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Mona Must Die

The old standby crime premise of two lovers disposing of the spouse who's in the way is given a mostly lame black comic tweaking in curious Germanic-flavored U.S. indie that could find a small niche where oddball bookings have a chance of cultivating an audience, as well as on video and in foreign territories.

With:
von Snead ... Marianne Sagebrecht Eddie von Snead ... Uwe Ochsenknecht Rachel McSternberg ... Sheila Kelley Father Stilicato ... Dick Miller Betty ... Debbie Allen Irv von Snead ... Norman Nixon Dr. Shaner ... John Shaner Grocery Delivery Boy ... Adam Stradlin TV Repairman ... Tracey Walters Clarence ... Steve White Jamal ... Mel Winkler

The old standby crime premise of two lovers disposing of the spouse who’s in the way is given a mostly lame black comic tweaking in “Mona Must Die,” a curious Germanic-flavored U.S. indie that could find a small niche where oddball bookings have a chance of cultivating an audience, as well as on video and in foreign territories where names of the leading players mean something.

Living in a beautiful home overlooking a secluded Malibu beach, the hefty Mona (“Sugarbaby’s” Marianne Sagebrecht) continually badgers her forlorn husband Eddie (Uwe Ochsenknecht) about his unwillingness to have sex with her.

But when Mona departs for liposuction treatment, Eddie has occasion to rescue a would-be suicide from the waves in front of his house. Natch, she turns out to be a beautiful, if rather hysterical, young woman, and in short order, Eddie and Rachel (Sheila Kelley) are packing 9 1/2 weeks of action into a single week.

When Mona returns, Eddie unconvincingly passes Rachel off as a hired nurse. Clearly, the triangular living arrangement isn’t going to last, so the passionate lovers repeatedly try to do poor Mona in — burying her in the sand, throwing her in the garbage, towing her out to sea — but the big lady just won’t stay down.

Similar frustrated death scenarios have been played to various comic effect in numerous other films, from “The Ladykillers” to “Harold and Maude” and the Inspector Clouseau series. Here, the couple’s strenuously physical efforts to dispose of their formidable prey are generally more exhausting than amusing, although there are a few good gags along the way to keep attention from flagging entirely.

Helping matters are the game performances of the three leads, along with the bright, colorful physical presentation that gives the action an apt cartoon-like quality. But vet TV director Donald Reiker, in his feature debut, mostly hits an arch tone while attempting something stylized. Comic mark he’s aiming for isn’t easy to hit, and while result isn’t precisely bad, pic isn’t able to click into a comfortable gear and stay there.

Film’s funniest moments are provided by Dick Miller, in briefly as a beleaguered priest who defensively complains, “It’s getting very trendy nowadays to accuse priests of sexual improprieties with young boys.” Despite heavy sexual element, it’s mostly of a caricatured and physically unrevealing nature.

Mona Must Die

U.S.-Germany

Production: A Jones & Reiker presentation in association with Rhino Films of an MMD production co-produced by VCL/Carolco Communications GmbH in conjunction with Jugendfilm Verleih and Bernd Gaumer. Produced by Robert Caplain. Executive producers, Harris Tulchin, Stephen Nemeth. Co-producer, Tom Colamaria. Directed by Donald Reiker. Screenplay, Patricia Jones, Reiker.

Crew: Camera (color), Russ Alsobrook; editor, Nathaniel Burr Smidt; music, Greg O'Connor; production design , Preston Sharp; costume design, Julie Carnahan; sound (Ultra-Stereo), Joe Kenworthy; associate producers, Doug Blake, Floyd Coard; assistant director, Ken Fuchs; casting, Meg Liberman. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Intl. Film Festival, March 12, 1994. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: von Snead ... Marianne Sagebrecht Eddie von Snead ... Uwe Ochsenknecht Rachel McSternberg ... Sheila Kelley Father Stilicato ... Dick Miller Betty ... Debbie Allen Irv von Snead ... Norman Nixon Dr. Shaner ... John Shaner Grocery Delivery Boy ... Adam Stradlin TV Repairman ... Tracey Walters Clarence ... Steve White Jamal ... Mel Winkler

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