I Bury The Living (1958)
One might easily assume after watching this Albert Band chiller that it must have been meant for Vincent Price. I’m not saying Price was ever approached to play the role of a business man assigned to oversee the goings on at the local cemetery, The Immortal Hills but I will say that tough guy Richard Boone does the film justice proving he could play more than an outlaw on the western trail or anti-hero Paladin on TV as he is mainly known for.
The catch is a nifty one. In the main office on the grounds of the cemetery is a large map of the estate that has pins designating the plots that are occupied and those that are sold awaiting the owners to take their place after death claims them. Black pins for the occupied plots and white ones for the sold yet unoccupied ones. Purely by accident Boone will place two black pins on the board for a young married couple who have reserved plots for their senior years. Within a 24 hour period they are killed in an automobile accident. When Boone discovers his mistake on the pin color he is of course distraught thinking he placed a bad omen that by chance came true upon the couple. As if to prove to himself it was a freak occurrence he blindly places a black pin once again on the board in exchange for a white one only to find out the elderly man who owns it drops dead that night. Now Boone is beginning to doubt his sanity.
If this was to follow a clichéd pattern of the horror genre Boone would likely be burying his enemies and plotting a move up the ladder of the city council. The script however sends Boone in a different direction and he not only reports his findings to the police but wants off the job. He turns to his three seniors on city council who urge him not to turn in his resignation and in an attempt to prove his theory wrong convince Boone to switch all their white pins to black ones.
This nifty thriller turns into a claustrophobic night for Boone who is having his mental state challenged. As the night ticks away he slowly discovers that the black pins are indeed marking his three friends for death. The film takes on a voodoo like presence and can you imagine what might happen if Boone were to switch the black pins marking the deceased’s graves with white ones thus bringing the dead back to life? Presents all kinds of ideas and plot developments which I have to say might be fun should they ever be explored more in a redo or re-imagining of this classic little B film that causes one to shudder.
This is really a one of a kind film in the career of Richard Boone who was at this time just hitting his stride with the Have Gun Will Travel Show and following that run would primarily play in westerns and more often than not as a villain in titles like Hombre, Big Jake and the kidnapping thriller Night of the Following Day. If one eyes up the credits you’ll see that famed make-up man Jack Pierce is credited here though his work is minor when compared to the classic creatures he created for Universal Studios during the thirties and forties.While director Band is mostly associated with the horror genre it should be noted that following this thriller he filmed an admirable tale titled Face of Fire starring James Whitmore as a man disfigured by a brutal fire thus being looked at as a monster because of it.
Long available in varying degrees of quality, I Bury the Living turned up recently on blu ray from Scream Factory and is well worth a look for those who are Boone fans or for those who love the eerie black and white low budget classics of the past. I guess I can raise my hand on both counts.