Beyond Tomorrow (1940)

Three friends have their Christmas Eve dinner plans canceled so they do what anyone would do under the circumstances – devise a wacky Candid Camera-style stunt by tossing wallets with ten dollar bills and each one of their business cards into the street! Then they wait to see if anyone has the old Christmas spirit in them and returns the wallet with the cash. And anyone who does will be invited to dinner!

The first wallet gets picked up by a rich woman who laughs at her luck, gives the ten bucks inside to her driver and goes on about her gloriously decadent business. The time period that the three geezers had agreed upon is just expiring when there’s a knock at the door. In walks Richard Carlson, several years away from finding lasting fame for battling a guy in a rubber monster suit in Creature From The Black Lagoon. For this film he has traded in his 1950s swimming suit for an equally unflattering Texas accent.

His name is James Houston and he came up to Madison Square Garden with the rodeo and never bothered to go back to Texas. Like most hicks in the big city that can’t catch on with the city rodeo, he’s down on his luck, but he still has a good heart because he turned the money back in and is asking nothing in return.

The doorbell rings again and this time it’s some girl named Jean with the third wallet and the money. She turns it in and they invite both of these two to stay for dinner.

However, it turns out that in addition to being a loser rodeo guy, Jimmy Houston can really sing! This is where I started to worry about things. You know how these old movies are about characters that sing these awful songs. It usually leads to some type of stab at a professional singing career and the next thing you know, your Christmas movie has turned into one of those cautionary tales about what can happen to a hillbilly who has his head turned by fame, fortune, and show biz skanks.

That’s what happens here, but before they start the “all show business is evil and can turn even a good guy into an inconsiderate snake” angle, we get a lot of montages with Jean and Jimmy and the three old guys. This shows us that the three old guys really enjoy having young friends and they do crazy stuff like go bowling and visit the children’s hospital where Jean works.

Sadly though, all the good times can’t last and eventually the three men have to take business trip to Pennsylvania on a plane. The plane naturally crashes and just as soon as Jean and James show up to tell them the news that they’re getting married, they find out that they’re dead.

Just because these guys are dead, doesn’t mean that we’ve seen the last of them. Their spirits return to the house and they hang out and talk for awhile about how even though they got killed, they are still hanging around.

These ghosts don’t seem to know what to do with themselves because they don’t do much but sit around and talk with each other. Usually these types of apparitions like to take a more active role in things, but they don’t beyond whispering into some character’s ear something or other that the character either follows or doesn’t depending on what the plot demands.

With their friends dead, James somehow parlays his fame for knowing the dead guys into a shot at stardom singing the classics on the radio.

Also singing on the radio is established star Arlene Terry. She’s a famous, beautiful woman who immediately sets her sights on our hero, James, the singing rodeo clown. This is the beginning of a very unconvincing love triangle that sees James begin to ignore his intended for the attentions of the conniving Arlene. James doesn’t ever seem to do much more than practice his singing with her an awful lot, but this is what passes for a “cheating heart” in this flick.

By now the film has slowed to a complete crawl, the relationship between Arlene and James not being very interesting and his relationship with Jean just kind of sits in limbo with Jean doing nothing more than frowning and whimpering periodically whenever James calls to cancel on her.

If James had actually done anything with Arlene or had shown the slightest interest in her other than as a professional role model, I might have been able to muster up some enthusiasm for this aspect of the film, but so little was going on, I was beginning to wonder if maybe I had died and my ghost had ended up trapped with a bunch of dullards who wouldn’t heed my whispered entreaties to pick up the pace!

What about all those elderly ghosts running around? They all disappear, called to their final resting place, with one of the ghosts refusing to go because he wants to make sure that Jean and James get back together.

I don’t know what message the movie tried to show us. James really didn’t do anything to deserve a second chance at love. The stuff with the ghosts is pointless with them not figuring in much of the plot.

The idea that one of the ghosts would give up his everlasting place in heaven just to see to it that his young friends triumphed in love is compelling, but isn’t given anything but a cursory play here and nothing goes on long enough for you to get too wrapped up in it.

A decent start is completely marred by the dull plot twists and uninteresting and unconvincing finale. Just skip it and fire up some version of A Christmas Carol if you insist on a Christmas movie with ghosts who wear Depends.

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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