Dead Men Don’t Die (1990)
“The anchorman’s dead–BUT HE’S MAKING A COMEBACK!”
Director: Malcolm Marmorstein
Cast: Elliott Gould, Melissa Sue Anderson, Mark Moses
Synopsis: A reporter investigating a drug dealing ring is murdered. Brought back to life by the voodoo spell of a cleaning woman, he goes after his killers.
Either Elliott Gould’s career was in such dire straits in 1990 he would accept any kind of screen work just to put food on the table, or he was offered an obscenely large amount of money to appear in the cinematic abortion that calls itself Dead Men Don’t Die. Whatever the reason, there’s little doubt that Gould had to disregard any thoughts of self-esteem in order to go through with it. Dead Men Don’t Die really is that bad — a cheap comedy lacking laughs, filmed on the cheap by a screenwriter who clearly underestimated what it takes to be a good movie director.
Gould is Barry Barron, an egotistical newsreader who has an adversarial relationship with his pretty young fellow newsreader Dulcie Niles (Melissa Anderson, whose career was staggering under the burden of having once been centred around twee 1970s TV series The Little House on the Prairie). While parking his car in the basement car park of the building in which the news station at which he works is based, Barron witnesses some kind of drugs transaction going on and, figuring he’s about to get the scoop of the century, carries out a little investigative journalism which ends up getting him killed by the criminals he was spying on. First on the scene is Dulcie who, intent on getting her own exclusive, scurries off to get her video camera. While Dulcie is away, however, along comes Jamaican cleaning lady Chafuka (Mabel King). Now it just so happens that Chafuka has always longed for the opportunity to practice a little voodoo magic on a dead body, so she loads Barron’s body onto her cart and wheels him off to some hideaway she has behind the staff lockers.
Naturally, when Dulcie returns from fetching her camera, she’s dumbfounded to discover the body has gone. Nevertheless, she phones the police, and while world-weary Inspector Guardino (Neal Guardino) doesn’t believe her story for a minute, the keen but useless Detective Penrose (Mark Moses — Platoon), who takes an immediate shine to Dulcie, determines to make a case out of her story just so that he can crack it. Meanwhile, Barron is joining the ranks of the undead, thanks to some caterwauling from Chafuka, who informs the newly resurrected newsreader that he now belongs to her and that he’ll continue reading the news and pass all the money he earns over to her. This could prove something of a problem, though, given that Barron is riddled with bullet holes, has the deathly pallor of a zombie, and is incapable of speaking for himself…
Now, nobody sets out to make a bad movie — although I’m pretty sure quite a few filmmakers have gone about their work not giving a toss about whether they’re going to produce anything of worth — but surely, Malcolm Marmorstein, who is guilty of both writing and directing Dead Men Don’t Die, could see what a train wreck his movie was turning out to be. Maybe, like a man wading through quicksand towards a patch of land just beyond his reach, he had no choice but to push onwards irrespective of the fact that he was dying inside — and taking a good few other people down with him. On the other hand, maybe he was deluded enough to believe he was creating a comedy masterpiece — which is an idea far funnier than any that found their way into Dead Men Don’t Die. Marmorstein’s movie is filled with running jokes which are not only not funny but not, strictly speaking, running jokes. They’re simply the same joke told over and over, even though it wasn’t funny the first time it was told. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that almost the entire movie takes place in an anonymous looking office block filled with plain-walled offices and bland corridors, meaning there’s nothing to distract us from the dreadfulness of it all.
I’d estimate that ninety-nine-point-four-seven-two-per-cent of movies ever made are better than Dead Men Don’t Die. Do yourself a favour and watch one of them instead of this horror.
(Reviewed 12th May 2014)