Dead Again

Dead Again
Dead Again

Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Produced by Lindsay Doran
Written by Scott Frank
Starring Kenneth Branagh
Andy García
Emma Thompson
Lois Hall
Richard Easton
Jo Anderson
Derek Jacobi
Robin Williams
Music by Patrick Doyle
Editing by Peter E. Berger
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) August 23, 1991
Running time 107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $38,016,380

Dead Again is a 1991 psychological thriller/neo-noir directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson. Andy García, Derek Jacobi and Robin Williams are also featured.


Plot summary

The film begins with opening credits intercut with pans across newspaper clippings about a society murder committed by conductor-composer Roman Strauss (Kenneth Branagh). Most of the articles were written by Gray Baker (Andy García), who visited Strauss on the day of his execution. The gates of a mansion in the past fade into the same gates in the present day, now the grounds of a Catholic orphanage. As the main narrative begins, we meet Mike Church (also Branagh), a smart-alecky Los Angeles private investigator whose jobs usually involve running down deadbeats and finding missing persons. He's called in by Father Timothy (Richard Easton), the priest in charge of the orphanage where Mike was raised, to help identify a woman (Emma Thompson) who showed up in a state of shock, unable to speak, and with amnesia.

Mike takes the woman, whom he calls Grace, to stay at his apartment, where he discovers she is terrified of scissors. The two uncover clues to her identity but nothing concrete. Grace regains her voice during a hypnotic session with Franklyn (Derek Jacobi), an antique dealer who claims she is having a "past-life" experience. Under hypnosis, she recalls a couple who lived during the 1940s, a famous composer and his pianist wife, as if she were part of their history. Franklyn finds a LIFE magazine identifying the couple as actual people, Roman and Margaret. Margaret was brutally murdered, and Roman was executed for her murder.

As Mike and Grace fall in love, Grace is upset by the similarities of their courtship to that of Roman and Margaret. Grace becomes afraid of Mike and is unconvinced by his assertions that he's "not Roman." Franklyn hypnotizes Mike, leading to the revelation that Mike is not the reincarnation of Roman, but of Margaret. Now, Mike becomes afraid of Grace. Mike consults with Cozy Carlisle (Robin Williams), a disgraced psychiatrist who lost his license and now works in a butcher shop. Grace consults with Franklyn; each is advised to kill the other. Meanwhile, Mike's friend at the newspaper, Pete (Wayne Knight), uncovers Grace's true identity: Amanda Sharpe, an artist. He takes Amanda and Franklyn to her apartment, where she discovers she is an artist who is obsessed with scissors. Franklyn gives Amanda an antique gun from his shop.

Mike finds Baker, old and decrepit, at a nursing home. Baker says he no longer thinks Roman killed Margaret and says that the housekeeper, Inga, would know. After the murder, the housekeeper moved out and opened an antiques shop run by her son, Frankie, a disturbed boy who was accused of stealing by Margaret. Mike visits Inga (Hanna Schygulla), who explains it was Frankie who killed Margaret. Inga had always been in love with Roman, after she saved his life while they fled war-torn Europe. After Margaret married Roman, Inga was treated coldly. Baker, who was attracted to Margaret, instilled suspicions in Margaret that Roman had indeed killed his first wife and that he was having a sexual affair with Inga. But Roman refused to fire Inga, despite Margaret's pleading, which made her more suspicious. Inga was unhappy about her treatment and told Frankie. Frankie killed Margaret with scissors. After having heard Inga's story, Mike (realizing that Franklyn is Frankie) races to Amanda's apartment; Frankie in the meantime arrives at the shop and smothers his mother.

Mike breaks into Amanda's apartment. She shoots him as he is trying to explain to her the truth about Roman and Margaret. Frankie shows up. Amanda tries to shoot him but the gun misfires. Frankie slaps Amanda unconscious and prepares to shoot her (in the mouth, so it looks like suicide), but Mike rouses himself and stabs Frankie with the scissors (placed in his hand by Frankie to incriminate him). Pete shows up with a pizza and tries to prevent Mike from what he thinks he's doing — killing Amanda — but he quickly realizes it is Frankie who intends to do the killing (who now has got hold of Mike's gun). After a brief standoff, Amanda stabs Frankie in the back with the scissors. Enraged, Frankie (whose stutter has returned) removes the scissors and lunges at her and Mike, but Mike moves a giant sculpture made of scissors directly into his path to impale him. Roman and Margaret kiss, and the scene fills with color as the shot fades to Mike and Amanda kissing.



The movie was filmed entirely in color. After test screenings, it was decided to use black and white for the "past" sequences to help clear up audience confusion. The final frame, once the mystery is solved, fades from black and white to color. The negative of the final frame was flipped to match the present day lovers to the doomed 1940s newlyweds they embodied; i.e., Margaret dissolves into Mike, and Roman dissolves into Grace.

When the audience first meets Mike Church, he's seated in his car, which is parked on the wrong side of the street. While it may seem that this is because Branagh is from the United Kingdom (where cars are driven on the left-hand side of the road), it is actually because behind him are a number of skyscrapers that he, as the director, wanted included in the background.

In addition to the dual roles played by Branagh and Thompson, actress Jo Anderson and the film's composer Patrick Doyle both play small dual parts, appearing in the present-day and 1940s sequences.

Branagh has said that at the time he made this film (and still, to some extent) he was very interested in the technique of uninterrupted takes, and several can be seen throughout the movie. Also note sequences such as the first hypnosis sequence at the Laughing Duke, which features an extremely complicated camera shot in 360 degrees, which involved a great deal of precise timing and technical faculty. Branagh noted that this relatively short scene was shot perhaps fifteen times, taking all day.

According to the director's commentary on the DVD edition of the movie, the film has numerous in-jokes. For instance, a date seen in one of the newspaper clippings is actually Branagh's birthday, and Roman Strauss' prisoner number is the date of the Battle of Agincourt. (Branagh's previous film, which launched his career, was Henry V.)


The movie was released on August 23, 1991 and was #1 at the U.S. box office for three weeks. It was acclaimed by critics, and currently has a score of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.[1]

Patrick Doyle was nominated for a Golden Globe for his suspenseful John Addison-like orchestral music score. The film was entered into the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival.[2]


External links

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