There’s a lot of risks being cryogenically frozen with the intent of being thawed out years later once your medical issues can be resolved. Your disease might never be treatable. The cryo unit may malfunction or the facility may go out of business. You might even get damaged when you get defrosted and suffer some heinous side effects like split ends. Caroline Carmichael at least had no worries in that department because she woke up with the most luxurious 1970s hair this side of Farrah Fawcett! (Now that’s what I call a scientific advance!)
But Caroline’s new lease on life thirty four years after she entered hibernation was not a blow dried walk in the park either! Her wealthy and well meaning husband (Walter Pidgeon of Blossoms in the Dust and Mrs. Parkington) inadvertently woke her up right smack dab in the middle of her crappy dysfunctional family!
There’s her wimpy, cry baby adult son with the mysteriously disfigured hand. There’s her insane grown daughter who can’t stand to be in the same room as Caroline. And while hubby gets credit for staying true to his wife during her absence, his choice of a housekeeper who raised the children looks like he used the Gothic Romance Sinister Hired Help Employment Agency!
While the daughter, Marcia, is portrayed as a lunatic from the very beginning engaging in the usual behavior you would expect from a deranged family member (burning pictures of mom, scratching her car, tearing up her clothes), only someone who’s been on ice for a generation and a half wouldn’t immediately peg the dismissive and controlling Mrs. O’Neill as the real threat. Her refusal to discuss the children’s issues is suspicious enough that you would expect Caroline to go to her husband to discuss it, but all his ancient ass seems good for is showing off the secret garden he built for her, throwing a party, and getting lots of bed rest.
He does have a right hand man, Joe, a young stud that in a fully developed story would no doubt form part of a love triangle with Caroline and raise all sorts of thorny moral issues for her, what with her still being in her sexy prime and her husband sniffing the grave. Live Again, Die Again doesn’t have any more time for that sort of thing than it has to flesh out the family secrets, reducing their interactions to some brief conversations and longing looks. As for the family secrets, they are dumped on us during some exposition from Caroline’s son to her after she witnesses one of Marcia’s breakdowns.
There really isn’t very much to the family skeletons either. Marcia hates her mom for dying and it drove her crazy. The housekeeper and the son know this and presumably the father knows this as well. Yet, when mom comes back from the dead decades later none of them thought it would be problematic for Marcia to be on hand to welcome her home.
As dopey as all that might be, the jealously that Mrs. O’Neill exhibits is even dumber. The children are now adults in their 30s and 40s! What is she going to be jealous of the mother about? She’s not going to get to brunch on Mother’s Day anymore? The old hag probably just needed some reassurance she was still needed. If I was revived like Caroline, I would sit down with Mrs. O’Neill and make it perfectly clear that I had no problem with her continuing to clean the toilets and doing all the laundry.
Poisoning, a heart attack, a near fatal car accident, metal pipe attack and brawl in the secret garden are just some of the highlights of Caroline’s second chance at life which probably had her nostalgic for when she was dying from plain old rheumatic fever.
A very halfhearted attempt was made to show how tough it is to adjust after you’ve been gone for so long by showing that Caroline was amazed at some tall buildings and wasn’t too sure what such hip modern slang like “you’re putting me on” meant. The worst for her (other than half her family trying to kill her constantly) was the party where all her old friends were really old! Freaking icky, right?
Live Again, Die Again feels replete with possibilities at the outset, the ethics of science artificially extending life and displacing people from the existence they knew and its affect on all those around them are ideas worthy of exploration. The film touches on exactly none of this, content instead to merely use it as the set up to an unambitious woman in jeopardy story.Even worse, the woman in question is mostly reduced to being as much an observer to everything as the audience, relying on the young stud to save her during the film’s climax (which is a distracting combination of slow motion and close ups of characters superimposed over the action for no real reason).
While Donna Mills may come out of suspended animation looking like a glamorous Breck Girl modelling a succession of form fighting satin gowns, the rest of the film isn’t so lucky, suffering major spoilage during the thawing out process.
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