A group of young underground filmmakers just made some good timing. Their short, “Turn Me On, Dead Man,” appears right during the lastest Beatles post-mortem revival, through Rock Band and the remastered discography. But is there ever a good reason to tribute the Fab Four anymore? It happened right away, when Bob Rafelson made his own riff on “A Hard Day’s Night” for television called “The Monkees,” which, even if obviously manufactured, became almost as big as its source material. Even we thirty-somethings remember their mid-80s rebirth through Nick at Night, a national tour, and a new show/band that fell on its face. Ever since, The Beatles have lived strong as a cultural memory, possessed and reimagined by anyone in reach.
Yet, this won’t stop the newest generation of Beatles freaks from grabbing hold. Those behind “Turn Me On” send up the moment when one of a fab four – different name, but no disguise – fatally departs. “Blake” (Joe Reegan) runs off from the studio after the band tiffs and, a la an undergraduate take on “Kiss Me Deadly,” nearly runs over a woman in the street. Her response to the unlikely meeting is impetuous by any filmmaking standards, as decent realism and period detail jerks into the surreal. The gear shifts anyway, as the film gets to the new dilemma, the “Paul is Dead” myth now realized as true.
The band replaces the missing member as the legend spreads. Besides this business, the filmmakers allegorize a theory about the popular “Paul is Dead” rumor: that it signaled the band’s death by hoaxing its member’s. The narrative’s connection is clever, the kind that a viewer spots in passing and, thus, fairly effective. But once the short ends, the conspiracy theory feels too recognizable to hold much weight. The film’s strength rests in the elegiac tunes by indie outfit The Bumblebees that will warm any Beatles fan’s spirit. The music brings lifeblood to the film, especially when a surviving bandmember (David Moscow) looks like Bruce Campbell in a wig. Here’s to no budget and lots of enthusiasm.