Resurrections on film
As an early Easter gift, Time Out look back over some of cinema's most interesting depictions of the dead returning to life
High Plains Drifter (1973)Name of deceased Marshal Jim Duncan (Buddy Van Horn/Clint Eastwood)Cause of death Whipped to pieces by a gang of cackling outlaws led by Juliette Lewis’s dad.Reason for rebirth You simply don’t mess with Clint. Oh, you might just about succeed in killing him, but that’d only be the start of your problems. No reason for Clint’s resurrection is offered beyond sheer spite, but this is the Old West, a time and place where too many niggly questions about mysterious gunslinging strangers bought you a hot lead burrito and a one way ticket to Boot Hill, so we’ll let it slide. Clint paints the town red, renames it Hell and awaits the arrival of his erstwhile assassins in a Western that's so good Eastwood would go on to virtually remake it as 'Pale Rider' in the '80s. But that was rubbish.
News from the other side Clint's saying nothing - he let's his hog-irons do the talking.
Alien Resurrection (1997)Name of deceased Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)Cause of death Falling into molten metal whilst simultaneously giving agonising chest-birth to a foul-tempered alien organism.Reason for rebirth One word: franchise. In the movie, Ripley is brought back by devious future cloning experts attempting to get their greasy mitts on the ultimate biological weapon and market it to the military. In the real world, it’s also all about the space-Benjamins: after David Fincher had so unceremoniously bumped off everyone’s favourite action heroine in ‘Alien3’, it quickly became apparent that what the public wanted from the series wasn’t just a bunch of toothy fellas running amok on a space station, but for Sigourney Weaver to be the one foiling their xenomorphic plans. Luckily, fictional biotechnology had reached the point where such a medical procedure was possible.
News from the other side Ripley remains tight-lipped about her experiences in the underworld, but we reckon if the Devil had tried to start something, Ripley would've been the one to finish it...
Ordet (1954)Name of deceased Inger Borgen (Birgitte Federspiel),Cause of death Complications following childbirth as prophesied by a mad philosophy scholar.Reason for rebirth To re-affirm the faith of a lapsed-Catholic farmer who is a big cog within a close-knit religious community in West Jutland. Generally considered to be one of the most audacious final reels in film history, Carl Dreyer’s rigorously austere study of the nature of spirituality ends with a scene of pure transcendental beauty in which a character awakens from her slumber via (it is suggested) the healing power of a divine miracle. The scene probably does more to question the idea and function of a God than a thousand ‘Passion of the Christs'.
News from the other side That there is one.
Solaris (1972) and (2002)Name of deceased Rheya (Natasha McElhone) or non-union Russian equivalent Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk).Cause of death Self-administration of lethal injection following verbal dust up with taciturn astronaut boyfriend Kris Kelvin.Reason for rebirth Because a mysterious bad-tempered planet wants to gain insight into the human condition by exploring the nature of guilt. Or, alternatively, because author Stanislaw Lem and directors Tarkovsky and Soderbergh wanted to show that sci-fi doesn’t have to be about ray-guns, robots and random violence, but could also hold a unique mirror up to the human experience and explore corners of said experience which other genres fail to address. That they succeeded (yes, all three of them, Clooney-haters) remains one of the great achievements of speculative fiction.News from the other side As a simulacrum of an entirely separate being, Rheya doesn’t have much to say about the worlds beyond. But considering she tries to do herself in again, maybe a spot of spiritual insight might’ve done some good.
Highlander II: The Quickening
(1991)Name of deceased Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery), Chief Metallurgist to King Charles V of SpainCause of death Decapitation by broadsword whilst saving the life of a surly French non-actor.Reason for rebirth Here’s where it gets complicated. Connery’s Egyptian-born, Spain-based, Edinburgh-accented immortal was something of a curiosity even in a film as batshit as the original ‘Highlander’, but his revivification in the sequel made about as much sense as a chocolate fireguard – which is to say about as much sense as anything else in what might be the most entirely incomprehensible movie of our times. The main purpose for his regeneration is so he can persuade the now-mortal Connor MacLeod to – oh boy! – become immortal… again, and save the world, but Connery sagely reasons that nobody’s going to buy that and instead enjoys himself in a manner that suggests he's managed to reconcile himself to any potential embarrassment in so dunderpated a role.News from the other side Heaven is in fact the planet Zeist and labours under the rule of Michael Ironside and some especially peculiar art direction... Sounds about right.
God Told Me To (1976)Name of deceased Bernard Philips (Richard Lynch).Cause of death Ummm… crucifixion?
Reason for rebirth: Because he’s bisexual alien Jesus! Or something. Yes, in ‘loopy’ Larry Cohen’s Manson-inspired mondo magnum opus, we’re never quite sure if spooky New York cult leader Philips, who uses his spiritual influence to coerce his followers into committing murder, is your actual Jesus come back from the dead (or, as he claims, from outer space) to reclaim his flock, or just some nutjob longhair psycho with a God complex.
News from the other side Well, if the saviour of humanity really does turn out to be a homicidal alien hippie who likes to hang out in a Harlem pool hall, we’re clearly all doomed. Or saved!
Heaven Can Wait (1978)Name of deceased Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty)Cause of death Cycling into oncoming juggernaut.Reason for rebirth Some might complain that we’re cheating a bit with this one, because Beatty’s good-natured quarterback doesn’t actually snuff it, but is rather plucked out of his body be an overeager guardian angel keen to spare him the pain of getting a Peterbilt truck through the forehead. Nevertheless, the upshot remains that Beatty still needs a new body and the pen-pushers up in heaven have their work cut out finding him a spare. Beatty’s always seemed a little otherworldly and is possessed of just the right level of used-car salesman charm to talk his way out of anything – even death.News from the other side The Big Upstairs is a mess of bureaucracy and buck-passing – a bit like the Home Office with dry ice.
Weekend at Bernie's II (1993)Name of deceased Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser)Cause of death Lethal injection.Reason for rebirth The belief that 90 minutes was not long enough to flay a single ‘gag’ to its gory, embarrassing death. The first film saw a pair of middle-rung insurance salesmen forced to run around the Hamptons and make it look like their recently deceased boss, Bernie, was still alive and kicking. For some reason. The second film exhumes that template part and parcel, but like all good comedy sequels, throws a botched voodoo ceremony and $2 million in Krugerrands into the mix for good measure.
News from the other side That death is a little bit like taking Spring Break in the GDR.
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