Bringing Michael Jackson Back To Life
As part of my ongoing mission to transform Viceland into an online Michael Jackson shrine – see exhibits a), b), c) and d) – I recently contacted the people behind Return Of The Moonwalker.This trailer was dumped onto the internet a couple of weeks ago with no explanation. Among the Z-movie mumbo jumbo about a time-travelling sorcerer, a new world order, sex dwarfs, clowns and Hitler seemed to be a plot involving Michael Jackson being brought back to life, which excited some film blogs enough to host the trailer themselves – which was useful, as YouTube banned it.
Over the weekend I phoned co-director/producer Mike Maria. He's in Berlin editing the film, but he didn't want to talk much about it until it comes out later this year. We talked anyway.
Vice: What's the story behind this film?
Mike Maria: Me and my partner Mike Moreau – an American author – wanted to make a film that had something to do with Count Cagliostro, this legendary 18th century sorcerer who supposedly instigated the French Revolution by getting Marie Antoinette involved in the diamond necklace affair [in which the Queen was accused of being involved in the plot to defraud the crown jewellers]. We wanted to do a satire, a crazy comedy about Cagliostro living again in Berlin, and he resurrects Michael Jackson because he's the only force who unite the masses, the left and the right.
I guess that makes sense. Who did you get to play Michael Jackson?
He was one of Michael Jackson's official impersonators.
What, he actually worked for him?
Yeah, at official occasions.
I gather at some point you changed the film's title from The Cabinet Of Dr Cagliostro to Return Of The Moonwalker.
True. We didn't reference Moonwalker straight away because we didn't want to reveal the Michael Jackson story too early in the game, because, you know, the hardcore Michael Jackson fans... we didn't want to let the cat out of the bag too early.
Michael Jackson would never keep cats in bags. I found a thread about the film on one Jacko messageboard and they weren't very happy about it. Some of the words they used were 'sick', 'repulsive', 'horrible', 'disrespectful' and 'evil'.
Oh yeah, yeah. I got phonecalls. Some people called and asked me if I was aware of the Michael Jackson death hoax, and the fact that he's actually still alive. Some people take the conspiracy stuff very seriously. One woman called me and told me she was a personal Michael Jackson investigator and she can give me data and documents proving that Michael Jackson is alive. It became very surreal. It's a very fun movie but it is highly respectful to Michael Jackson.
When Monty Python made Life Of Brian, John Cleese said: "We had some fun, but no disrespect to Jesus". This is similar. We're having fun, but we mean no disrespect to Michael Jackson whatsoever. You couldn't make a parody if you don't really like someone. It's like at one point in the film we have two vertically-challenged people making fun of their age – but it doesn't mean that we hate vertically-challenged people. They're just talking about their age.
Right. Why was the trailer banned from YouTube?
I don't know. It's strange. There's no nudity in the trailer. We wrote them a letter, they did not respond.
Maybe some of those hardcore MJ fans flagged it as inappropriate.
Definitely some people contacted them. But we think it's about the two vertically-challenged people having sex in leather costumes.
Ah yes. So, Hitler's also in the trailer.
Yeah, he shows up. Two hot ghost hunter girls are searching for Hitler's ghost in Berlin's underworld.