Horror Movie A Day: Quint on I BURY THE LIVING (1958)
I destroyed them… something in me killed them.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
Just kidding, I got a full review for you today! I ain’t no bum!
Today’s move is I BURY THE LIVING a ‘50s atmospheric shocker. This movie is basically a long TWILIGHT ZONE episode.
The center plot device is a cemetery plot board containing black and white pins. Black are plots that are filled, white are plots that are reserved, but the owner… well, isn’t ready for it yet.
Richard Boone, playing small town store owner Robert Kraft, is elected by town officials to oversee the cemetery. Apparently, it’s a temporary position that requires little more than a monthly check-up and payroll deployment that the fat cats of the town allocate (via committee) every year.
Boone reluctantly takes it up and is initiated by creepy Scotsman groundskeeper… no, not named Willie, but McKee (played by Theodore Bikel).
A pair of Boone’s friends, newlyweds, come by before heading off to their honeymoon. There’s a condition of the marriage that, for some reason, is that they order their funeral plots before they get their dowry, so they do.
Boone mistakenly puts black pins into those plots instead of white pins. Sure enough, the couple dies in a fiery car accident.
Now, Boone starts to suspect that he has some kind of paranormal power. He and his girlfriend see each other in their mind’s eye at the same time, and can even communicate that way. That’s not developed much, but it gives us a background to where the power lies.
Is it with this map? Have previous overseers had this power? Or does the power lay within Boone?
As the movie progresses, it goes beyond a shadow of a doubt that whomever Boone gives a black pin dies. Some are older, some younger and in perfect health. No foul play is suspected, even when Boone contacts the local police to tell them about this ability.
Boone becomes more and more desperate to try to figure out this power and deal with the immense guilt.
This device is a great one, but ultimately it does feel like they tread water after about half an hour. How many more times are we going to see someone make Boone give a random plot a black pin in order to prove how it’s all just coincidence?
It takes them an hour to get to the question I was posing after 15 minutes. If replacing a white pin with a black kills someone, what does replacing a black pin with a white one do?
Now, the answer to that question is fairly disappointing, at least for me. If I was a studio looking for a film to remake, this one would be high on my list precisely because I think it drops the ball with the ending and taking the premise as far as it could go.
That said, the movie brings a ton of atmosphere, poses some real moral issues that Boone does a wonderful job expressing and gives us a lot of really memorable characters. Director Albert Band (PREHYSTERIA, DRACULA’S DOG and producer of TROLL and ROBOT JOX) does a fine job of visualizing the hysteria and overwhelming guilt surrounding Boone.
Theodore Bikel deserves a mention as the creepy Scottie groundskeeper, who always seems to be hovering just out of frame, or outside a window. He knows more than he’ll admit and holds the film’s secrets. What makes him extra creepy is the fact that he couldn’t have been much more than 30 years old, but he’s playing a man at retirement age, so he’s got this period’s typical cheaper old man make-up on… you know, baby powder in the hair to make it look white, etc. It looks off, but not bad, so it only makes him really effective in being off-putting.
Final Thoughts: It’s an effective, but unfortunately flawed film that doesn’t take the best advantage of the gimmick premise. The acting is great, the set-up is great, the characters are mostly well-developed, but the ball is dropped quite a bit in the actual plotting of the last act. Luckily, the atmosphere and real sense of despair hold the film’s head above water, but I think there’s a much scarier and haunting version of this film that can be told. Even though I hardly ever advocate remaking classics, I think this film would be a perfect example. As long as they keep the cemetery map board looking like a pair of tits as drawn by Picasso.
Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October:
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
Added two more titles to the drawing pool! Click above to check out the noobs!
Now’s the the time to pull the next HMAD!
Next up is:
Yay for Peter Cushing and Werewolves. Bring it on!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Oct. 15, 2008, 11:39 p.m. CST
by wuher da brewer
Tomorrow's is more of a mystery than a horror. There is even an intermission to guess the identity of the werewolf. Boring!
Oct. 15, 2008, 11:48 p.m. CST
I caught that one on AMC a couple years ago. One of them gimmicky movies where they take a moment at the end to let the audience figure out who the werewolf is. It's a pretty fun movie, if I recall.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:01 a.m. CST
by The Crystal Skull
With Peter Cushing and werewolves coming up next?? Awesome!
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:03 a.m. CST
I've seen a movie Quint hasn't? I feel like a huge movie geek now.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:11 a.m. CST
Assuming he's still capable of making a good film. Or maybe Gore Verbinski instead. This film's premise is great and I'd love to see it fully explored.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:14 a.m. CST
Fear of this bigass gun.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:29 a.m. CST
by Spifftacular Squirrel Girl
Thanks to this column I've been able to see some really great horror films. I LOVED Black Sabbath and I think this might be the next movie I'll have to track down and watch.
Oct. 16, 2008, 1:20 a.m. CST
by Big Bad Clone
I recall it being far too slow and now I can't remember how it ended.
