Marilyn Monroe’s Mysteries The Unheard Tapes movie now Available on Netflix

The Mysteries of Marilyn Monroe Review of the film The Unheard Tapes: Only SSRians will be intrigued by the bizarre conspiracy theories in this Netflix film.

They assert that the dead should be allowed to rest. And this is an excellent rule to follow. Unless you’re Netflix, and you’re looking to create another true crime documentary to appease the Shondaland crowd while compensating for your service’s dearth of quality films. The seductively titled The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes makes a case for being the most pointless use of cloud storage ever created, as it spends its entire length selling a bizarre conspiracy theory before morosely debunking it. I almost expected someone to leap out from behind the closing credits and yell, “Gotcha!” in the film’s final moments.

The formula for these flimsy films has become almost comically predictable—they appear to be held together by slick visuals, foreboding voiceovers, and an excellent hook. In the case of The Unheard Tapes, the question is this: What if everything you knew about Marilyn’s death was false, and her death was actually a murder? Prepare for gasps.

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This is a particularly dangerous rumour to spread, especially in light of what occurred in our own country only a few years ago. In June 2020, actor Sushant Singh Rajput was discovered hanged in the bedroom of his Mumbai home. He was just two years younger than Marilyn, 34, when she was allegedly discovered dead in her Hollywood home from a barbiturates overdose.

In the weeks and months following Rajput’s death, our nation’s youth banded together not in opposition to growing intolerance and the looming pandemic, but in support of a conspiracy theory alleging that he was murdered. It was a sick symptom of collective boredom, of millions of people trapped in their own homes, desperate for stimulation while being fed drivel on the internet to divert their attention away from the real issues.

Marilyn Monroe's Mysteries The Unheard Tapes
Marilyn Monroe’s Mysteries The Unheard Tapes

Marilyn died decades before news could spread at this rate, but the reaction to her death was strikingly similar, at least in fringe circles. And the fact that gossip mongers continue to flock to it today is not only concerning, but also rather disturbing. Is our thirst for scandal this great? Is it true that we have dehumanized celebrities to such an alarming degree?

Marilyn suffered from mental illness. According to the documentary, she had a ‘tendency toward paranoid reactions’, according to the psychiatrist who treated her in her final years. And yet, The Unheard Tapes opts for the conspiracy angle. The documentary strongly implies that the Rhea Chakraborty figure in Marilyn’s case was none other than Bobby Kennedy.

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Surprisingly, this film is directed by Emma Cooper, who has directed numerous excellent Louis Theroux documentaries. Although the subjects of those films were occasionally heinous—child abuse, religious fanaticism—the films themselves were consistently empathetic and endlessly curious. Which only adds to the disappointment of The Unheard Tapes’ conspiratorial tone, ostensibly about another victim of child abuse. It makes no independent research and relies entirely on writer Anthony Summers’ archive of telephone interviews conducted around three decades ago for his book, Goddess. Summers pursued ambulance drivers and casual acquaintances, former directors and personal assistants, as he gathered every scrap of information he could. He even spoke with one individual who is described as a ‘law enforcement informant’. What in the world is that?

A part of me would have admired an intrusive narrative à la Nic Broomfield. The controversial documentarian ‘investigated’ a similar story in 1998, when he suggested that Kurt Cobain did not commit suicide, but was assassinated by his wife Courtney Love (!). As with The Unheard Tapes, Kurt and Courtney’s final moments walked back on its own premise, leaving you twiddling your thumbs at how blatantly you’d been duped. I recognize that this is a fool-me-twice situation at the moment…

Marilyn Monroe’s Mysteries The Unheard Tapes

It may surprise you, as it did me, that the ‘tapes’ referred to in the film’s title are not of Marilyn, but of others discussing her. Cooper recreates these recordings using hazy footage that appears to have been shot in a seedy motel and then filtered for Instagram. This is not quite as ethically dubious as director Morgan Neville’s decision to use artificial intelligence to recreate Anthony Bourdain’s words, but it comes close.

I’m tempted to compare The Unheard Tapes to Searching for Sheela—a 50-minute ‘documentary’ about Ma Anand Sheela that served as little more than a cheese course for Netflix to recommend to viewers who had just devoured Wild Wild Country; or possibly, director Shakun Batra’s now-cancelled biopic on the controversial figure. With the already legendary Blonde coming later this year—director Andrew Dominik has already declared it a’masterpiece’ and a ‘knockout’—don’t be surprised if The Unheard Tapes starts rattling around in your suggestions after you’re done with it.

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