Friday, August 18, 2017

Dead Again (1991)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get the details of a 40-year-old murder by talking to the victim?  Mike Church is about to stumble in to just such a case.  A woman finds her way to an orphanage run by Catholics.  She’s mute with the sole exception of screaming when she has nightmares.  Father Timothy won’t let the woman stay, but knows just the guy to handle it: Private Detective Mike Church.  Father Timothy lays on the guilt and Mike accepts.

Mike takes her back to his place for the time being and starts calling her Grace.  He has his friend, Peter, to run her picture in the newspaper along with his contact information.  An antiques dealer named Franklyn approaches him soon after, claiming to be an amateur hypnotist.  Mike says up front that he can’t pay, but Franklyn says he’ll do it in hopes that her loved ones might.  Under hypnosis, Grace recounts her life in the 1940s.  We see a couple, Roman and Margaret, who bear a striking resemblance to Mike and Grace.  (Mike and Roman are both played by Kenneth Branagh whereas Grace and Margaret are both played by Emma Thompson.)

Grace recounts the Roman and Margaret meeting through work.  She played in an orchestra and he was a guest conductor.  They eventually married and live in his house where he was working on an opera.  She was killed one day with him as the prime suspect.  It comes as no surprise that he was convicted, as this is revealed early in the movie.  (The movie starts with headlines to that effect.)

Mike wants a second opinion on the whole thing.  Past lives sound a little crazy to him, so he meets with Cozy Carlisle.  Cozy used to be a psychiatrist until he was caught sleeping with a patient.  He’s able to tell Mike that past lives are a real thing and that karma can be cruel.  What we do in our past lives can haunt us in the present one.  We may be doomed to forever suffer the consequences of our past misdeeds.

Since this is a thriller and the suspense is a good part of the movie, I’m not going to give you any of the twists and turns.  I will say that the buildup takes up a good part of the movie.  We spend a lot of time hearing the story of Margaret and Roman and their life together.  Even under hypnosis, Grace doesn’t remember her current identity; Peter finds her information late in the movie.

The movie does require suspension of disbelief.  We have a hypnotist that can send people back to past lives.  Even the psychiatrist believes; he cured a patient by finding a hundred-something-year-old trauma.  At least it doesn’t seem forced.  The movie is able to use it effectively.  I’ve always thought that using the same actors for the past lives was a bit odd.  Even if we accept reincarnation, what are the odds that you and your spouse will both look the same in the next life?  With only two reincarnated characters, it wasn’t really necessary.

It’s definitely a 1990s movie.  The tone and plot are about what you would find in other movies released around that time.  There were a few aspects that I thought were over the top, but it was overall a good movie.  Fans of Seinfeld will recognize Wayne Knight as Peter.  I instantly got a feeling that that Franklyn, played by Derek Jacobi, looked familiar,   Sure enough, he was Professor Yana on Doctor Who.   I was able to watch the movie when my parents rented it from Netflix.  I’m not sure I would have rented it myself, but it is something I might have watched streaming.  If you’re into the whole past-life murder-mystery thing, I’d say go for it.

IMDb page

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