It Jumps, It Squeeks,
It Reviews Strange Movies
DEAD MEN DON'T D!E (1991)
As I've mentioned before, zombies don't particularly frighten me. Sure, it'd kinda suck to have some half-rotted dead-head eat your brains. But you can run away from zombies--hell, you could hokey-pokey away from zombies. You could roller skate away from them even if you didn't have any wheels. Tell the zombie he can chow down on your undulla oblongata if he finishes a game of hopscotch, and you'll make it to the state line before he's done. A zombie really has the same cross-country skills you'd find at the old folks' home. And the geezers might actually be scarier, as zombies only say "ARRGGHH!" and "BRAAAAINS!" while seniors can talk your ears off with stuff like "My children never visit me anymore!" and "I fought the NAZIS for you punks!" and "That Angela Lansbury is one sexy mama!" or go into microscopic detail over their last bowel movement. Zombies don't even have bowel movements. And if they did, all they'd say is "POOOPS!"
On the other hand, you wouldn't think that zombies would be all that funny, either. I've done an in-depth clinical investigation on this concept by writhing through 94 minutes of Dead Men Don't D!e. And I think that it's about as funny as a "You Rot" sign in a zombie ward.
Dead Men Don't D!e stars Eliot Gould and Melissa Anderson. I guess she dropped the "Sue" to distance herself from her Little House on the Prairie days, just like Ricky Schroeder is now "Rick Schroeder" and the guy who played Screech is now known as "the guy who hasn't worked since he played Screech." And in the most important role, Mabel King as Chafuka. GESUNDHEIT! Or is that what Han Solo said when he got mad at the Wookiee? "You stupid Chafucka!" Here's what Leonard Maltin said about this movie:
The movie is written and directed by Malcolm Marmorstein and produced by Wayne Marmorstein and the costume design is by Darragh Marmorstein. What a strange coincidence! I wonder if they knew each other before they started work on this film. Know what movie they should make next? "MARMORSTEIN," about a mad scientist who brings a marmoset back to life! That eats marmalade! While reading "Marmaduke" as scripted by David Mamet!!
The credits play over the opening scene, intercutting the action with little voodoo doll drawings next to the names of the cast. It's surely an omen that the Producing Marmorstein's doll is laying down and going "ZZZZZZ..." Evidently he's read the script.
Newsman Barry Barron (Gould) arrives at the parking garage of World Wide News. Two guys are roughing up another guy because he stole some of the cocaine they're smuggling into the news building. Yep. Pretty subtle smuggling ring you've got going there. Does Barry go to the police? Of course not; this is gonna be his "big scoop!" I'd think that he'd get credit for the scoop just by calling the cops, but of course then he wouldn't get killed and zombified.
He and Dulcie (Melissa "Don't Call me Sue" Anderson) are co-anchors of World Wide News, a vast journalistic organization of about 6 people with a set the size of one of those mall kiosks that sells NASCAR-themed t-shirts. It looks so much like a lemonade-25-cents stand you'd see Dennis the Menace make that I'm surprised that the "e" in "News" isn't spelled backwards.
"Voice check, Barry!" says the sound guy, and Barry goes "ME ME ME ME ME!!" Geddit? He's stuck-up!
The Ted Turner of this dime store network comes striding in. "Great set!" he enthuses. "Glad you finished it in time! You really got the most out of those old fridge boxes!" "Yeah, but the homeless guy refused to leave them..." From Barry's crotch we hear a voice cry: "Hey, buddy! Spare some change? Or at least some crotch deodorant for Barry? Jesus bless you!" I made up the part after "in time"! Okay, so it wasn't funny. May I point out that I'm 10 minutes into this alleged comedy and nothing funny has happened in it?
One of the World's Top Stories: "Hairpulling at a hooker convention! A convention of professional prostitutes erupted into a free-for-all in Chicago today!" BARRY: "Dulcie, I'm sure our viewers would love to know if anything else was 'for free' at that convention!" Them's the jokes, friend. Script by Ferd'nand.
