Saturday, September 29, 2012

Good Grief, Sleazy Larry: "Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn" (1989)

Marilyn Monroe's name is once again dragged through the mud as Larry Buchanan writes and directs this film that purports to answer once and for all what happened to her that night in August of 1962.

Marilyn (Paula Lane) is drugged by two suits credited as a psychiatrist (Joyce Lower) and a medical doctor (Kenneth Hicks), and goes over her rise to stardom. Misty Rowe portrays the young Norma Jean Baker (in footage obviously shot in the '70's), who is humiliated at every turn by lecherous policemen and visions of her insane mother (Phyllis Coates). Norma Jean is either raped or becomes the victim of the casting couch at least every ten minutes, but nothing is going to stand in her way!

These early scenes then switch back and forth with the two suits talking to Marilyn, Marilyn's experiences earlier that night, and the narration of her best friend nicknamed Mesquite (Jeremy Slate). Norma Jean meets her future manager Hal James (Preston Hanson), lesbian drama coach Ruth (Patch Mackenzie), and is raped by big Hollywood star Randy Palmer (Sal Ponti). The names may not be familiar because Buchanan wisely changed them to avoid lawsuits. Even the Kennedys are unnamed, just referred to as the President and the Attorney General.

In the later scenes, Mesquite is shown murdering Marilyn with a lethal suppository, part of a suicide pact she had with this life long friend of hers. The Paula Lane scenes are obviously tacked on since Mesquite is never mentioned in the earlier footage with Misty Rowe. This Norma Jean stuff is atrocious, since Buchanan obviously did not have the budget to recreate the 1940's (Ponti looks like a "Saturday Night Fever" extra, and watch for one of Norma Jean's fellow YWCA girls sporting a Farrah Fawcett 'do). Characters come in and out of the movie with nary an introduction. Suicide attempts, nudie flicks, pulp rag covers, sexual predators, it is a wonder the poor woman ever made a movie at all, if this film is to be taken as the absolute truth.

"Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn" is exploitation of the lowest quality. Psychobabble mumbo-jumbo and dragging an actress' name through the dirt just to make a quick buck and entertain the grindhouse crowd is sad. Especially when Marilyn Monroe was so troubled, cannot defend herself today, and this "important" film is so badly done.

Paula Lane does bear a resemblance to the older Marilyn Monroe (older...she was all of 36 when she died), but Misty Rowe seems to have been cast for her ability to take off her top for any reason whatsoever. The acting never rises above porn film level, and Buchanan is in such a hurry to crank this out there is no rhythm or simple story construction to be found.

Watch the real films of Marilyn Monroe. She was a talent, and had more screen presence than most actresses today. Despite what you think of her, no one deserves this kind of sleazy treatment, living or dead. (*) out of five stars.