THE MAN WITH BRUCE CAMPBELL’S BRAIN!
Hello, and welcome to the world premiere of THE MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN, the directorial debut of Mr. Bruce “There are no plans for Evil Dead 4” Campbell. I was one of the lucky few who attended the latest Exhumed Films extravaganza. Exhumed Films, you may remember, is the best place to see the greatest classic and not-so-classic films in the cult and horror genres if you live near or (God willing) in New Jersey. Unfortunately, this was also a rather traumatic time for my friend Joseph and the other EF crewmembers. The Broadway Theater in Pitman, NJ, where each showing is held, was apparently foreclosed upon. This was discovered by EF 4 days before the show. Seems no one bothered to let the organizers know this, and through some miracle of generosity, the International House in Philadelphia granted EF permission to hold the premiere there. Despite the grief, the show did go on…
This was Bruce’s second appearance at EF. I was also lucky enough to see him the first time around, when he was screening EVIL DEAD 2. This was 1999, but it seems like only yesterday. (Of course, back then I was a lot younger and skinnier, but now I’m more mature and…let’s just leave it at that.) This show was like seeing an old friend again. But this is how all EF screenings are.
Without giving away too much of the film, I can probably sum it up with one title: “All Of Me: Dead By Dawn”. Remember that classic Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin comedy? She and he must share a body and hilarity ensues! This is somewhat of the premise of Screaming Brain, although with everything, including the kitchen sink thrown in. Bruce is one of the funniest human beings ever to have access to mass media, and his sense of humor comes pouring out of this movie. Which is also probably its weakest point…
Anyone who is not already familiar with Bruce’s film history will probably find themselves missing out on most of the fun of this movie. It is riddled with allusions, especially to the Three Stooges and the EVIL DEAD films. There is lots of over-the-top, ham acting, cartoonish violence, and even Bruce beating himself up repeatedly ala EVIL DEAD 2. He knows his fans and throws off any semblance of dignity or ego in order to douse himself with foodstuffs and whatever else he has handy. I laughed through the whole thing.
That being said, I leave it to you to figure out whether it was actually a good movie. It may be a good bad movie, or a bad good movie, but I will try, in 10,000,000 words or less to give you a taste of what it was actually about. I am still trying to figure that out for myself…
As Bruce explained, the setting of the film is Bulgaria. Initially it was to East LA, but Bulgaria was apparently cheaper. Unfortunately, this lead to a lot of straining on my part to understand the dialogue of some of the heavier accented costars. I will be nice and assume it is because I am old. Bruce plays William Cole, an American businessman who runs a Pharmaceutical company. He’s come to Bulgaria with his piece of candy wife Jackie to “diversify” his company…into public transportation apparently. Yes. He’s come to build Bulgaria a public transit system. Look, I didn’t write it, I’m just passing it along…
At this point, I’d like to say that Bruce sports a snazzy little mustache that makes him look like John Cleese’s younger, seedier brother. Coupled with his physical comedy skills, if they were to ever do a true remake of Fawlty Towers, I nominate Bruce as Basil Fawlty.
Ok, so this married couple’s relationship is apparently on the skids, for reasons that aren’t ever really made clear. No matter, there are absurd situations to get to! The arrival of the Cole family magically coincides with a rather mad scientist (Stacy Keach) developing a way for transplanted tissue to never be rejected in the receiving patient. His assistant is played by Ted Raimi. I have to admit, I have a little thing for Ted Raimi. I always keep an eye out for him in brother Sam’s films, since he’s bound to turn up sooner or later, even if it is disguised as some hideous she-demon. Here he is easily the funniest thing to happen to this movie. Of course Bruce is Bruce, and he can do no wrong, but Ted is just a lot of fun to watch. One other comedic point here: the scientist and his assistant are Bulgarian. In Bulgaria. And yet, when they speak to each other, they are the only ones NOT speaking Bulgarian. They have accents straight from the “Wild and Crazy Guys” School of Linguistics. I just thought it was funny and probably intentional, of course.
So of course the scientist wants to convince Bruce’s Pharmaceutical CEO to buy into his organ anti-rejection treatment. The assistant mucks it up, and so begins the twisted, interconnected stories of this film. You must, of course, know that Bruce’s character will indeed end up needing an organ transplant (and not to give it away, but LOOK AT THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE) but what you probably don’t know is that a robot plays a significant part as well. And a pink motorbike. I mean, trying to separate the yellow from the corn would take less time and be less complicated than trying to tie together every piece of this movie…
If you enjoy goofy horror comedies, you can’t get much goofier than this one. Ted Raimi raps! A Bulgarian Scott Thompson lookalike does kung fu! An actress runs around and climbs in a full wedding gown and heels! (Maybe I noticed that because of the fact that I’m a woman and just imagined how much she hated him for that…)
It is predictable in some respects while being completely off the wall and bizarre in others. The laughs, of course, don’t stop. But this, in my opinion, is strictly for hardcore Bruce fans. Most everyone else on the planet will probably just stare, mouth agape, at what they are seeing. Still, for someone who has seen almost everything, there are still scenes that are unlike anything else ever made. Look for it on Sci-Fi Channel in the coming months.
Bruce finished up the night with one of his legendary Q&A sessions. If he hadn’t brought his film for the premiere and just stood there for 2 hours and answered stupid questions, I think we would all have been just as happy. Anyone who has never experienced Bruce live really should. He’s snarky, verbally abusive to fans, and absolutely hysterical. Only he could get away with that. His fans take it, like it, and go back for more. That is why we love him.
I just want to thank the organizers at Exhumed Films for the amazing feat of pulling off what turned out to be a perfect evening, despite the turmoil that seemed to go on behind the scenes up to that point. Let’s hope that EF can stay at the Broadway, or at the least find an equally cool place to be forever. And if you’ve never been out, make a point of going to www.exhumedfilms.com to find out when (and where) the next screening will be.
Exhumed Films (the site for the people who put on these great shows)
Bruce Campbell Online (the official site of the great man himself!)