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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

VHS Vednesday: Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn

GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN (1989--and mostly 1976). Directed by Larry Buchanan. Starring Paula Lane, Jeremy Slate, and Misty Rowe.

I'm rushed for time this week, so what better subject for a slapdash, hastily-put-together review than a slapdash, hastily-put-together movie?
In 1976, notorious B-movie director Larry Buchanan (maker of such pictures as Mars Needs Women, Zontar: The Thing from Venus, and the MST3K favorite (Attack of the) The Eye Creatures) co-wrote and directed Goodbye, Norma Jean, a biography of Marilyn Monroe starring Hee-Haw's Misty Rowe in the title role. Casting aside factual accuracy for melodrama and sleazy exploitation, Goodbye, Norma Jean was soundly trashed by critics. (I have no idea how it fared at the box-office, though I imagine a good portion of its target audience was willing to overlook its flaws in light of the plentiful nudity on Ms. Rowe's part.)
Undaunted by the scathing reviews, Buchanan returned to the Marilyn legend in 1989 with a sequel, Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn. However, rather than make an entirely new movie, he simply cobbled together a significant portion of footage from his original film, and added a new framing sequence and additional interstitial scenes, with a new actress (Paula Lane) portraying the blonde goddess. To acknowledge the lack of resemblance between Misty Rowe and Paula Lane, the film's credits list Rowe as "Norma Jean Baker" and Lane as "Marilyn Monroe," as if it were a deliberate artistic decision to separate her two personas. (And this was years before the genuinely deliberate dual-casting of Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino in the HBO movie Norma Jean & Marilyn!) One can only assume that Buchanan hoped viewers hadn't seen (or had forgotten) Goodbye, Norma Jean before seeing this one, and I can actually understand that reasoning--viewers who hadn't seen the original wouldn't know they were being ripped off, and those who had seen it would likely want to avoid it.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
While Misty Rowe's characterization in Goodbye, Norma Jean was decent but unspectacular, she shines in comparison to Paula Lane, who does not appear to be attempting a perfromance so much as a Marilyn impression (and not a particularly good one, at that). In all fairness, I think even Marilyn Monroe herself would have trouble salvaging some of the ridiculous dialogue. (The most memorable line to me: While drunkenly frolicking in a swimming pool, she taunts one of her lovers, "Naughty Marilyn! Splashing chlorine water all over his nice suit!")
I also have to wonder how many of the original Goodbye, Norma Jean cast members are "leaving this off their resume" not out of embarrassment--but because they were completely unaware that their footage was being reused.



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