Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Bury the Living (1958)

The notion that good movies need to be really expensive to make money is absolutely ridiculous. The 1950's saw a lot of low budget films cropping up all over the place. Sure, for many films in the horror and science fiction genre at the time, the reason they are so good is because they are so bad. But there are some genuinely erie and entertaining cheapies that came out in the 50's. 

I Bury the Living (1958) has one of those titles that could be way too good for its content (to see what I'm talking about check out I Eat Your Skin from 1964, a real snooze fest). Fortunately it deserves it. I Bury the Living stars Richard Boone of the television series Have Gun - Will Travel. He plays Robert Kraft, the new guy in charge of the local cemetery. Theodore Bikel plays the cemetery grounds keeper. When Bikel shows Kraft to his office, he explains the purpose of a giant map of the cemetery on the wall of the office. Each grave is marked with a pin- a white pin for those who are still living but have already purchased the plot and a black pin for those who are already in their graves. Kraft eventually discovers that the map has the power to end lives and bring people back from the dead. He accidentally puts a black pin where a white pin should be and the owner of the plot dies that day. At first he believes it to be a coincidence, but when it happens again he realizes the truth. 

This movie is really short and it moves slow, but builds tension nicely as a result. The black and white cinematography creates a nice atmosphere that unfolds entirely on the cemetery grounds. There is also some incredible graveyard photography.  The acting is great and movie never gets campy. Even the effects and makeup are good for the time period. Some of it reminded me of Creepshow (1982) but without the vivid colors. Also worth mentioning is the design of the map, which I think was important because it sort of becomes a character or at least an extension of Robert Kraft. The final scenes have an incredible sequence that superimposes parts of the map over areas of the cemetery as Kraft runs around frantically. 

I'm not sure why this film isn't talked about more. It's a great example of a low-budget/high quality film from the 50's. I wish film studios today would realize that so much money is wasted on empty and meaningless crap. I think if the subject matter is good enough, it doesn't matter if it's a multi million dollar picture. People will still be interested. 

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