Chilling Classics Cthursday: I BURY THE LIVING (1958)

Chilling Classics Cthursday: I BURY THE LIVING (1958)

Here we are, ten weeks into this Chilling Classics thang and I have to say, it's been a worthy endeavor so far. In a box crammed full of 50 movies there has to be some gems, right? It's just statistics! And it's been proven a few times over already, by the forever esteemèd Cathy's Curse, by another movie whose number will be chosen by RNGesus at some point, and by today's lit and legit treasure of a film, I Bury the Living.

If you don't believe me, well, surely you believe one Mr. Stephen King, who hailed I Bury the Living in Danse Macabre, his 1981 foray into the realm of non-fiction. Reading about horror movies--or really, reading about movies in general--has always been as vital to me as the movies themselves, and I ate Danse Macabre the fuck up in my (obligatory) read-all-the-Stephen King teen years. So it's sure nice to check off another one of the works first plopped onto my radar in that book once upon a time. 

"Heart disease is the country's number one killer!"

"Maybe not in Milford..."

Robert Kraft (Richard Boone), the perfectly average and mild-mannered President of Kraft Department Stores, is the newly-appointed chairman of Immortal Hills Cemetery. It's a year-long post, something to do with business and committees and community outreach and you know how it goes for tycoon types. Cemetery caretaker/handyman Andy McKee (Theodore Bikel, who made appearances on ColumboDynastyFalcon CrestMurder She Wrote, and Arthur Hailey's Hotel, so you know I'm in love) shows Kraft a large map of the grounds; a white pin in a plot's location means the plot has been purchased, while a black pin means the plot is filled...with a dead body! (Because that is how cemeteries work.)

Kraft accidentally sticks a black pin on a newly-purchased plot and a few hours later, the purchasers are dead. As he's always been prone to deja vu and manifesting his daydreams (like some early proponent of The Secret or something), he wonders if there might be a connection: can he kill people with the power of the black pins?

After a few more tests, a few more pins, and a few more deaths, it would seem that yes, Robert Kraft is making this happen. While you might expect that he would then, I don't know, eliminate his department store rivals and enemies or something, he just gets bummed out about this terrible power. His guilt is actually rather refreshing! Kraft locks himself away in the map room, wallowing in misery and getting all dirty and disheveled as he tries to grapple with the fact that he's essentially become a murderer, wondering: "Does a man die on his own time, or on the map's?"

I Bury the Living plays out like a really terrific Twilight Zone episode or something penned by Richard Matheson...and then it fumbles at the goal line, drops the ball, and does some...other...sports analogy in its closing minutes that may have you blurting out an "aw man!" or some such. If you don't believe me, well, even Stephen King has talked shit about the ending of this movie. Now I am not sure why I feel the need to back up my opinions with Stephen King's opinions today. I guess she moves in mysterious ways.

But you know what? It doesn't matter that the ending craps the bed, because the rest of I Bury the Living is so damn good. Director Albert Band--yes, the father of Charles Band! And the director of oh, what? Just a little something called Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (aka Dracula's Dog)--makes the absolute most of the limited sets, using special effects and unique shot set-ups to make this movie more stylish and original than a B-movie from 1958 has any right to be. In a word, I Bury the Living looks cool as hell. I'll say it again for the people at the back: this is a total gem of a movie. All hail the 50-pack! All hail Danse Macabre! All hail the map!