Death Takes a Holiday (TV Movie 1971) Poster

(1971 TV Movie)

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I cried and cried, and then I cried some more
blanche-28 July 2005
What a gorgeous film this is, and how it tugs at the heartstrings. Though quite different in tone from the Frederic March film of the same name, Death Takes a Holiday still tells the same story. Death takes human form and comes to earth to find out, as he puts it, "why people claim so tenaciously to life." Like the angel in "The Bishop's Wife," he falls for a mortal, played by Yvette Mimieux. Of course, while Death is on vacation, so to speak, nobody dies. And that has repercussions for Mimieux's family.

The cast is absolutely superlative - Melvyn Douglas, Yvette Mimieux, Monte Markham, Myrna Loy, and Bert Convy.

If you have a chance to see this film, don't miss it. I remember it so vividly. Make sure you have a box of tissues next to you.
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A remake as good and as romantic as the original.
ckightfyfe4 August 2001
This movie is a wonderful, romantic remake of the original of the same name. Monte Markham gives one of his best performances and Yvette Mimieux is both able and breathtakingly beautiful playing the woman with whom Death becomes infatuated.

This movie isn't as dark as the original with Frederic March, but it makes the same bold choice in the ending.

A definite "two thumbs up," "must see."
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Much more than a cheap remake!
It is easy to dismiss this film as a cheap remake of the original Fredric March vehicle, but there is so much more here than simple recapitulation!

The story is timeless. It takes a very definite philosophical stance on a subject which will always be relevant to all of us. Namely, how shall we cope with our own deaths when the reality confronts us?

What impressed me most about this production was the way in which death was presented. Death appears here as a gentle, benign presence. This presentation is a far cry from the monstrous horror we have come to expect from death. Death in this film is not a Grim Reaper wishing to engulf us in his inevitability. He wishes only to present himself as a fact of life. To understand himself and be understood by others as an experience which has a unique time and place for everyone. Occurring not one moment sooner nor later than necessary, and then as something not to be feared, but rather embraced in its turn.

There are other reasons to watch this rare production of the story. The fine cast: the beautiful Yvette Mimieux is in her prime here and perfect for the title role. I say "title role" because there is actually a dual title role here. It is the interaction between Yvette Mimieux's character and Monte Markham as Death that sets up the central dilemma that drives the picture. Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas are fine in supporting roles. Laurindo Almeida's haunting score creates an atmosphere of romantic suspense even while it facilitates contemplation.

So why doesn't this production have a better reputation? I suspect it's because, while the actors fulfill their roles admirably, they do so in a nuts and bolts manner which lacks drama. This production of the story is therefore out of step with the prevailing value in Hollywood: entertainment. For maximum entertainment value, a picture with greater dramatic impact is preferable.

Nevertheless, it is testimony to the dramatic impact and eternal relevance of this story that it has been remade several times since with great success, most notably in "Meet Joe Black." "Death Takes A Holiday" is a fine, underrated film which I give three stars!
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A Classic Remake of a Classic
Bek24 April 2006
This has to be my all-time favorite movie. Perhaps it appeals more as a Romance with supernatural undertones. The acting alone is not exceptional, but when you combine the story, actors, set and filming's a winner.

I remember seeing it on television in 1971 and then again in the late 90's. It's really a shame that this movie does not get more air play or that it has never been released on VHS or DVD. With the release of "Meet Joe Black," the story line was somewhat resurrected. However, this remake doesn't compare with the 1971 version.

The original black and white version may appeal to some, but I really enjoyed the color version more. In fact, it wasn't until I saw the 1971 made for TV movie that I even heard about the book/play.

The story really makes you wonder, not so much about the romance, but what WOULD really happen if "Death" took a holiday.
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Reasonable remake of classic film.
theowinthrop8 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This was an updating of the classic play and film from the early 1930s, with a good cast including Monty Markham, Yvette Mimieux, Melvin Douglas and Myrna Loy. It was certainly above average as a made for television film, and was in color. However, Mitchell Leisin's black and white movie still looks quite striking today, and the addition of color was hardly necessary for the story line.

The only points I wanted to add to discussing this particular version was that they added an element not in the original. Albert Casella's play was set in his native Italy, and Leisin had kept that in his film version. But in this update, it was set in the U.S., in modern times (since it was shot in 1970 let us say the 1970s). But Duke Lambert's family is now the Chapman family. The Chapmans are a wealthy and politically active family, with Douglas and Loy as Patriarch and Matriarch (and son Kerwin Matthews is a U.S. Senator) who have had serious losses and tragedies over the years. In fact, one of the early sequences (where two grandsons are on a boat that looks like it is going to be hit by an out-of-control speedboat) is typical of the type of family tragedies they have suffered. As Death (Markham) is now taking his holiday, the disaster is averted.

