Judge Brett Cullum loves him some dead celebrity dirt!
The Tragical Mystery Tour begins!
Scott Michaels has become a celebrity in his own right, thanks to his tours that concentrate on Hollywood's dead stars. He's been showcased on E! murder specials, helped produce a site called FindADeath.com, and originated and still gives "Dearly Departed" tours for LA visitors who want to see where their favorite legends passed on. His love for the material was cultivated when he resided overseas. Scott spent a few years living in London (while entangled with a B-list British celebrity), but he's made Hollywood home by digging up the dirt on people covered by it rather than those above ground. Think of Scott as the AJ Benza of the afterlife, the Perez Hilton of the dead zone, or the Hedda Hopper of the deceased. So here we have Dearly Departed: Vol. 1 which promises to be the first in a series that will save you the cost of a plane ticket and about $40 for the official tour to find out the secrets Scott knows.
Dearly Departed: Vol. 1 delivers Scott's tour on tape, with the ability to go inside many of the houses tourists only see from the outside. He's made friends with many of the owners of the homes where dead stars used to live. This DVD is probably the only way to get the "all access" pass, and see the places up close. The whole time Scott shares stories, reads coroner reports, and fires off trivia at a rapid pace. He's a wealth of knowledge, and any film fan will find this an entertaining lecture. We're all fascinated by how stars live, but tragedy is infinitely more interesting. Scott Michaels knows this all too well. Tragic endings he explores include: Janis Joplin, Karen Carpenter, Dee Dee Ramone, Jean Harlow, The Black Dahlia, Ed Wood, River Phoenix, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, George Reeves, Bobby Kennedy, Jack Cassidy, Marilyn Monroe, and over 50 locations where deadly tragedy has struck like Cedars Sinai. Thrown in for good measure is the original site for the Batcave, a blurry look at the "Hollywood" sign, and some other random locations that have more to do with film history than final destinations.
The DVD presentation is decidedly low tech, and recalls the glory dead days of VHS. It was filmed with a handheld HD camera and no additional lighting. Production values remain extremely low throughout. Honestly, it looks like home video footage of a tour, because in essence that's what it is. The most frustrating aspect of the 110 minutes is the lack of Chapter Selections on the main menu, so you have to scan through the program to find a specific death you're interested in. But the DVD does have encoded chapters for each death, so you can flip through using your "chapter advance" button. Bonus materials include a 22-minute, 2006 presentation Scott made to Hollywood Underground which is even more low tech than the feature presentation. It's Scott giving a Power Point Presentation to people eating dinner and we can't see much more than a screen with blurry images. At least the lecture is pretty good. There's a ton of information on Dearly Departed: Vol. 1, but unfortunately the technical side is DOA.
Dearly Departed: Vol. 1 is a fun low-tech ride. The price is right, and I definitely recommend it for Tinsel Town history buffs who are interested in the art of dying when you're famous. Scott Michaels makes it easy to get sucked into the lore, and the program is nicely paced. He single-handedly saved a failing tour company from bankruptcy, and this DVD proves why. Scott is passionate, well read, and knows how to program a GPS system to get him anywhere he needs to be. After viewing the DVD, I wanted to immediately take his tour, but until I get back to Los Angeles and hop on a bus with the real guy, Dearly Departed: Vol. 1 will do nicely to get my famous death place groove on.
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