DIRECTOR: NED MUSTARD. RUNNING TIME: 87 mins. DVD: BRAZEN FILMS. PRICE: £15.99. CERT: 18.
A film for conspiracy theorists everywhere, Turn Me On, Dead Man delves into the strange world of the ‘Paul is Dead’ conspiracists, who believe that Paul McCartney died in 1967 and was replaced by a double. The title of the film is apparently what you will hear if you were to play the White Album backwards. Allegedly based on real events, the movie employs a fictitious lead character – Jack Molloy – investigating the supposed discovery of the McCartney conspiracy by DJ Russ Gibb, in the wake of John Lennon’s murder in 1980.
Pursuing claims that it was actually a symbolic spiritual death and rebirth, or even a hoax for publicity purposes, our intrepid investigator finds himself plunged into a world of weird tales and sinister threats from shadowy people. Molloy encounters the predictable list of crazed theories, including that McCartney was taken out by fundamentalist Christians from the USA, assassinated by Elvis Presley and the CIA, or even murdered by an enraged Lennon. All total lunacy, of course, but it nevertheless makes for entertaining viewing, despite the low production standards. (Although it has to be said that it is a lot better than Down On Us, a Hendrix/Joplin/Morrison conspiracy thriller so bad that Leonard Maltin was moved to describe it as “utter shite”). Indeed, if you are unfamiliar with the world of the ‘Paul is Dead’ conspiracies, then you might find it quite amusing. A personal favourite in the mix is the idea that many rock stars did deals with the devil and that Paul was sacrificed in return for the Beatles’ phenomenal success, much as it has been claimed that Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones had been.
The scenes exploring this particular theory have a truly electric atmosphere, with the viewer being taken on a journey into the side alleys of life, where normal members of society suddenly turn out to be Satanists and occultists. The sense of unease is remarkably well handled. However, the problem with all of these theories is that they are reliant upon the viewer believing that McCartney could have been successfully replaced by William Campbell – a winner of a Paul McCartney lookalike contest – without his fans, family, the press or the general public ever noticing!
This is a curious film which has long been kept out of the public domain by legal complications, (which also resulted in the complete absence of actual Beatles’ music on the soundtrack – a serious shortcoming in a film about the Fab Four!). Ultimately, the biggest problem the movie suffers from, (aside from a lack of budget and poor casting – George Harrison is portrayed by a Chinese actor, for instance, whilst Ringo is Afro-Caribbean and sports a magnificent Afro, and John Lennon appears to weigh twenty stone), is that it seeks to reduce the musical output of possibly the most influential band ever, to a series of puzzles. Their lyrics, public pronouncements, films and album covers are treated not as cultural artefacts, but rather a series of ‘clues’ in the unravelling of a non-existent mystery.
However, it is now yours to own and I recommend the DVD format, as it contains the documentary Paul Was The Walrus, which charts the history of this obsession. Nevertheless, it is, perhaps, worth remembering that on John Lennon’s Glass Onion he sings “The Walrus Was Paul”, and ‘walrus’ apparently means corpse in Greek, implying that Lennon had some involvement in the “death”. Did he? Watch the film and find out!