Death: The Ultimate Mystery (1975)

Article 2557 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-5-2008
Posting Date: 8-12-2008
Directed by Bob Emenegger and Allan Sandler
Featuring Cameron Mitchell, Gloria Prince, Don Felipe

After having had a near-death experience, a photojournalist embarks on a study of the ultimate mystery, death.

This documentary uses the concept of a reporter searching for the truth in its exploration of death. I don’t know if this is supposed to reflect a true situation (i.e. that it’s telling the story of a real reporter’s journey of research), but I can say this – the movie’s attempt to weave the reporter’s research into the subject is one of the biggest strikes against the movie’s credibility. For one thing, if there is a real reporter, why doesn’t he use his own voice rather than that of actor Cameron Mitchell? Also, we never see the reporter’s face; he’s always shot from behind or in the shadows, and at certain times it becomes apparent that the movie is going out of its way to keep his face hidden. Though I suspect this is to provide us with the sense of him being Everyman (and thus, putting us in his place to share his journey), it also gives us a sense that a lot of the movie was staged rather than happening spontaneously. There’s a certain amount of verisimilitude here; it’s obvious that most of the people you meet are non-actors (though the reporter’s female psychologist friend is the most glaring exception here).

As for the subject matter itself, there’s very little new here. Only two tidbits of information that presented itself interested me; one was that, according to one individual who studied the subject, death may not be an unpleasant experience as the shutting down of the body’s organisms may have a feeling somewhat akin to taking morphine, and the other was that one doctor reported that not all near-death experiences involve going joyously toward a light, but that some of them were, in fact, quite dark indeed; it’s just that the people who had these experiences don’t like to talk about them. Other than that, most of the movie is a dull, lifeless retread of stuff I’ve encountered before, especially the last half of the movie in which we have an extended session of hypnotic regression into previous lives followed by a follow-up fact research of the related experience; in short, it’s the whole Bridey Murphy thing regurgitated one more time. And the lifeless direction and editing make this documentary a real snooze.



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