Thursday, October 13, 2011


Middle-aged Guy Carrell (Ray Milland) is a little spooked about his family history; the men in the family tend to come to sudden and violent deaths. When Guy was a child, his father had a heart attack and was buried in the family vault in the basement of their mansion, but that night, Guy heard his father screaming that he was still alive, and now Guy believes he suffers from catalepsy, a condition in which the victim appears dead but isn't, and has a strong fear of being buried alive. His sister Kate (Heather Angel) is certain that the young Guy just had a nightmare and is afraid for no reason, but she lives with and is highly protective of him. As the movie begins, Guy witnesses a grave being exhumed, and it's revealed that the body in the coffin had indeed not been dead and the person had bloodily tried to scratch his way out of the coffin, to no avail. Because one of the gravediggers (and, as we discover later, also a graverobber) is whistling the folk tune "Molly Malone," Milland begins freaking out every time he hears the song. Feeling he is in no state to inflict himself on someone else, he cancels his plans to marry the young and sexy Emily (Hazel Court), but she won't take "no" for an answer and enlists the aid of Miles (Richard Ney), a family friend, to shake him out of his morbid paranoia. Guy marries Emily, but calls off a planned honeymoon trip to Venice to retreat into a hillside vault and build an escapable coffin; eventually he is talked into making a stab at a normal marriage and agrees to the Venice trip, until the pitiful mewings of a cat that is trapped in the walls of the house freaks him out. Obviously, someone is trying to drive poor Guy mad, but who?

This is about par for the course for the American International Poe films of the 60s. Roger Corman directed and the movie looks good, especially the sets and color scheme (the purples here and there are especially striking). The plot, very loosely adapted from a Poe story, is a run-of-the-mill mystery melodrama hidden by the horror element of the buried-alive theme. The main way in which this differs from the others is that Ray Milland is the lead rather than Vincent Price; Milland is fine, though it would be nice if at least once, the lead was close in age to his romantic interest. Ney is lackluster, leaving Angel and Court to take acting honors as they make us wonder which one is the heroine and which the villain. There is a creepy premature burial dream sequence, followed later by a real one. If you haven't already seen most of these Poe flicks, I wouldn't start with this--its draggy spots are draggier than usual because the campy Price is absent--but it's not a bad October choice. [DVD]

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