Bruce Campbell has encountered many oddities during his colorful career, so he’s the perfect choice to carry the torch for “Ripley’s Believe it or Not.”
Best known for the “Evil Dead” franchise and USA’s “Burn Notice” — not to mention his bestselling autobiography, “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor” — he is now hosting the latest installment of “Ripley’s” (Sundays at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel).
“I thought ‘Ripley’s’ was a good fit for me because the people who follow what I do, they like stuff on the edge, and that’s what ‘Ripley’s’ is,” says Campbell, 60, on the phone from his home in the self-proclaimed “wilds of Oregon.”
The Ripley’s franchise is over a century old and includes comic books, a newspaper panel (which ran in The Post in 1923), museums (including one in Times Square), radio shows and several TV series. ABC aired theirs in the 1980s. Fox had an animated show in the late 1990s, and Dean Cain hosted one on TBS (2000-2003).
“They’ve been around for 100 years, so everyone’s heard of them,” says Campbell. “In my formative years, there was always some form of Ripley’s book or publication [in the house]. I still have the red, cloth-bound Ripley’s book that I had in my living room. It had all these crazy illustrations of people doing amazing things.”
‘It’s not a freak show — we don’t use that word anymore — but we’re celebrating the extraordinary.’
Each episode starts with Campbell speaking to viewers from the Ripley warehouse in Orlando. Fla. He introduces filmed segments and the camera cuts to the featured act. This season’s performers include a man who can throw playing cards at 92 miles per hour, a “human pretzel” who can contort himself to the point where he can run upside-down and a California couple who takes their wedding vows on a thin net dangerously suspended 800 feet in the air.
“It’s not a freak show — we don’t use that word anymore — but we’re celebrating the extraordinary. That’s our new word,” Campbell says. “The world is an enormous place and crazy stuff is happening every day. I’m just delighted to bring it back to people’s attention so they can kind of celebrate the amazing. It’s a very human-positive show.”
“Ripley’s” is not Campbell’s first hosting gig, but it’s likely the first seen by the public. Before he struck gold with the first “Evil Dead” film in 1981 at age 21, the actor hosted educational films that were used to train car salesmen in Detroit, where he grew up.
“Funny thing is the stuff I did 35 years ago, you’ll never see,” he says. “So I’d actually had practice, but it’s been years. My career has gone sort of cyclical now.”
And while hosting a show is a departure from fighting zombies with a chainsaw-hand, “Ripley’s” remains in his B-movie wheelhouse, he says.
“In a way, I’m drawn to material like Ripley’s [that] could be considered B-television in that it’s not a classy costume drama or something like that. It’s still a guy pounding stuff into his forehead. But in the B-world, we try harder and we do more interesting stuff.”
And while you might expect Campbell’s taste to run toward the unusual and the gory, that’s not quite true. It turns out he’s a fan of classy costume dramas.
“It depends on what I’m working on but during ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ I survived by watching ‘Downton Abbey,’” he says. “I always counter watch. If you’re doing something that’s grim and bloody and gross, then give me something that’s prim and clean and proper.”
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