After the news, Barry goes into the room where the cocaine's being kept. Just like that. What a fortress! The Bad Guys come in: Mean Guy, Goofy Guy and Pratfalling Guy. Barry escapes by throwing coke at them, saying "Let's do some tube, because I'd hate to die in my right mind!" There follows a chase so comic in its hilarity that there's a pratfall, followed by two guys pratfalling, followed by three guys pratfalling! Barry screams and waves his arms like Jerry Lewis with Tourette's and pounds on doors yelling for help, but apparently the building has been evacuated in the ten minutes since the 6 o'clock news ended. Is that all this station is, a news program that's on at noon, six and eleven? WWN isn't going to compete with CNN very well with their "News Around the Clock Except for 23 and a half hours a Day" format. Barry stops right by a fire alarm but doesn't pull it, and it's not because he's too dumb, it's because the Directing Marmorstein was too stupid to notice it's in the shot. He runs to the parking garage and not the news room where the whole dozen people who work for WWNews are and he gets shot 18 times and left there. That should cover up the super-secret coke smuggling operation right here in the building!
At this moment Darcie drives in (from the news room?) and screams when she sees Barry's corpse. Evidently Hershey's syrup is cheaper than Heinz ketchup, as Barry's blood is black. If Angela Lansbury was here, this would be "Murder, She Fudged!" Darcie says "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH--MY CAMERA!" and she races to get her scoop. She, at least, has the brains to call the police. The second she leaves, Chafuka the Jamaican cleaning lady comes into the garage. Maybe they make her mop the garage or wash all the cars. She takes Barry away on her cleaning cart saying, "I've waited all my life for a corpse!" which is probably one of the stranger requests the Make-A-Wish Foundation has had.
Twenty minutes in, and there's finally something I snicker at: Narrating in her best Action News voice, Darcie films as she walks over to where Barry isn't. "A garage--A place to park cars! And now--A place for murder!" Look, when you're starving for comedy, the humor equivalent of what you find in the McDonald's dumpster seems like a feast. Of course, they drag the thing out as she looks for Barry Barron's body and I stopped chuckling.
Chafuka has a secret voodoo priestess zombie-making bat-cave hidden behind a row of school lockers. "By the power of Dumballah--You will walk the earth FOREVER!" That's right--Her Santerian voodoo god is named Dumb-Allah. "By the power of DopeyBhudda and SillywillyChristy!"
The cops come. One detective is crusty and old, one is young and "comically" incompetent. Dumb Cop holds up his badge and Crusty knocks his arm down, so Dumbo holds his hand out for Darcie to shake and he knocks that arm down, too! IT'S FUNNY, DAMMIT! Actually, it's unbearable, dammit. And these guys are going to be in a lo-o-ot of scenes.
Darcie insists that she saw a corpse, saying "He looked like this" and making a rolly-eyed tongue-out face. Wow, that's so funny I hope that I see someone do that again! (IdiotOdin: "Mortal, your wish shall be granted!") Crusty looks over the car hood where Barry was killed. "I don't see a trace of blood!" Dumbo says, "That's because the car is red!" No, that's because he was bleeding Bosco, dumbass. Of course, as this is a bad comedy, every attempt at a joke is followed by a pause for the audience to laff hysterically or wince silently in their suffering. About a quarter of this movie's running time is a pause for nonexistant laughter.
The cops make an exhaustive search for Barry's body by "looking on the hood of every car here." They write off the eyewitness testimony of a news reporter and decide to stop looking. What, did Chafuka sweep up those 18 shell casings when she took Barry?
