Carrot on a Stick
The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes is the documentary equivalent of a carrot on a stick. Clocking in at 100 minutes, this documentary promises to reveal “information that changes what we know” about the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe… but it doesn’t. Not really, anyway.
Through 650 tape recoded interviews (don’t worry, we don’t hear all 650), Anthony Summers, a British investigative reporter, collates together his findings to paint a portrait of who Marilyn Monroe was and the issues she wrestled with.
Interviewing key individuals in Marilyn’s life, we see the rise and fall of an icon, including her glitzy time in Hollywood, her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, along with her mental state during this time.
The tapes themselves feel more suited to a podcast format though, akin to something like “Death of a Rock Star.” This is something that’s not helped by the fact the visuals aren’t particularly appealing. At one point, we hear an interview from one of the tapes to endless black and white shots of driving along a road, buildings drifting lazily past the windows.
The interviews themselves do work to shine a spotlight on who Marilyn Monroe was though, including how her crumbling mental state was linked to a rough upbringing and her “orphan girl rejections.”
Alongside these tapes are several of the aforementioned carrot on a stick moments. Anthony constantly goads viewers into watching along, promising a big reveal or a breakthrough regarding her death. In reality, there’s not a lot here to warrant that kind of hyperbole. The end doesn’t justify the means and to be honest, anyone who has read up on the topic will find nothing new here.
To be fair, there are several interesting nuggets of information, namely that pertaining to Monroe’s time and location of death, along with the Kennedy brothers and their possible involvement in changing the facts of Monroe’s death.
At one point Anthony mentions that there were “covert recordings of Marilyn and each of the Kennedy brothers that may have been seized by law enforcement.” For a documentary promising unheard tapes and breakthroughs, it’s perhaps ironic that the one tape that could have changed all of this isn’t actually in the film.
If you know nothing about Marilyn Monroe going into this, you may find enough to pique the interest. It’s certainly not the best documentary on Monroe’s life though. In the end, even Anthony Summers himself admits that Monroe’s mental health struggles were probably cause for the actress to commit suicide. We’ll never know for sure if there was foul play involved, but Unheard Tapes is another mediocre offering making big promises and failing to deliver on anything but rehashing details about an icon taken too soon.
Verdict - 4/10