I Bury the Living (1958)

“Out of a time-rotted tomb crawls an unspeakable horror!” I must confess I was disappointed by the ending of this low-budget psychological horror film – I expected something like the laughably outrageous movie poster above! – but, what the hell, I enjoyed the journey all the same (it kind of resembles a quality, extended Twilight Zone episode). Robert Kraft (Richard Boone) gets appointed as the new chairman of a committee that oversees the Immortal Hills cemetery. The outgoing cemetery caretaker, Andy MacKee (Theodore Bikel, who reminded me of groundskeeper “Sandy McFiddish” in Caddyshack) has created this large, creepy-looking map of the cemetery that features each grave site: a black pin represents graves that are occupied and a white pin stands for unoccupied graves that have been sold. After Kraft accidentally uses the black pins to represent a plot, the young couple that bought the grave sites ends up getting killed in a car accident. Kraft proceeds to experiment with other pins on the map and dead bodies start piling up. Everyone else tries to assure Kraft that it’s simply a coincidence. However, believing he has marked these innocent victims for death, a paranoid Kraft starts to lose his mind. Then Kraft gets the idea that if he replaces the black pins with white ones, just maybe he will be able to resurrect the dead! Directed by Albert Band, the film breezes by with a running time of just 76 minutes. Look for Herbert Anderson (“Henry Mitchell” in the Dennis the Menace TV series) as newspaper reporter “Jess Jessup.” Some of the graveyard shots near the end of the film reminded me of the opening scene of Night of the Living Dead (but no such pay-off here!). Stephen King referenced I Bury the Living in his 1981 nonfiction book Danse Macabre, writing “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 the white pins, do you know what happened? The movie turned into a big pile of shit! Wasn’t that funny?”

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