don said, as he pushed the door open and began beating the grunt out of me.

Industrial-Strength Fun

Mike took charge of building a playhouse in our backyard. The end product wasn't some cute cardboard house with a couple of windows — it was a three-quarter-scale tank.

His plan was to make a mobile war machine that could presumably attack things and/or people. Taking into account all materials needed to build the tank, including plywood, 2x4s, steering wheel, gun barrel, catapult, rubber slings, mirrors, fan belts and a pulley system, Mike estimated that the total weight would be 387 1/2 pounds with occupants. I'll bet he wasn't far off. The only scheme that never came to bear was mounting the damn thing on Dad's riding lawn mower.

To defend against attacking neighbors, we armed ourselves with cracker balls, rolls of caps, sparklers, balloons, squirt guns, sling shot rifles, rubber band shooters and the dreaded Ivory Liquid detergent bottles — the Super Soaker of their day. We used to beg Mom to buy the Ivory brand bottles because they had the best nozzles and could blast water the farthest. Mike was the best at this, because his hands were stronger. With a good squeeze, he could drench Don or me from twenty feet away. Over time, we learned to rinse the bottles out well — a soapy shot in the eye could ruin your whole afternoon.

The experience of building the tank only fueled other summer projects — like the tunnel. To protect ourselves from parental meddling, we always referred to it by the backward code name of "Lennut."

The first challenge was to choose a good dig site. To insure privacy, we picked a spot in the adjacent woods, but we had to be careful because tunneling too close to a large tree meant hassling with roots. Once we had the site, we excavated a horizontal trench and reinforced the sides with 2x4s. This was then covered with plywood, six inches of dirt and plenty of camouflage. Now, we could begin digging the main shaft, which went straight down, until we hit water. To communicate with the outside world, a garden hose was lowered through a hole in the roof.

Play time in the "Lennut" was anything but — it was backbreaking work. After school, on weekends and even during vacations, we'd dig with hand trowels, chop and burn off roots, reinforce the walls, then dig some more. To provide a better working environment, Mike came up with an ingenious method of providing candlelight in a series of carved alcoves and even manufactured glow-in-the-dark candles from phosphorescent crayons.

Eventually, Don squealed about the use of candles, which was forbidden, and Dad gave the order to fill it in. We obeyed, but soon thereafter, Mike built a doghouse, supposedly for our basset hound, but it was ultimately just a front for a hidden tunnel entrance and we started the process all over again.

Most kids came home at lunch with grass stains. Mike, Don and I were a little more "earthy" than that, but it dawned on us that we could apply our extensive landscape knowledge to a project that wouldn't collapse, wouldn't get our knees muddy and didn't fill up with water every ten days — a golf course!

The Campbell/Ebbing Miniature Golf Course was next door, in neighbor Mike Ebbing's backyard. This club turned out to be very exclusive, mainly since few people actually played it, and our rule book (as you might expect) was more restrictive than the PGA's. People who brought in forged certificates or coupons, for example, were to be "escorted off the grounds," a measure that also applied to people with "malicious intentions," whatever that meant. No other "vendors" could sell their goods on or near the course unless a vast majority of the profit (between 80 and 99%) went directly to the organizers — we didn't even give cut rates for people who brought their own clubs or balls.

Even with rampant overmanaging, we did make money — 37¢ one day, $1.72 another. Personally, I lost interest in this venture when Don caught me in the bridge of my nose with a wicked backswing.

Soon, brother Mike was old enough to be more interested in girls and cars, so Don and I had to tackle any new construction projects by ourselves. Michigan is all about trees, so we decided to build the "mother of all tree forts" in the Tylers' backyard.


Excerpted from If Chins Could Kill by Bruce Campbell. Copyright © 2002 Bruce Campbell. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Bruce Campbell is the ultimate "B" actor with an ever growing fanbase. His films in the "Evil Dead" series are cult favorites and his TV roles spark the same enthusiasm. He lives in Oregon.

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If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Bio of B-movie sensation, Bruce Campbell is hilarious and delightful. If you are a fan of B-movies or Bruce himself you are in for a real treat. I learned a lot about the face of the Evil Dead series. He is creative, throughtful, funny, etc. I throughly enjoyed this book.
book_princess More than 1 year ago
ever wounder what an actor who name you never heard of, who's movies you probably heard of but never saw it. or who was in it but had a very small part, or who was in a cult classic horror movie that was spawn in to 2 other cult movies , and always being called by the name of the character he played in!

well thats the type of story that bruce campbell wrote with a bite .
he also talks about his past life and what happened when he became the superstar of the " B-rated" movie world. He reminds you of someones family member who tell stories about what happened when he was young....with anger, or just a guy who likes to rant!
he makes fun of the " a-list" world and shows the not - so glamours life called hollywood.
if you like to read a biographic book with an edge that is sharp as a knife then read this book
its really " GROOVEY"
PriPri 10 months ago
This book is a great read. It has humor and great behind-the-scenes stories of the filming of some of my favorite movies and TV series. It gives some great insight as to what it's like to make it as not only and actor, but as a producer and director as well. And it takes you on a nice ride through the life of one of geek-culture's most beloved actors. Any Bruce Campbell fan should enjoy this book. Any fan of B-Movies should enjoy this book.
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DGBQ More than 1 year ago
ALL HAIL THE KING BABAY! Mr Campbell, you should run for president and that's that. Man oh man this book is lovely, simply LOVELY! Highly recommended for anyone looking to read an awesome autobiography.
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Romanwonkanobi More than 1 year ago
This book is great. I've read it from cover to cover and have decieded that this is just another reason why Bruce Campbell should be president.
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I'm a fan of Bruce Campbell as the King of B-movies and knew his work before his current run on 'Burn Notice.' I first saw him on 'Briscoe' and only later saw the incredibly cheesy and funny 'Evil Dead' series. This book is an inside (and possibly romanticized) look at what he and his friends put themselves and their families through to achieve a measure of success in the biz. I don't know if there is a ghost-writer or if BC did all the work himself, but the book is very funny and made me like him more. BC comes across as a guy with whom you could have a beer and enjoy an evening, and not as another insufferable Hollywood arse who sees no meaning in life other than himself.
Soviet_Hero More than 1 year ago
Widely considered a God among men, , Campbell's flawless intonation, facial expressions, and sheer awesomeness have dazzled millions for many years making him the best actor to roam the earth. Now Bruce is prolly going to be known as the best writer in history. This book is made of win and lulz. Reading this book will make you feel like an ant compared to all the epic things Bruce has done. From being in a lead role of a movie or having a minor role that makes any movie over 9000 times better. This book also makes helps you see what it feels to be a actor and what you must go through. All i have to say is this book should become the new bible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bruce Campbell has really made one hell of a book. I was a big fan of his, and when he came out with 'If Chins Could Kill' I immedietly picked up a copy at Barnes and Noble and brought it home and read it. It's amazing how at the end of the book you feel as if you are Bruce's best friend. The laughs don't stop and it's well, just hilarious and interesting. I think every Bruce fan alive should read it if they haven't already.