I BURY THE LIVING (1957) Reviews and free to watch online

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‘The most spine-chilling cry that ever froze the blood!…’
I Bury the Living is a 1957 American horror feature film co-produced and directed by Albert Band (Zoltan, Hound of Dracula; Ghoulies II; Doctor Mordrid), father of Charles Band, from a screenplay written by co-producer Louis Garfinkle. The movie stars Richard Boone, Theodore Bikel, Peggy Maurer and Howard Smith. It was released by United Artists in July 1958.


Robert Kraft (Richard Boone) is the newly appointed chairman of a committee that oversees a large cemetery. The caretaker, Andy MacKee (Theodore Bikel), keeps a map in the cemetery office displaying the grounds and each gravesite. Filled graves are marked by black pins and unoccupied but sold graves are marked with white pins.


New to the position and unobservant, Kraft accidentally places a pair of black pins where they don’t belong, only to discover later that the young couple who had bought the gravesites in question died in an automobile accident soon afterwards. He comes to believe that he tragically marked them for death…


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[Contain spoilers] reviews:

“Band directs I Bury the Living as if were a Noir, with slowly enfolding darkness providing a visual indication of Kraft’s crumbling state of mind in the same way that the slowly increasing size of the cemetery map symbolises the way it is becoming the sole, forbidding focal point of his life. As good as I Bury the Living is, it still qualifies as a failure because of Band’s stunningly boneheaded decision regarding that ending.” 20/20 Movie Reviews

I Bury the Living comports itself in the same manner as the very best episodes of the original Twilight Zone and begins with just the sort of off-kilter premise that made that show so memorable when it was at the top of its game. But unlike The Twilight ZoneI Bury the Living never takes a preachy or sentimental tone, even for a minute.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting


“Unjustly ignored by many books on the horror film, I Bury the Living is a bone-chilling little mood piece, almost completed dominated by Richard Boone. Expertly avoiding the obvious throughout the film, Boone gives a thoroughly credible performance of a troubled man who labors under the misapprehension that he is God.” AllMovie

“As more deaths ensue, Band builds up a climate of slow-burning eeriness with admirable economy, lending and almost sentient malevolence to the all-important map […]There is also a deliciously ominous score by Gerald Fried and I make-or-break central performance from Boone, who exudes clammy disquiet from beginning to end.” Jonathan Rigby, American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema, Signum Books, 2017


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“Still – the ending does not sink the movie, it just deflates it. As a whole, I Bury the Living is an eerie, raw experience that will haunt you in the darkness.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

“Superior tombstone mood … although the film is marred by a cop-out ending.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“A neat idea carries the film through two-thirds of its length but any horrific effect is dissipated by an unsatisfactory denouement.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

I Bury the Living has superlative cinematography, the appropriate mood and chilling music but the script lacks in delivering shocks. The film has some gaping plot holes which are hard to ignore, making one wonder just what producer/writer Louis Garfinkle had in mind with this odd little pastiche of a film? If Kraft knows his pin-sticking penchant produces death and destruction why does he continue to merrily dispense of the townsfolk, and why do other interested parties encourage him to do so?” DVD Drive-In

“The wonderful performances by Richard Boone and the various character actors add to the terror of this movie. But the sad truth is that the movie is merely a dud firecracker with a long fuse; it builds the tension to the point where you’re waiting for the explosion, and it fizzles out. I recommend the first three-quarters of this movie.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

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I Bury the Living is an inexpensive, stark picture, but it succeeds through its dark style and its unbending, relentless pursuit of the oddly imaginative, yet simple premise. The entire action of the movie takes place in only a few rooms and in a small portion of the cemetery. This combined with the fact that the majority of the scenes of tension take place in the small, dingy caretaker’s office intensify the picture’s claustrophobic, paranoid, almost surreal edge.” Film Threat

“Band develops such an intensively shadowy and haunted tension that when a mundane, non-supernatural resolution is eventually reached it seems an uneasy jolt that is not believable and where the supernatural seems to sit much easier under the circumstances. The film’s intensity and atmosphere, however, is quite memorable.” Moria

” … it kind of reminds me of something like The Monkey’s Paw in the sense that Robert’s seemingly harmless actions have deadly results. It’s just a good, spooky little tale with a naturally creepy setting in the cemetery. Much of the action takes place there, and it sets the mood well.” Oh, the Horror!

“Boone, who was a really good actor, seems to phone in his performance, and Theodore Bikel is dreadful as Andy the Scottish groundskeeper (though one has to wonder is Groundskeeper Willie was inspired by this character). The pace is slow, the action little, and the story fairly boring–all that said, this movie is a bit ahead of its time and was shot wonderfully.” Quick Horror Movie Reviews

“The premise behind I Bury the Living is at once a great idea and a terrible idea. It’s great because of its simplicity, and its way of conjuring up an atmosphere of dread. It’s terrible because all Kraft has to do to prevent people dying is not to put any black pins in the map – in fact, stay away from the map altogether!” The Spinning Image

“This entertaining ’50s terror achieves a certain sense of dread due mostly to its stark execution, dank graveyard setting, and feeling that it’s a kind of low rent Twilight Zone episode. But unfortunately, the well-crafted supernatural focus inexplicably crumbles with the cop-out finale.” The Terror Trap

I BURY THE LIVING, Richard Boone, 1958
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” …most of the time Band’s camerawork is rather staid if not almost boring and static, but the occasional experimental directorial touches like the twirl to black or overlapping dissolves are pleasant and do serve to break the monotony of the normally unmoving camera. A stroke of visual and symbolic brilliance, however, was his decision to make the map gradually larger with each scene it’s in, a surrealistic touch that does well in symbolizing Robert’s crumbling grasp on reality and the map’s growing control over him.” A Wasted Life

Cast and characters:
Richard Boone … Robert Kraft
Theodore Bikel … Andy McKee
Peggy Maurer … Ann Craig
Howard Smith … George Kraft
Herbert Anderson … Jess Jessup
Robert Osterloh … Lt. Clayborne
Russ Bender … Henry Trowbridge (uncredited)
Lynette Bernay … Elizabeth Drexel (uncredited)
Cyril Delevanti … William Isham (uncredited)
Ken Drake … Bill Honegger (uncredited)
Matt Moore … Charlie Bates (uncredited)
Glen Vernon … Stuart Drexel (uncredited)

Filming locations:
Principal production began on 29th April 1957
Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, 1831 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, California
Ziv Studios, 7950 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, California

Technical details:
77 minutes
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono (Western Electric Recording) | Mono (Ryder Sound Services)


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Film Facts:
Eighty-year-old actor Finlay Currie was originally intended for the role of the caretaker character, Andy McKee, but was replaced by thirty-four-year-old Theodore Bikel in heavy old-age makeup by Jack P. Pierce.


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