If you’re going to name your movie I Bury the Living, then I think there ought to be at least one scene of someone burying the living. Sadly, this never happens in this movie from 1958 that I found on my Fifty Chilling Classics set. The set comes with multiple double-sided DVD’s and there are about eight or nine movies per disc. I just finished an entire second disc from the set. In your FACE, Fifty Chilling Classics, you can’t beat me. While this movie wasn’t as bad as some I’ve seen on the set, it definitely wasn’t great.
It started with a text-block intro. Yay! You know how much I love those.
The text block is a lie, though. The movie has a stupid twist that contradicts the whole thing.
The movie stars Richard Boone as Robert Kraft, heir to the Kraft’s Department stores. He’s a grey-flannel-suited executive being forced to be the chairman on a committee overseeing a local cemetery. That’s just how they roll at Kraft’s Department Store.
Sadly, I discovered that Richard Boone isn’t the heir to the Boone’s Farm fortune.
Theodore Bikel plays Andy MacKee, the Groundskeeper Willie-esque caretaker of the cemetery. He has a terrible Scottish accent and aged-makeup.
There’s a map that has white pins in it for plots that are owned but unfilled and black pins for plots that are full. Robert accidentally puts black pins in the plot owned by a living couple and they die. Then he replaces a white pin at random with a black pin and that person dies. He tries to tell his friends and family but they dismiss him as cuckoo. I like his one friend because he’s a skeptic and I think he was separated from Johnny from Night of the Living Dead at birth.
Finally, his uncle and part owner of Kraft’s convinces Robert to replace the uncle’s pin and the pins of the two other men who sit on the Kraft’s board. Robert does it and they all die. Does he have some kind of unholy power? Does Kraft’s Department Store have access to voodoo and is that why they wanted Robert to be the cemetery chairperson so badly?
No! In the worst twist since Dream House, Andy’s the killer. He’s pissed about being forced to retire so he’s been killing everyone that Robert’s chosen. Which makes all the prior discussion in the film of déjà vu and fate pointless.
The performances are adequate, even with the terrible accent so I can’t say this movie is boring. The whole thing is technically proficient. It’s only an hour and fifteen minutes so it feels like with a little trimming, it could be a good episode of The Outer Limits or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Boone’s performance is especially good as he slowly becomes unhinged and convinced that he’s responsible for these deaths. I kind of wish the filmmakers had explored the idea differently. I think it would have been creepier if it really was some kind of voodoo and the boards of directors were using their unholy power to eliminate the competition.
I’d say that the major flaw in this movie is that it tells us what happens but never shows us. Most of the action is confined to Robert’s office at Kraft’s or his office at the cemetery. We never see anyone die, we never see anyone buried, so everything feels very static.
I did like the map, I thought it was cool and creepy looking. As Robert becomes more unhinged, the map seems to become bigger and radiant. I don’t know if I’m just cuckoo bananas or if the filmmakers consciously chose to do that. There’s a cool moment when Robert’s finally lost it when the movie becomes briefly animated.
That reminds me of the opening credits of Mad Men.
The most that I can say about this movie is that it wasn’t much of anything. It wasn’t really good but it wasn’t really offensively bad or hilariously bad. It just existed. If you’re film leaves your audience thinking that, then I really think you’ve failed. Now I wish I had some Boone’s Farm to forget this movie.