Oct. 16, 2008, 1:37 a.m. CST
by Boba Fat
...it's a film best shared.
Oct. 16, 2008, 2:30 a.m. CST
Force the hand of the Changeling!! Everything else will just be watchable or worse! Pray to your George C Scott God!!!!
Oct. 16, 2008, 2:39 a.m. CST
by Boba Fat
That's planned for my Halloween night viewing, I love some vintage Italian horror, but now I'm torn. If it comes out of the sack before the 31st will I be able to resist a peek at the review? Guess I'll have to unless the movies gods keep that baby until last. I've got high hopes for that film being a lost gem.
Oct. 16, 2008, 3:10 a.m. CST
I haven't seen it in ages , you know what:? I like it better! It reminds me of the old days with a 65 Cronet and too much horsepower! It reminds me of mary jane rotten crotch and her smooth thighs... I think I love this movie now!!!
Oct. 16, 2008, 4:26 a.m. CST
Have You Decided All the Horror Films Your going to watch this October or are You still takeing Ideas?
Oct. 16, 2008, 4:50 a.m. CST
Peter Cushing does Not play The Main Character but Any Film that has both Peter Cushing and The Co-Star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Charles Gray in has got to be Special
Oct. 16, 2008, 4:53 a.m. CST
Thank goodness. Man, I want your dvd collection. How's about shipping them suckers off to Sydney when ya thru. Thanks champ.
Oct. 16, 2008, 5:22 a.m. CST
Beast Must Die is a funky flick that could have only been made in the 70's. Agatha Christie meets Curt Siodmak.
Oct. 16, 2008, 5:22 a.m. CST
Sure, rattle off your list to me and I'll let you know if any titles jump out at me.
Oct. 16, 2008, 5:38 a.m. CST
CHRISTINE is a fuckin' classic. One of my favorite King adaptations, one of my favorite Carpenter flicks.
Oct. 16, 2008, 6:08 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
wonderful! One of my favourites of the period.
Oct. 16, 2008, 7:02 a.m. CST
Try "The Night Caller From Outer Space", B&W 60's British B Movie. It's about 6 movies squished together: The Day the Earth stood still, a swinging London/seedy soho flick, noir detective, a missile-bra lab sexy assistant / absent-minded boffin / impetuous Yank hero flick, and alien slasher film. Any film where the alien advertises for victims in a girlie mag, and which features a PoV shot of him trying to run down soldiers in a stolen jeep (huge disfigured hand on steering wheel) is unbeatable. Featuring a young John "Enter the Dragon"/"Nightmare on Elm St" Saxon.
Oct. 16, 2008, 7:51 a.m. CST
This one's just begging for a remake. I like the Shyamalan suggestion. God knows, the guy needs some new ideas.
Oct. 16, 2008, 7:56 a.m. CST
this film was not bad at all. i picked it up for a mate that loves these 50's numbers, for the equivalent of US$2, i think. spot on with the "elongated episode of The Twilight Zone" review, but that's no bad thing. considering the only decent film Shyamalan did could be reviewed the same, and everything after 6th Sense was a "poor, elongated episode of The Twilight Zone", i don't know maybe he should remake it. it would be low budget enough, unless he wanted to beautify it with fairies, pixies and walking trees or something.
Oct. 16, 2008, 8:18 a.m. CST
say no more, I'm sold!
Oct. 16, 2008, 10:14 a.m. CST
Another Midnite Madness DVD, and one of my favorite Vincent Price films. It's Corman, it's Poe, it's Satanic Vincent Price, and it looks fantastic.
Oct. 16, 2008, 10:46 a.m. CST
by American Hyena
For (at least part of) December? 'Cause damned if this column isn't making me feel extra Halloween-minded.
Oct. 16, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST
and tune into AMC Friday nights after midnight or TMC Fridays at 2AM (Saturdays?). They ran both of these recently.<p>In fact AMC will have their Octoberfest of horror soon. If you get a chance see Survival:Pinata Island with a post Buffy Nicholas Brandon and a pre-Earl Jamie Pressley. It's a hoot of bad CGI (seemingly done on a Commodore 64), and bad acting.
Oct. 16, 2008, 11:42 a.m. CST
I believe Quint said he has already seen The Changeling, and this AMAD thing is just for movies he hasn't seen yet. BTW Quint, I mentioned Kwaidan in an earlier Talkback. Have you caught that one or could it be worked in this month? I've got it from Netflix but have only got about halfway through the first story, so no comments yet.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:17 p.m. CST
Interesting role for that ultimate badass, Richard Boone.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:24 p.m. CST
I BURY THE LIVING is one of the truly iconic horror films of the 1950s. Circumventing a zip budget, the script didn't compromise on creativity (a caretaker's cemetery map as a living entity). But the producers tampered with the final edit. Richard Boone originally died of fright; evidently, preview cards chastised the "unhappy" ending so a more idly upbeat conclusion was inserted (a la INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS). The "living dead/supernatural" hook is "rationally" rendered into a muder scheme (incredibly contrived, what with Boone's elderly apprentice inexplicably nailed as the culprit); this entire cop-out conflicts with the prologue (which telegraphs the original ending). Albert Band's direction transcended the shoestring production (this guy spawned Charlie Band?). By the way, some traces of the original ending are still visible in the climatic (erratic) editing. Could have been another CARNIVAL OF SOULS or CURSE OF THE DEMON if only the producers had not loused it up.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:25 p.m. CST
By the way, this is one of the very few times that I'd encourage a remake (original ending intact).
