Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Canon MST3K Review: The Dead Talk Back

After watching White Noise, I was reminded of another movie in which the topic of talking to the dead. This little film is the 1957 movie The Dead Talk Back, which also is episode 603 of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Even though this film was produced in 1957, it was not released until 1993 for some reason. Actually, after seeing the film, it was probably better that it went unreleased. The Dead Talk Back was directed Merle S. Gould and starred Laura Brock, Aldo Farnese, Scott Douglas, Kyle Stanton, and a bunch of other people that nobody's ever heard of. In The Dead Talk Back, a strange scientist named Krasker (Farnese) starts the movie talking about communicating with the dead, but the story changes as Krasker is called in to help investigate a murder that occurred in the boarding house he lives in. From there, the rest of the movie is devoted to the investigation of the murder of a fashion model, Renee Coliveil (Brock), as Krasker attempts to contact Renee to find out her killer. If that sounds confusing, well that's because it is. A few notes from this film, and there are SPOILERS ahead, so if you want to see this movie for whatever reason, then read carefully.

- This episode starts off with a short film about Anheuser-Busch freezing units for grocery stores. It's about as boring as it sounds. The short features a model in a short dress and is apparently mute showing off the various freezers, which I guess is supposed to add some sex appeal to the film but is kind of creepy in a way. Not as creepy as Mr. B Natural, at least, but still. This short film seems to go on forever as the narrator listlessly talks about the various features of the freezers. The narrator almost seemed as bored as the rest of us when mentioned to cooling features of the freezers or whatever. Although I will say, those freezers were mighty appealing.

- The title of the movie is The Dead Talk Back, so you would think this would be some sort of supernatural film. Instead, most of the movie is a rather mundane murder mystery, with the only fascinating element being the choice of the murder weapon. Instead of a gun, which would have been too loud, the murderer used a crossbow, grabbing a window rod and taking the time to sharpen it to fit in the crossbow's barrel. Even back then, I'd imagine that you wouldn't see much murders done via crossbow.

- The film features two cops, one named Lt. Lewis, who is heading the investigation, and one named Harry, who seems to have gotten into the force just so he could beat the hell out of criminals. One more than one occasion, Harry talks about his wish to 'beat the confession' out of various suspects. Actually, that desire to beat confessions out of suspects probably stems from the fact that the cops in this film are lousy at interrogation. The various interrogation scenes are poorly done, as one scene with Kruger (an actor with an awful German accent) features Kruger and Harry just staring into space for a minute while Lewis diddles around with the crossbow. In nearly every interrogation, the two cops asks the suspect a couple of questions, and suddenly the scene peters out with everyone in silence for a few seconds before going to the next scene. No wonder they had to call in the weird scientist.

- Krasker the scientist who talks with the dead may be a bit of an oddball, but in that boarding house he lives in, he might as well be the Fonz. There's Kruger, the weird German type fellow who keeps staring at Renee, Yonger, the music store clerk who has nothing to say to anyone, the rich-boy radio announcer Raymond Milburn, who somehow lives in a room in a boarding house even though his parents are loaded, and the religious zealot Christy Mattling, who spends most of the movie calling Krasker evil for his attempts at talking to the dead. Not to mention the food obsessed proprietor of the boarding house and her daughter, and single-mother whose husband just bolted up and left one day. It's as if the producers tried to cover every single stereotype in one house. Needless to say, that's one boarding house I'd want to stay away from.

- It is made clear early in the movie that Renee is going to die because the narrator informs us on numerous occasions that Renee has x amount of time to live. This constant reminding the audience of Renee's death does nothing other than to suck the suspense right out of the movie. Overall, the narration of a whole really brings nothing to the table, and is kind of confusing because there are TWO narrators (Lewis and Krasker) who switch off during the film as if they're a tag team.

Overall, The Dead Talk Back is about a radio that is supposed to allow communication to the dead, but the radio never works and the whole things turns into a Mentalist style ruse that entraps the killer. So not only is the acting bad, the plot full of holes, the production values shoddy (there are multiple scenes where film equipment such as reflectors are clearly visible), and the characters either annoying or just bad, the movie fails to live up to its name. At least this movie is one of those that is so bad that it's funny, and the episode itself is full of strong riffs, although I could have done without the multiple host segments devoted to parodying the Grateful Dead. Overall, The Dead Talk Back gets a 1.9 score as a film, while the episode gets a 6.1. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this film or review, then feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then share it with me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at kthec2001@gmail.com.

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