"DUMBALLAH! RISE DE ZOMMMBIIIE! RIIIISE, YOU ZOMMMMBIIIIE, RIIIIISE!" That's the magic incantation for reanimating dead news anchors! We get a close-up of Barry's bloody hand, which isn't that great a directorial decision as it's now really obvious that his blood's made from rich, chocolatey Ovaltine. Know what they should've called this movie? "The QUIK and the Dead!" Barry sits straight up, and this is shown three times, either because it's so shocking or so funny or a tribute to the last shot of Robot Monster. The cheezy soundtrack doesn't make it clear as to what we should feel, which is okay as that's the WHOLE PURPOSE of a soundtrack. This is because it's by a guy with a crappy Casio who, amazingly, is not named Marmorstein. You'd think that there'd be at least one musician in this family of prodigies. Alanis Marmorsette, maybe.
Chafuka takes Barry for a ride on her 3-wheeled motorcycle, and Alanis gets to shine with a time-filling song called "I'm Back in the Land of the Living." Yes, if you call being in this movie living. Barry is a happy zombie, smiling and mugging the whole trip. He also can't talk beyond grunting, so I think that some of his happiness comes from Gould realizing that he doesn't have to speak any more Marmorsteinian dialogue. At her home, Chafubar bathes Barry and dresses him in a muu-muu. She wanted a combination corpse and Barbie, I guess. To further pad out the movie--believe it or not, it's a third over at this point--we get the "driving the trike while bad rock music plays" scene AGAIN, but this time they're driving back and Barry's driving and it's SO much funnier because he's a trike-driving zombie in a muu-muu!!
Darcie does a promo for the next half-hour of WWN airtime: "Three people run over in parking lot; pit bull bites bull; these stories and worse at 11." Ha! Ha! Ha! It is with funniness! Look, I stab myself with knitting needles in the eyes and it's just as much with the funniness!
Dumbo meets up with Barry in the hallway, and points at him. Barry points back! Boy, that was such a funny pointing joke that I bet we see it again! And again. Dumbo's shocked to see that "Mr Barron--You've got a hole in your head!" Which he absolutely doesn't. It's a pimple from what I see. Evidentally the Special Effects Marmorstein got lost on the way to the set. The next time we see Barry, he has a "hole." Apparently the Marmostein with a Sharpie Marker was present. Chumpfuka hides it with--bubble gum! Ah. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Now we come to what the Marmorstein Collective thought was their comic setpiece. I will admit that some of Gould's zombie schtick is making me smile, but that exists out of the control of the Marmorsteins. But the big gag reflex--err, gag sequence--is, how will Barry do the news when he can only grunt? Chimpfukker has a voodoo doll that'll make Barry say whatever she says into it. Barry looks like death warmed over (for obvious reasons) and is acting incoherent, so of course they put him on the air live. Chafuka swipes his copy and goes behind the set to read into her Mr Microphone, Voodoo Edition ("Hey, good lookin'! We'll back for you later! And turn you into a zany zombie!"). Now, there's a shred of a chance of a joke here, just like there's a chance Adam Sandler might get hit by a meteorite and explode, but certain good things never to seem to happen, ya dig? Chafuka reads "I'm Barry Barron!" and Barry says it in a Jamaican accent! How funny is that! Not very! For some reason, Upchucka reads all of Darcie's lines, too, beginning with "And I'm Darcie Niles!" The she starts to read a story about Pasadena, but drops the script and keeps repeating "Pasadee...Pasadeee..." for about 2 minutes and Barry says "Pasadee...Pasadeee..." for about 2 minutes and then she says "De darn foo' paper drop down on de ground!" and Barry says "De darn foo' paper drop down on de ground!" which causes the guys in the control booth to look at each other and say incredulously, "'De darn foo' paper drop down on de ground'?!" at the same time. Pure comic gold, folks, pure comic gold. And it goes on and on and on...She laughs about the hooker convention, and Barry laughs, and remember that we're hearing every line in this scene twice. Apparently Directing Marmorstein assumes that if we don't see every instance of Chafuka talking to the hand (literally), we'll think that it's Barry with his Jamaican accent.