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:44 p.m. CST
I've got Beast must Die on my TiVo from AMCTV a couple weeks back. Will watch it closer to Halloween. <p> And I think the Christmas Movie a Day idea is AWESOME. Think about it Quint. Be sure to check for Bob Mitchum in RKO classic "A Holiday Affair". Weird to see Bob in a sappy romantic lead.
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:53 p.m. CST
Oct. 16, 2008, 12:55 p.m. CST
by American Hyena
to throw at Quint. Thanks for the support on the idea Himbo :-)
Oct. 16, 2008, 1:07 p.m. CST
by Drunken Rage
Saw it on tv 30+ years ago, thought it spooky; recently rewatched it, has a disappointing ending but holds up very well. Great cinematography, too.
Oct. 16, 2008, 2:09 p.m. CST
by Rib Eye
"Once upon a time there was a cemetery caretaker who discovered that if he put black pins into the vacant plots on his cemetery map, the people who owned those plots would die. But when he took out the black pins and put in white pins, do you know what happened? The movie turned into a big pile of shit!"
Oct. 16, 2008, 2:57 p.m. CST
You should check out Madhouse with Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. Great flick that scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.
Oct. 16, 2008, 2:58 p.m. CST
by blonde redhead
but yeah. it sort of falls apart. it looks sort of cool though, doesn't it? that first still you posted is almost weirdly painterly. <br><br> even though it mostly sucks i still think it's a fun little movie.
Oct. 16, 2008, 4:30 p.m. CST
by spud mcspud
You've actualy made me interested enough to go seek this one out Quint: I BURY THE LIVING sounds like some creepy fun, even if there probably is a better movie in there somewhere.<P> Now, THE BEAST MUST DIE... there's a classic gimmick in this movie... ah, I can't spoil it for you, but I absolutely pissed myself laughing when I saw this again a couple of years ago when I got it on DVD. Last time I saw it, I was 10, and it was the early 80s...<P> Quint, strap yourself in, because with THE BEAST MUST DIE you may just die laughing. Hilarious fun.
Oct. 16, 2008, 4:34 p.m. CST
by spud mcspud
caruso_stalker217 beat me to it. Yep, there's a pause where the film actually stops to ask you who the werewolf is. Fan-fucking-tastic!<P> Enjoy with beer. Lots of beer.
Oct. 16, 2008, 4:37 p.m. CST
by spud mcspud
TERROR VISION, TROLL, KILER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, SESSION 9, ILS, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, PHASE IV, DEMON SEED...<p> If you haven't seen any of those, Quint, they're all a blast. If you have... well played, sir, keep digging up those unseen gems, and I'll keep reading your reviews. This should be an annual thing!
Oct. 16, 2008, 5:46 p.m. CST
Good idea! I believe it's the only Hammer film to deal with Zombies, and a pretty fun number in a Hammer sort of way. Lacking some of their classic cast members but making up for it in Zombies. Good call, Spud.
Oct. 16, 2008, 5:57 p.m. CST
a genuine genre-buster and the only (barely) watchable (non-comedy) Bigfoot film to date. Although, since it takes place in the deep south, one might argue that it is actually a Skunk Ape movie, not a Bigfoot movie.
Oct. 16, 2008, 11:25 p.m. CST
The ones I have in mind are more recent titles, if you felt inclined.<p> The Dark Hours- it played the first Fantastic Fest, so you probably saw it. But if you didn't it's an intense at times grusome psychological thriller.<p> Isolation-coming from Ireland, genetic experiments go horribly wrong on a farm. Tense.Creepy.<p>The Other Side-Badass Reapers stalk people who escaped from Hell. I recommended this the other day in Harry's DVD column talkback. It's not scary really, but full of action and cleaver ideas.<p>Dagon-Stuart Gordon's fun adapatation of Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth<p>Love Object- A guy develops an unhealthy fixation with his sex doll. It interfears with his relationship with a real woman and things get nasty. This came out long before Lars and the Real Girl.
Oct. 18, 2008, 5:54 p.m. CST
by spud mcspud
That's in my collection of weird-movies-I-bought-but-haven't-seen-yet - must get around to that! <P> I loves me some Lovecraft. Nameless things from unkonwn worlds, non-Euclidean geometry, things that should not be... fantastic!
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