Of course, the idea behind this change was based on the number one political/wealthy family in America: the Kennedys. It was a curious, and I would say unnecessary change, but I suspect that the teleplay writers felt that it would help bring home the message more if we were thinking of American wealth and privilege at stake instead of old European aristocracy.
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I loved it!!!
raynbetty25 February 2008
I saw this TV movie back in the 70's and it left a memorable impression on me. I absolutely loved it. Yvette Mimieux is a beautiful young woman and Monte Markham a handsome young man (who is actually death in human form) the story is great. The quality of the film does not do the actors or the story justice, however it is such a captivating story and the stars so easy on the eyes it makes it easy to ignore the lack of quality. The movie instantly became one of my all time favorites. I have been looking for it on VHS or DVD ever since. I finally got a copy that was made off of 16mm film but the quality is just OK, but at least I could finally watch it again. I fell in love with it all over again.
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A remake...but an enjoyable remake.
MartinHafer2 March 2017
"Death Takes a Holiday" was a Broadway play, a 1934 film (starring Frederic March) and was remade a few years ago as "Meet Joe Black". In between, it was an installment of "The ABC Movie of the Week"-- starring Yvette Mimieux, Monte Markham, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas. Because it's such a familiar story, there is a good chance you, the reader, are already familiar with it...but here goes:

The Angel of Death (Markham) sees a dying girl (Mimieux) but instead of taking her soul, he brings her back to life. After all, he really is not a person and doesn't understand us. And, through the young lady, he hopes to experience, for a brief time, what it is to be human. The young lady falls for him...though over time, her father starts to realize who their strange house guest might be...especially since from the time he arrived, no one...not a single soul on Earth has died!! And, while this might SEEM to be a good really isn't as mangled and twisted bodies inexplicably cannot be released through death.

Monte Markham is an actor most folks who grew up in the 60s and 70s would least his face. And, as death, he does a nice job. It's also nice to have Douglas and Loy on hand to offer the film a real sense of quality and class. I still prefer the original and urge you to try this first, but this TV version is still worth your time because the story is so strong.
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Very Good Version of the Play
Michael_Elliott29 August 2015
Death Takes a Holiday (1971)

*** (out of 4)

Peggy Chapman (Yvette Mimieux) is out swimming when she begins to struggle under the sea. Moments later she wakes up on the beach with David Smith (Monte Markham) standing there. She invites the man back to her family's home but soon her father (Melvyn Douglas) begins to think that the man might just be Death himself.

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY is a classic play that has been filmed many times over the decades including a wonderful version from 1934 that featured Fredric March. While this made-for-TV version isn't nearly as great, this film is certainly highly entertaining and manages to hit on all the key parts of the play as well as featuring some excellent performances from the cast.

I've always found the idea of Death taking a vacation and not collecting any souls to be quite fascinating and this film manages to make all the strong points in only 74 minutes. There are so many fascinating things dealing with the story including the discussion on why people fear Death so much and why many will fight it even if they are unhappy on Earth. There are so many interesting things discussed here and it's truly the type of story that makes you think and wonder about your own life.

The performances are certainly a very strong point here with both Mimieux and Markham doing an excellent job in their roles. Both of them certainly make you believe in these characters and there's no doubt that they make for a great couple. Douglas is simply wonderful as the old man who begins to suspect that Death is near but not quite sure who for. Him and Markham have a sequence where they go back and forth on the subject and it's wonderfully performed. Myrna Loy also appears as the wife and Bert Convy is on hand as well.

The 1934 version of the play is still the best that I've seen but this television movie is certainly worth checking out.
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Death Has A Soul !
Samuel Warren Jr.11 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Death Has A Soul ! by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Death ! The Big D ! This TV movie gives "Death" a body and a face. American Actor Monte Markham is the global immortal entity of "Death", who is "Joe Average Citizen" off the streets of America with a need to satisfy his curiosity.

"Why do people 'Fear Death ? ! ' " When "Death" stands, in front of you, in your face and stares into your eyes, then, you always realize that someday -- Death -- He or She -- will look into Your Eyes for the Final Time.

Critics always "Trash" this movie because they wanted,yet, another lame "Love Story." Critics miss "The Point Of This Movie : Life Through Death's Eyes." I give this movie a rating of 10 stars because it is a memorable TV Movie of my youth. I have never forgot this movie. When I think of "Death", I always see Monte Markham as a stylish, young James Bond, who grins his wry smile.

I remember this movie, when "Death" comes to a family member or loved one.

The script might of originally intended to be a re-write of or a re-make of the 1934 movie, but, "Death Takes A Holiday -- 1971" is an infant born to grow up in the world with a different life.

This movie demands you remember "The Time Period" to appreciate and understand it.

In 1971, Americans were up to their necks in the bleeding corpses of "The Vietnam War." The American Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s lingered like a hangover, which lacked the political and financial courage to become a full blown domestic "Race War."

In 1971, American Women were tired of life in the shadows. American Women were intent on their refusal to quit being treated as creatures only one brain cell smarter than livestock.

In 1971, Americans were fed up with "The Cold War", "The Iron Curtain," "The Berlin Wall", "Civil Defense Paranoia", bomb shelters and Geiger counter nightmares. The never ending Communism Versus Democracy Political Olympics ate away at your nerves.

In 1971,The American Bicentennial Celebration on the horizon had thrust open Pandora's Box. The Gates Of Hell flew open and all of America's social ills raged like the Mississippi River on fire across America.

