Ghosts Can't Do It (1989) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Ghosts Can’t Do It (1989)

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Danny DISLIKEHoly. Fuck.

In most narrative fiction, there is an immediate need to make your protagonists likable or sympathetic. Your character can have complicated motives or shady moral tendencies, but the audience should at least wish to invest itself into understanding the characters point of view.

Of course narrative fiction also demands a narrative and a certain helping of fiction, but this movie, Ghosts Can't Do It, seems intent on drunkenly pissing on all of these suggestions with the furious glee of a serial rapist freed on a technicality. And this movie is just that classy.

The movie begins with an opening credit sequence containing perhaps the most unreadable titles put on film; they resemble blood splatters on a sepia tinted mountain range, in a weird sense of foreshadowing.

Next we encounter young and spry Bo Derek (who is all of forty here) and her old man husband Anthony Quinn. They married despite the extreme age difference between them, and at one point joke about how he'd held her in his hand when she was a baby and he was in his twenties.While there are some people who would qualify this as romantic (*coughpedophilescough*), the creepiness factor is only compounded upon once we get into the depths of their relationship, which mainly involve him ordering her around and her obeying. It becomes clear that they did not fall in love, but that Quinn demanded it of her.

Quinn plays an extremely forceful man, who apparently runs a huge multinational conglomerate. Like all tycoons, he's taking a couple of weeks off with his wife to wrangle cattle, only to be waylaid with a heart attack. Once he finds out that he can no longer make love to his wife or risk death, Quinn decides to off himself with a shotgun to the jaw. Sadly, this occurs off screen.

Derek was ordered to get on with her life as soon as possible after he's left. This seems like a great idea, but, once dead, Quinn runs into an angel who offers to take him to heaven and he decides he'd rather linger and stalk his wife. Reappearing at his own funeral, he yells at his wife for mourning him and instead tells her to start looking for a body that he can move into.

Derek is the only one who can hear or see Quinn who seems to be trapped in a wadding pool in the sky nearby. This leaves her screaming to an indeterminate point in the middle of the funeral, promising to help her dead husband find a new body. The priest giving the eulogy is impressive so much that he doesn't even miss a beat during this.

She retreats from the snowy hills of Wyoming to a small tropic island where they own a villa. Derek goes scuba diving and emerges on the beach to strip down and have a long conversation with Quinn that, of course, just involves her shouting into the sky. A man on a nearby boat notices this (well, particularly the stripping down portion) and decides to approach her later on.

This outrages Quinn. In fact, if you've ever wanted to see Anthony Quinn act, this is a great showcase for him, since he's trapped in his own wading pool for 90% of the film and comments on all of the action. I'm trying to think of a proper metaphor here... let's see, find the drunkest, horniest frat guy you can think of, and have him follow you everywhere you go. If he vomits blood on you and says it's your fault, he is still not the level of disgusting that Anthony Quinn achieves in this film.

In a side note on the production, this whole mess of a film is written and directed by John Derek, coincidentally Bo's real life husband at the time. He was thirty years older than Derek as well, so there's more than enough subtext that you can read into these proceedings.

But I'm neglecting the plot! Oh, dear sweet merciful plot. Well, lo and behold, Derek now has to run her husband's conglomerate. This nets us a scene where she flies into Hong Kong and is repeatedly told by the dead husband to be a hardass. She does so, and, before the second round of negotiations is set to begin, she is accosted by a thug and forced to swallow some sleeping pills. So she'll sleep through the meeting, you see.

After an unpleasant scene of the thug ogling Derek and joking about raping her, she goes back to her room to try and shake off the sleep medicine. Quinn tried to avoid this by telling her not to swallow the pills and just put them in the side of her mouth, but he miscalculated when Derek yells back to him everything he just said, which therefore slightly ruins the ruse.

This leads to (and, well, all of this is) a long scene of Quinn yelling at his wife. This time he's trying to keep her awake, which he does and she manages to close the deal with none other than Donald Trump in a cameo appearance. And you know when you have Donald Trump cameo in your movie, you're as good as gold.