Remember the bad guys? They're with a new one, Old Guy, in a bar where they loudly talk about killing Barry. Way to go with that conspiracy of silence! A perfect encapsulation of this film's level of comic inspiration comes when they see Barry on TV and do a four-faced spit take! Now they've got to go kill Barry again, to make sure that "Dead men don't squawk!" If I'd recovered from a shooting, I'd go to the cops before I went to work, so they probably don't have to worry much about the squawking issue.
Ted Turner barges into the studio yelling "What way is that to talk, 'De darn foo' paper drop down on de ground'?!" That's the fourth time we've heard that hi-larious line, and if you were playing the Dead Men Don't D!e drinking game, you'd be getting your stomach pumped at the Betty Ford Clinic right now.
The first second Barry's left alone, the bad guys shoot him another 18 times, this time with Dumb Cop as a witness, and he dies again. If Angela Lansbury were in this, it'd be "More Turds, She Wrote"! Hey, you think that Chafuka's gonna drag Barry away, and now the Dumb Cop will have to explain the lack of a corpse? This script was written using cut & paste. Every joke and scene are repeated. For instance, we get the second scene where Dumbo calls Crusty Cop at home and Crusty answers the phone "Hello, Marge?" and then gets angry at Dumbo and hangs up. Crusty also has this brilliant bit of emoting he learned in the three days before he was thrown out of acting school: He runs a finger across his lips, then runs it across his forehead. He's obviously in deep inner turmoil and also sucks. Why Dumbo calls Crusty at home for backup rather than the precinct is beyond me, especially as Crusty doesn't send anybody.
Barry recovers from death (Dead men don't d!e, remember?) just before Dumbo with Darcie narrating over her camera about "Murder!" come to not find Barry's body and Dumbo does the "He looked like this" rolly-eyed tongue-out face. (Thanks, StoopyZeus!) And THEN he calls Crusty back. Christ. I'm caught in an inescapable loop of retardy jokes!
Barry runs into Goofy Bad Guy in that ever-so-photogenic parking garage, and Goofy crashes his van into some packing peanuts because there's no money for a car crash in Producing Marmorstein's budget. Goofy and Pratfall split up to go after Barry, and Barry grabs Goofy's gun and accidentally shoots him. "What de zombie done done!" says Confusiousa. Wow, she's waited all her life for a corpse, and here's two in one day! She hides the stiff Goofy in a closet, which Dumbo and Darcy now open, and the wormfood falls on Dumbo! Boy, that was so funny that I hope they do it again! So they leave the body alone to report that they've found a corpse, which Barry and Chafuka take away and you know what that means! REPETITION!
"DUMBALLAH! RISE DE ZOMMMBIIIE! RIIIISE, YOU ZOMMMMBIIIIE, RIIIIISE!" Goofy rises just as Pratfall walks in, and Goofy strangles Pratfall for no reason and they hide his body in a closet! Dumbo calls Crusty at home for backup! Crusty yells "BULLSHIT!" 30 times in a row and doesn't call the cops! *THUMP* Darcie narrates over her camera, "World Wide News--an office building, a place where people work. And now, a place for murder--Where's the body?!" *THUMP* Dumbo calls Crusty at home! "Hello, Marge?" Dumbo wants Crusty to cancel the backup, and right behind him is Pratfall's corpse! He tells Crusty to send backup! He leaves the body! *THUMP* Darcie narrates over her camera after Barry recovers the body! "A coat rack--a place to hang coats--Where's the body?!" Dumbo says "He looked like this" with rolly-eyed tongue-out face! "DUMBALLAH! RISE DE ZOMMMBIIIE! RIIIISE, YOU ZOMMMMBIIIIE, RIIIIISE!" *THUMP* as Bill the Splut slams his head against the wall again!
Mean Bad Guy walks in on the latest zombie ceremony--Dumb-Allah's had a busy day--and he and Barry struggle for his gun--AND IT DOESN'T ACCIDENTALLY KILL HIM! WHOA! My little head is a-swim from this wildy unpredictable plot twist! This blows away The Crying Game and Memento combined! So instead Mean pulls out a knife and kills Barry. A third time. And his eyes roll and his tongue sticks out. If Angela Lansbury were here, and she was French, it'd be "Merde-r, She Wrote!" AUUGGHH!!! The repeating, it's contagious!
