Judge Alice Nelson once saw a mysterious tile imprinted on a busy city street, but what it said can not be repeated here.
You'll never cross the street the same way again.
Resurrect Dead is a documentary chronicling the mysterious Toynbee Tiles that have appeared all across the East Coast since the early '80s. Justin Duerr, Steve Weinik and Colin Smith take us on their journey to find the author behind these mysterious tar paper tiles and the meaning behind his cryptic message.
This is what appears on the tiles…
Each line has its own individual meaning, but together it appears to be random nonsense. "Toynbee" refers to Arnold Toynbee, a historian who theorized that after death, elements of our bodies remain and can be used to bring us back to life. "Kubrik" refers to Stanley Kubrik, of course, and his film 2001: A Space Odyssey that touches on themes of Toynbee's theory. "Resurrect Dead" is the idea that people who have died can be made to live again. And "On Planet Jupiter" refers to the largest planet in the solar system, mostly made of gas. So, what is the author of these tiles trying to say? Beats me, but it's a heck of a fun ride trying to find out.
This is a real life whodunit and a fascinating documentary that takes us on the roller coaster ride with these three enthusiasts. Justin is a talented artist who dropped out of school when he was 16, and lived in squalor for years. He discovered the tiles during his time on the streets and for 10 years has been trying to solve the riddle. Steve is a photographer who has been interested in the tiles since middle school, and Colin is the moderator of a Toynbee Tiles Message board and was the most skeptical of the group.
Skepticism is the word in regards to these tiles, after all, how could someone place these things on busy city streets and even highways while never being seen by another living soul? But that's exactly what has happened for decades. As one crazy clue leads to another, we find that even the famous screenwriter David Mamet is part of the plot. In 1983 Mamet wrote a one act play called "Four A.M." about a radio host and a strange caller who has plans to resurrect the dead on Jupiter. Mamet says it isn't based on a real caller, but that is put into question after Justin and crew find out that a caller to the Larry King Show in February of 1980 explained Arnold Toynbee's concepts. And Mamet admitted in an interview that he often listened to King's radio show in the middle of the night. Hmm…oh really, Mr. Mamet, come on, fess up!
Just when the clues have all dried up, Justin is contacted by a man who says he may have some documents that might be of help. These documents are from a mysterious colonization organization, called "The Minority Association." This group was founded in the early '80s around the same time of the Larry King interview. The paperwork clearly expresses views that are similar to Toynbee's ideas of resurrection. It looks like Justin, Steve and Colin may have finally found the answers to their years long quest. But fact is stranger than fiction in this bizarre documentary, and the answers are never quite what you expect.
Before Resurrect Dead I didn't know a Toynbee Tile from my kitchen tiles, but this film has given me some appreciation for this odd individual, who feels so strong about his convictions—even if they are kooky ones—that he is willing to make it his life's work to spread the word. I would suggest, the next time you're taking a jaunt in the downtown area of your hometown, take a good look at what's on the street below your feet; it could be a message that someone has wanted the world to know for more than 30 years.
Resurrect Dead is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, with Dolby 2.0 Stereo audio. It is a documentary, so it has the grainy look of one, but it fits with the whole mystery thang happening, and is quite a pleasant 82 minute joy ride.
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