"Zombie" movies took off like wildfire in America in the 1960s. Alas, What Is A Zombie ? The Walking Dead.

The United States Of America in the 1960s was "Earth's Cemetery where humans lived as corpses who feared they would stumble and fall into their own open grave and be unable to rise and crawl back out." "The Vietnam War" became "Hell On Earth" for "All" Americans. We were reminded "Life Is Uncertain." You can perish in a heartbeat day or night. Americans are mortal. Americans can "Die" in countless numbers on a daily basis, for no logical reason, other than a perverted old politician's ego.

In 1971, God, Yahweh, Jehovah and Allah were all drunks passed out on bar stools. Religion In America ended up in the toilet.

The Reverend Billy Graham, Garner Ted Armstrong and others "Preached" their hearts out. Yet, the flag draped steel caskets from Vietnam were the last remains of real people killed by the real War.

Every confidence artist in America donned the title "Reverend" and hung out a shingle to open their own compound as a religious cult.

Crime in America in the 1970s went "Off The Charts." President Lyndon Baines Johnson had a reputation as a "Thug." President Richard M. Nixon had a reputation "As Crooked As A Dog's Hind Leg." Even a presidential pardon, does not restore a politician's reputation.

The Boston Strangler and The Zodiac Killer shared newspaper headlines and created nightmares in America in the 1960s and 1970s.

The word, "Mafia" was whispered or carefully and cautiously spoken across America in the 1970s because these criminals were suspected of being everywhere from government to your next door neighbor.

I came into my teenage years in the early 1970s. I had the annoying lustful, sinful hormones of a teenage boy. My real "Fear" was that the next birthday would make me old enough for "The Draft" and certain "Death" in "The Vietnam War" before I ever had a chance to be intimate with a woman.

In the 1970s in America, the reality of Hamburger Hill replaced The Holy Land.

Death In America In The 1970s had a name : "The Vietnam War." No one knows what "Death" really is.

Every Religion on the planet attempts to filter Death.

Movie studios in Hollywood kept "Censors" on the payroll until around the 1980s. The "Censors" were legendary for their editing of movie, TV scripts and films.

It is no surprise "Death Takes A Holiday" in 1971 was vague on Death's dialogue. Movie studios wanted profits not controversy. America's "Religious Right" never hesitated to wield power in the 1960s and 1970s.

The actors and actresses in this movie earned their paychecks. It is no stretch of the imagination to suspect that Hollywood immortalized "America's Gods And Goddesses"-- the powerful, youthful, wealthy and political Kennedy Family.

Monte Markham gives "Life" to "Death" -- a body and a face. Mr. Markham eases his emotions into the role and "Death Has Feelings." Mr. Markham's portrayal of "Death" gives the universal, mystical entity a "Sense Of Style." If you watch, "Death Takes A Holiday -- 1971", as a Love Story, you "Cheat Yourself."

Teach a maggot to write and before it becomes a housefly, it will give you a Love Story.

Death Is A Reality. "Death Takes A Holiday -- 1971" gives "Death" a "Life" to satisfy "Curiosity" and stand in the shoes of a human.

I applaud Monte Markham's performance as "Death." Monte Markham gave "Death's Curiosity" the answer : Death Has A Soul.
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Death Takes a Holiday with Monte Markham - loved it!
tcw202018 July 2013
I saw this movie in the 70's and it has been on my mind ever since. I look for it from time to time, but have never been successful in locating a copy. It's hard to believe I've been hoping to see it again for over 40 years!

Recently I've started wondering if it really was all that great, but after bumping into the reviews I just read here, my desire to see it again has returned. It was good to see that others were haunted by this film also....

If anyone knows where to get a copy of this movie or has information about when it could air, I would be very excited to know! If for nothing else, to be done looking. I must have really loved this movie!
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Death Invited to Spend the Weekend
Uriah4324 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
While snorkeling in the ocean, "Peggy Chapman" (Yvette Mimieux) gets tangled up in some underwater kelp. She wakes up on the beach and sees a man sitting next to her named "David Smith" (Monte Markham) who she thanks for saving her life. He is then invited to spend the weekend with her family and it becomes obvious that there is something different about him. Not only that, but the elderly patriarch of the family named "Judge Earl Chapman" (Melvyn Douglas) feels extremely uneasy in his presence. Coincidently, nobody in the entire world dies during the time he is a guest at the house. Anyway, rather than divulge the rest of the story and risk spoiling it for those who haven't seen it, I will just say that this wasn't bad for a made-for-television movie. I enjoyed the performance of Melvyn Douglas who seemed to harbor a genuine fear of death. Likewise, Yvette Mimieux seemed tailor made for the part of the rich and attractive young woman who lives life to the utmost. On the other hand, while Monte Markham's performance was adequate, I thought his image could have used a couple of scenes where he inspired a bit more horror. Additionally, while there was certainly quite a few conversations about death and dying, I felt that most of them were empty and vague when they should have been richer and more meaningful. In other words, it seemed that deep philosophical or religious topics were glossed over or not fully addressed. Be that as it may, this was a decent film which I rate as slightly above average.
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