Oh god, I think I'm still in the first hour minutes of this movie. Christ.

Derek returns to the tropical island to resume her murderous plot, only to find that the attractive young man she met earlier, Fausto (great name there, John), has been waiting for her. It's a rainy night, and in celebration they begin to dance under a pavilion while the mayor, a priest, an old friend, and assorted others watch.

There's a scene in And God Created Woman where Brigitte Bardot does a fantastically seductive dance that leaves the bar speechless. Bo Derek's scene here isn't that so much. Perhaps if you can imagine Pee Wee Herman parodying Flashdance while having an epileptic seizure and you might be close. The fact that the priest is so turned on by this that her orders her to stop in the name of God. I might have a different motive in wanting her to stop, but the words he used were pretty much identical to my own.

After this act of beauty, Fausto comes onto Derek, and, thank you mister screenwriter, he apparently wants to rape her. Thank god we added that in so that Quinn and Derek's plan of murdering him in cold blood can now be halfway justified.

So Derek manages to karate kick him (seriously) and beat him over the head with a club (seriously) but find she can't deliver the killing blow. Seriously pissed off that his wife apparently isn't willing to kill for him (seriously), Quinn storms off to heaven to have an argument with that angel who was in the first five minutes of the movie. She mentions to him that, oh, hey, it's not possible for you to take over someone else's body even after their dead, so that whole murder thing would have been for naught. He realizes that he was basically sending his wife to hell, and that he has to go say goodbye once and for all.

Once he arrives back in his wadding pool, though, he finds that Derek has almost gone mad with grief. She offers to kill someone, anyone for him. "You could go to hell, you know, and spend eternity there," he warns. She doesn't care, SHE CAN'T LIVE ONE MORE MINUTE WITHOUT HIM THERE.

Bo Derek, I would like to take you aside and explain, was a Playboy centerfold who incurred some degree of fame when she starred in the Blake Edwards film 10 and also starred in Derek's more bizarre but not as grating Bolero. Saying she's a model first and an actress second is a bald faced lie; she's unappealing first and foremost with everything else only occurring in minuscule amounts. She doesn't convey the level of intelligence the movie desperately wants us to believe she has, from her cunning business meetings to her ability to fly several different airplanes.

Oh, and she also has no nose. Freaky.

Anyway, Quinn agrees that she can kill the guy if she really wants to (and he's obviously flattered that his brainwashing has worked thus far) and the movie has her go try and find Fausto who was released from prison so he could steal pearls or some bullshit.

In what has to be the stupidest goddamn thing in the movie-- or close, anyway-- she arrives right as Fausto has drowned. He's dead, and after a few breaths of CPR, Quinn can now enter his body. Look! They both got what they wanted, and they didn't actually have to murder Fausto! Even though they were both completely eager to kill him regardless!

And how does the angel who told Quinn that all of that was impossible react? "What a forceful man!" she coos, almost licking her lips in pleasure.


And thus the movie ends with Fausto (now speaking with Quinn's voice hilariously dubbed over it) having some rough sex with Derek and then going back to cattle wrangling in snowy Wyoming. "You sure are a good looking son of a bitch!" laughs Derek. "Always have been!" Quinn counters, laughing. Fade to black.

I'm glad John Derek is dead. I'm glad Anthony Quinn is dead. If I ever make anything in my life as unapologetically smug and ugly as this movie, please, strike me dead as well.

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Ghosts Can't Do It (1989)

This movie is currently unavailable on DVD. I found a VHS rip of it, and you can count yourself lucky if you manage not to find it at all.

Trailer | IMDB
Directed by John Derek
Written by John Derek
Starring Bo Derek and Anthony Quinn

Posted by Danny

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  1. i love the Dereks. Bo, and John with his smash-in-the-face editing. i wish they made 20 major films together instead of only 4

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