Mean calls Old Bad Guy and tries to explain who is and isn't dead, and describes Barry: "I think he's some kind of a...GEEK!" The long pause and the big punch he gives the word indicates that Writing/Directing Moronstein thinks that this is the funniest word ever! So what happens? "GEEK?" says Old. "Whaddya mean, GEEK?" and evey third word in the next minute is "GEEK!" Bad Jokes Don't D!e!
Dumbo walks into the zombie room and takes no notice of the cadavers both dead and walking. He talks to Barry before he notices the knife in him, which is holding him stuck to the wall like a pinned butterfly. Like any good cop who's a fucking retard, Dumbo pulls on the knife and the funniest thing in the whole movie happens! Yes, Barry falls on Dumbo, and, no, that's not what's funny. Evidently falling on top of somebody is too risky a stunt for Gould--I mean, he could bite his tongue on the way down--so they use a double. A double who's 6 inches shorter than Gould, has a big goofy grin on his face and is wearing a wig to simulate Gould's curly hair. A freakin' GIANT AFRO WIG! "Who's the cat who won't cop out when there's zombies all about? SHAFT!"
Ummm...I guess I "accidentally" fast-forwarded over something, because now Darcie and Dumbo are in the cocaine room and Mean Guy is knocked out on the floor. Old Bad Guy comes in to kill them, so cue the zombies! Goofy and Pratfall groan and stumble in, and Old says that Mean "said you guys looked like GEEKS!" This apparently is a huge insult in Zombese, as they try to kill him. He runs away yelling "GEEKS! GEEKS! GEEKS!" Mean wakes up and immediately yells that it wasn't HIM who called them GEEKS! Of course, he was unconscious during that part so he shouldn't know about that, but this doesn't stop the zombies from trying to kill him. Mean empties his gun into them, which doesn't bother them. Since a clip of 9MM slugs at point blank range didn't hurt them, hey, a chair over the head should! No? Who'da thunk! Then it's time for that funniest of attacks, the kick in the balls! That didn't work! So he kicks him in the balls again! That didn't work! So he kicks him in the balls again! We're stuck in a Moebius film strip!
The zombies fling Mean into an electrical panel and he gets electrocuted by blue cartoon lightning bolts. "Dammit, we paid for that cheap chroma-key lightning effect, and damned if we ain't gonna get our $8.95's worth out of it! Run it for a full minute!" And it's time for another Alanis Marmosette hit! It's called "Shock Dance," because Mean twitches while he gets shocked sorta like he's dancing. So Goofy begins doing a little funky dance of his own to the jivin' music! It's truly an Electric Boogaloo!!
Darcie bursts into Ted Turner's office. She has multiple scoops and wants to go on the air. "It costs money to go on the air!" says Ted. So, yes, apparently WWN does go off the air except for 90 minutes a day! This is actually harder to believe than the zombies or the idea that someone thought this script was worth filming. "GEEKS! GEEKS!" screams Old as he runs in. PLOT TWIST! Ted is the real head of the coke smuggling ring! What a master criminal, cleverly keeping it right in his own building/shooting gallery! "It doesn't make any sense!" says Darcie. "One of the world's richest men, running a cocaine ring!" Damn straight it makes no sense. How could you get rich running a news network that's on the air for only 90 minutes a day?
It's been a good 10 minutes since we were in the parking garage, and boy was I starting to miss it. Chapstika and her zombies (now including Mean; at least we were spared one "RIIIISE, YOU ZOMBIIIE!" scene) are down there for no real reason, and they witness Darcie, Dumbo and Ted's Bimbo being forced at gunpoint into a limo by Ted and Old. "Poor Darcie! She gonna die wit'out ever gettin' a scoop!" She says "Duck!" to avoid being seen, and the zombies all look in the air going "Quack! Quack!" Oh, my sides! She decides to rescue Darcie, and gets into Barry's convertible. "Hop in!" she says, and the zombies hop up and down! Oh, my sides! Committing ritual seppuku really hurts!
