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Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. This week we're doing a little something special. FlixWorthy is joining in with the rest of Cinema Blend to celebrate Ash Wednesday the Bruce Campbell way. We're focusing entirely on the many roles of the man, the myth, the legend: Bruce "The Chin" Campbell. Sure, we may know him best as the guy with the boomstick and a chainsaw attachment where his hand should be, but Bruce has been freakin' everywhere over the past 30 years. TV, films, you name it. He even wrote a couple of books, proving that there is no medium he cannot conquer through sheer awesomeness. Let's check out the very best of Bruce Campbell available on Netflix Instant Watch.
As Ashley "Ash" Williams in
The Evil Dead
It all started right here. Take several friends who had been making movies since they were in short pants, give them a couple of hundred thousand bucks, ship them off to a cabin in the woods, and let the magic happen. Raimi and company played things a bit more "real" than they would be in the two sequels, and that's saying something for a movie that includes a scene of a woman being raped by a tree. It's the movie that introduced the world to Sam Raimi's fondness for torturing Bruce Campbell, but he took it like a champ and in the process became such a breakout character that he completely overtook the franchise in a way not seen since Peter Sellers hijacked A Shot in the Dark by stealing every scene as Inspector Clouseau. Without this, we would never have seen half the things on this list, and if that's not a reason to celebrate, I don't know what is.
As Himself in
My Name Is Bruce
It was inevitable that eventually Bruce Campbell would be called upon to play the one role no other human being could do justice: Bruce Campbell. Borrowing a plot point from Galaxy Quest, My Name Is Bruce hinges upon a case of mistaken identity as Bruce Campbell the actor is kidnapped and dragged off to a small mining town. It turns out a few of the locals are big fans...so big that they're convinced only Bruce can save their home from a demonic monster that has been unleashed and is tormenting the town. At first Bruce assumes it's all a prank or a misguided fan gone too far, but it soon becomes clear that he's up against more than an extra in a rubber suit. (Disclaimer: Some suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy My Name Is Bruce, since everyone knows the real Bruce Campbell regularly slays demons with one hand tied behind his back. Not his hand, mind you. He ripped it off the last monster that crossed him.)
As William Cole in
Man with the Screaming Brain
It should come as no surprise that Bruce's talents aren't limited merely to chewing scenery in front of the camera. Man with the Screaming Brain marked Bruce's feature film directorial debut, and he also co-wrote and starred in this modern B-movie as Cole, a nasty drug-company CEO who travels to Bulgaria in search of a tax shelter. After a convoluted string of events involving a diamond ring, a little infidelity, and a former KGB agent now working as a taxi driver, Cole winds up in a coma and his driver winds up dead. Cole's bad luck doesn't stop there, however; soon a conveniently located mad scientist absconds with the bodies and makes Cole patient zero by merging part of former KGB man Yegor's brain into Cole's noggin. Now Cole is an odd couple unto himself, fighting for control of his body with Yegor's remaining consciousness as they both try to track down the woman responsible for their plight. Is it a good movie? Not really, but can you pass up a chance to watch Bruce Campbell at war with his own brain?
As Autolycus, King of Thieves in
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
and Xena: Warrior Princess
Fans of Hercules and its spin-off, Xena, will certainly remember Bruce's ongoing appearances as Autolycus, the King of Thieves. The role played to many of Bruce's strengths -- though let's be honest, no one role could demonstrate them all -- by casting him as a cocky, sarcastic anti-hero who wasn't nearly as selfish as he'd like everyone to believe. The link above will take you to the second season of Hercules, which opened with an episode entitled, appropriately enough, "The King of Thieves." Bruce recurred throughout both series, and also lent his directorial chops to several episodes. Hell, he even played series producer Rob Tapert in a couple of episodes (that show got kind of weird, if you recall).
As Wayne Weinsider in
Like pretty much every TV actor working during the '90s, Bruce put in a mandatory appearance on The X-Files. The sixth-season episode "Terms of Endearment" found Bruce playing things a bit more low key, a bit less madcap than many of the roles that he's known for. Mulder is lured to a small Virginia town where a woman discovers the baby she's carrying has demonic features. Soon Mulder is on the scene investigating mysterious miscarriages, bigamy, and a restrained Bruce Campbell as a man who may or may not be a demon. It's not the sort of role you think of when you think of Bruce, and that's part of why he's so good in it. Cast against type, the actor gets a chance to spread his dramatic wings and deal with somewhat heavier material.
As Smitty in
The Hudsucker Proxy
While Bruce has never broken through as a leading man, he's put in some of the funniest and most memorable character work around. He may only be in a single scene, may only deliver a half-dozen lines, but you always remember his part anytime he shows up. In the Coen Bros.' screwball comedy The Hudsucker Proxy, he plays Smitty, a fast-talking, chain-smoking reporter who bounces rat-a-tat dialogue off of Jennifer Jason Leigh's Amy Archer. It may be a small role, but it's one that Bruce wears like a glove.
As Roland the Intrepid Explorer in
Another of Bruce's smaller roles, his turn as Roland the Intrepid Explorer proves to be one of the best things about Frank Darabont's mediocre blacklist drama. The star of the film within the film, "Sand Pirates of the Sahara," Roland is a classic serial adventure hero, the sort who spends all his time buckling swashes and rescuing fair-yet-distressed damsels. It's the sort of casting that makes you wish the movie spent more time with Roland and less with Jim Carrey's amnesiac screenwriter, and it proves once again that Bruce Campbell may have been born a few decades too late. If this guy had been working in the '30s, he'd have been a star, I tell ya.
Not Streaming, But Still Mandatory Viewing
The Spider-Man Trilogy -- Whether introducing Spider-Man to the world, barring Peter's entry to Mary Jane's play, or just playing the world's snootiest waiter, Bruce's cameos in buddy Sam Raimi's super-hero flicks never fail to amuse.
Burn Notice -- Lately Bruce has been playing Navy SEAL-turned-P.I. Sam Axe on USA's excellent spy series, and he's the star of an upcoming made-for-TV prequel movie focusing on Sam's past.
Bubba Ho-Tep -- As far as I'm concerned, Bruce's turn as an aged Elvis wasting away in a nursing home with a growth on his pecker is just as iconic as his outings as Ash. When a mummy begins sucking the souls from the nursing home's residents, Elvis must team up with JFK (in the body of Ossie Davis) to save the day.
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. -- My first exposure to Bruce wasn't as the Deadite-slaying Ash, but as Harvard-educated bounty hunter Brisco County Jr. in the short-lived Fox Western series. Co-created by LOST's Carlton Cuse back in 1993, Brisco mixed Western tropes with a slick sense of humor, a dash of science fiction, and vintage Bruce Campbell at the top of his game. It's no wonder the show didn't last...it was simply too awesome for television.
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