I Bury the Living (1958)

When on a shoestring budget one can either just do everything as cheap as possible or get creative.  In this case Albert Band chose the latter.  I Bury the Living sounds like a serial killer movie and the lurid poster makes it look like a precursor to Night of the Living Dead, but it is a well-done thriller about a rational man suddenly faced with the unknown.

Robert Kraft (Richard Boone) is part of a family that owns a successful department store in a midsized town.  The family members traditionally takes turns chairing the committee that runs the local cemetery.  Robert is none-too-pleased, but his uncle George (Howard Smith) is insistent that tradition be kept.  The cemetery is tended to by an old Scottish man named Andy McKee (Theodore Bikel), whom Robert informs needs to find a replacement as it is soon time for his retirement.

On his first day there Robert accidentally places two black pins - marking graves that are occupied - on the site of the future grave sites of a newlywed couple.  They shortly afterward die in a car crash.  Thinking it may be more than a coincidence Robert puts a random black pin in another area, and that future occupant dies as well.  He tells his friend Jessie (Herbert Anderson), a reporter for the local newspaper, as well as a homicide detective named Clayborne (Robert Osterloh).  They all believe it to be coincidence, as does George and the rest of the committee, until things begin to go beyond obvious chance.  At that point Robert decides to see what happens when he puts the white pins in the occupied graves.

The one thing that lets I Bury the Living down is the ending.  My understanding is the original script, by Band and Louis Garfinkle, featured some real supernatural consequences to Kraft changing the black pins to white.  By the time the movie was made, however, a different ending was agreed upon that tries to tie things up in a more rational fashion.  This makes a good part of the buildup not make as much sense as it would if everything was playing out was as Kraft thought.  That ending was also rather bleak, more in line with Night of the Living Dead than with other 1950s thrillers.

Despite the ending Richard Boone does a great job portraying a man who is losing touch with reality.  The more he obsesses over the map the bigger it seems to get and, despite the budget, there are some great composite shots that amp up that terror.  It is the only movie I can think of in which a map seems to have a life of its own. 

I Bury the Living (1958)
Time: 76 minutes
Starring: Richard Boone, Theodore Bikel, Howard Smith, Herbert Anderson, Peggy Maurer
Director: Albert Band



  1. That sounds like an interesting premise. The Bands have been making cheap movies for a long time. I hadn't realized it went back to the 50s.


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