Barry hits the gas in reverse and the other zombies fall out of the car over the hood! Then, he hits the gas forward, and they fall out of the car over the trunk! Remember, kids, if you rent this movie--make sure your katana is good and sharp, or it'll take forever to disembowel yourself.
If you wanted proof that there's no movie so crappy that Danny Elfman won't lend it a hand in the soundtrack department, the perfectly good Oingo Boingo song "Dead Man's Party" is ruined for the car chase. Needless to say, the chase is excrutiatingly long and unfunny, except for the stunts. Not because watching cars do doughnuts is cool, but because Barry is replaced by Giant Afro Wig! Giant Afro Wig is a comic genius! He should be the star of this movie! I hope if they do a sequel like the Shaft movies, it stars Giant Afro Wig! Giant Afro Wig in Africa!
Barry and/or Giant Afro Wig races alongside the limo, and the zombies climb in and throw Bimbo, Darcie and Dumbo over into the convertible. Spend the next 10 minutes rereading that sentence, because that's how much screen time it takes. "Comic" "highlight": Mean shoves Dumbo through the sunroof and grabs his balls! And Dumbo sings an aria from Pagliacci! Hey, that's a role for tenor voice, not falsetto! You've ruined the whole movie for me with that!
Then the zombie-loaded limo crashes into a wall, killing Ted and Old. Wait, do you see something coming? From a mile away? No wait, it's several things! Another phone call to Crusty! Another comic newscast, except that Chafuka's now got Ted's job! Dumbo quits the force and becomes WNN's vice president! Evidently world's richest man Ted was the sole executive of this station. I guess he got rich by having a staff of zero. Barry seems to be regaining some of his faculties, which I guess is some sort of happy ending, at least up till the point he realizes what a shit movie he's in--Wait! There it is! That thing you saw coming! TED AND OLD ARE ZOMBIES NOW! And it's actually presented as if it's some big surprise! Ted is her undead butler, serving her frou-frou drinks with umbrellas. Old has the amazing mutant ability to say "GEEK!" every second by sticking his tongue out like a frog. All 5 zombies are told to stay in the closet, but when Chafuka and Barry leave, they start to walk out of the closet to perform zombie mischief under the credits! Apparently, Clan Marmorstein thought that the idea of zombie mischief occurring is funny enough that they don't have to show any of it. Oh, and when Barry leaves, the screen irises in with a "That's All, Folks" circle, and he turns and says to the camera, "And dat's de news!" "And that's the news!" is spelled out in cartoon bones over the screen, as this is their last chance to repeat something.
Sadly, the credits for Stunt Performers does not list Giant Afro Wig. There is a guy named Robotham. Maybe that'll be the sequel! Giant Afro Wig vs the Robot Ham! "I, the Robot Ham, shall rule ALL THE WORLD! Oink!" "Yo, piggly wiggly! Giant Afro Wig says somethin' ain't KOSHER here! Time for me to kick some curly tail and BRING HOME THE BACON!" The set dresser is named Wyatt Weed--He could be Giant Afro Wig's comic blunt-smoking sidekick! Hey, two of the grips are named Richard R. Fezzy and Marcus Roo Flower and the publicist's FIRST name is "Gutman"! Ha ha, that's funnier than anything that's happened in the movie! They could be the Robot Ham's inept henchmen! And you know what would be the funniest scene in that movie? When they KILL ALL THE MARMORSTEINS.
Since the closing credits included shuffling zombies and a faux-reggae tune called "Dead Men Don't Die," what could be the most tasteful final end credit?
"This picture is dedicated to the memory of Al De Lapp, LAPD (Retired)"
The Marmorsteins must've really hated poor Al.