Ranked sixth on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female screen legends from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, model and singer. Famous for playing the comedic "blonde bombshell,” Monroe quickly became one of the most recognizable sex symbols of the 1950s and early 1960s. Long after her untimely death in 1962, Monroe continues to be a relevant, major pop culture icon with an ever-lasting legacy unparalleled in the history of the silver screen. The latest true crime documentary from Netflix, “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes,” attempts to uncover the secrets and answer sought-after questions surrounding the mysterious death of Monroe (emphasis on ‘attempts’.)

From documentary filmmaker Emma Cooper (“Louis Theroux: America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis”), “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” explores the moderately compelling mystery surrounding the dubious death of Marilyn Monroe. Told through never before seen archival footage and interviews with friends and family of the iconic star, the film teases vague conspiracies and irrelevant commentary on the well-documented life of a larger-than-life individual.

While I am not the biggest fan of Marilyn Monroe (I’ve only seen her in Billy Wilder’s 1959 classic, “Some Like It Hot”), I greatly admire the artist for her unprecedented contributions to the film industry and the key role she played in body positivity for women, especially in 1950s America. Life, as we know it, would be quite different had it not been for Monroe and what she did for women and film. Monroe was a top-billed actress for over a decade with her films grossing over $200 million (equivalent to $2 billion in 2022 when adjusted for inflation). Monroe was a bonafide movie star unlike ever seen since or before.  

Though her death is undeniably shrouded in mystery (which could be compelling to explore), it’s the way in which director Emma Cooper chooses to present this mystery to the audience that completely derails the picture into clichéd, schlocky, forgettable vanity fair. Oversexualizing the very real woman, diminishing respectability and failing to make any insightful claims whatsoever, I struggle to even comprehend the purpose of the documentary, especially given the film does no independent research of its own. It’s a flabbergasting, incoherent slog to sit through in all honesty. 

The film promises a plethora of shocking, never before seen interviews with close friends and family members alike, but instead, we receive shoddily thrown together, lip-sync reenactments of interviews with housekeepers and supposed ‘friends’ of Monroe. It’s an utter disgrace. Rumor this and rumor that. She said this and did that with him. It’s painfully elementary and rudimentary in the most nauseating way imaginable. I learned nothing insightful upon succumbing my mind and body to this poor excuse of a documentary for 101 minutes. My time would have been better spent daydreaming as I stare off into a fire (it certainly would have been more thought-provoking.)

Inexcusably offensive in its blatant mediocrity, “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” proves that some mysteries are better left unsolved. 4 damaging eye rolls out of 10.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch. 

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