Ghosts Can’t Do It

Year: 1989
Production Co: Epic Productions
Director: John Derek
Writer: John Derek
Cast: Bo Derek, Anthony Quinn

I once heard that the whole movement of Bo Derek films directed by her husband John were merely a way of him showing off to the world about what a hot piece of arse he was married to, and it's a credible claim. He was never more than a leery hack who filmed her with no clothes on any time the script even remotely allowed for it, and that hot young wife couldn't muster enough acting talent across her early career to fill a thimble with.

It might be that the pair got a lot more attention and respect than they deserved in the early 80s because their work was adult and edgy – like a lot of other notoriously softcore names (Zalman King, Sylvia Krystal) the Dereks were only successful because internet porn didn't exist yet.

I also don't know a real lot about Anthony Quinn's career but the image I have of him is of one of Hollywood's elder statesmen and a guy who knew quality. Either I was way off in that estimation or he ended up desperate for money and this was an easy gig – aside from a few early scenes at a snowy mountain ranch he could have done the whole project in a studio over a couple of days.

If it didn't view relationships the way a 14 year old boy does the frankly stupid premise might have suited a bland studio romcom. Rich industrialist Scott (Quinn) has a heart attack while out riding with his devoted trophy wife Kate (Derek), and when the prognosis isn't good, he decides some time later to shoot himself dead rather than suffer in a broken body.

When he reaches the afterlife (a few costume changes, some swirly water filters on the lens against a black screen and with Julie Newmar as an angel guiding him) Scott realises he has another chance. He can talk to Kate from this other realm, so while she deals with the heartbreak and confusion while wondering if she's going insane being able to speak to her husband from beyond the grave, Scott plots a way of them being together again.

They need only find a young, handsome man for Kate to kill, whereupon Scott can possess the now-empty body with his spirit and they can enjoy conjugal matrimony again. Ghosts, as the title plainly states, can't do it.

Is it a deeply disguised prestige picture about sexual obsession, or simply so nonsensical it seems it was made by sniggering morons with sensibilities no more sophisticated than schoolboys? Or is it a cringeworthy autobiography? A former matinee era movie star, Derek was in his late 60s at the time, his hot young wife in her early 30s. With all the attention she'd be getting from men a more appropriate age, was he wishing he could leave his crumbling, aged body and possess some virile younger one to give her what for?

If it didn't routinely throw out its own rules and if it had been made by a much better director and starred a much better actress you might almost buy the deep seated obsession angle, but as Ghosts Can't Do It stands, maybe it should be left to the presence of the celebrity cameo to explain the quality. Though he had no way of knowing how toxic the name would become almost 30 years later, Derek seems to have perfectly cast Donald Trump as a businessman vying for control of Scott's fortune as a signal about the intended prestige of the final product.

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