When I wrote that the Cameo were screening I Bury the Living at 11.45pm on a Friday night I knew I had to head along. Partly to see exactly what this 1950s frightfest was all about and partly for the memories.
While at Uni back in the mid 90s I would regularly go to the Cameo with friends to watch midnight double bills in Screen One.
I Bury the Living is a 1958 “horror” film from cult director Albert Band and starring cowboy extraordinaire Richard Boone as Robert Kraft and character actor Theodore Bikel as Scottish caretaker Andy McKee.
Brought in to oversee the management of a cemetery in small town USA – and after retiring the caretaker of 40 years – Kraft is introduced to the map of the cemetery which details the ownership of the various plots. Black pins are for “occupied” plots while white pins are for those who have reserved a place for the future.
After two newlyweds stop by to spend their honeymoon near the cemetery (as you do), Kraft makes the mistake of putting black pins into the couple’s plots on the board instead of white.
Next day the couple are dead. From here the tension mounts as Kraft works on his theory that he has some sort of power over the board…and the body count rises.
The first thing to say about the picture is that this isn’t a traditional horror film, one of the main reasons for the debate that has surrounded the film for the last 50 years. The poster suggests blood dripping, monsters roaming and, well, a few members of the living being buried. Nothing to see here…
Instead we’re offered a film that, for the first hour or so at least, has been compared to the best of the original Twilight Zone episodes. Sadly, apart from the hallucinatory images that suddenly turn up to lend a hand to the clearly struggling scriptwriter’s attempts to close proceedings, the film veers off into near-melodrama, leaving the viewer, who has been waiting for those living corpses to make a cameo, more than a tad confused.
Had the ending gone the way it was meant to – in a neat bit of viewer interaction the cinema stapled a synopsis of the original ending to the foyer wall – we would perhaps have been more satisfied.
All credit to the Cameo for making the effort to screen the picture, complete with a short and snappy on-screen introduction from a member of staff: I’m pinning (sorry) my hopes on them taking the same effort with a few more curios from the vaults over the coming year.