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The Premature Burial
Lebendig begraben

USA 1962
produced by
AIP
directed by Roger Corman
starring Ray Milland, Hazel Court, Richard Ney, Heather Angel, Alan Napier, John Dierkes, Dick Miller, Clive Halliday
screenplay by Charles Beaumont, Ray Russell, loosely based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe

AIP's Poe-cycle, Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe-adaptations

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When Guy (Ray Milland), a medical student, joins his future father in law (Alan Napier) in a little graverobbing expedition - fopr the good of science of course - the sight of the corpse - who was obviously buried alive & with his last breath tried to get out of his tomb - puts Guy to a state of shock, since he believes his father was also buried alive & he has inherited his father's disease - catalepsia - which might temporarily put him into a deathlike state, which might lead to him being buried alive ...

He even wants to break up his engagement to Emily (Hazel Court), but she persuades him to instead marry her & forget all about the graverobbing incident.  But even at their wedding, memories or the incident are triggered when Emily accidently plays the melody one of the graverobbers (John Dierkes) has been whistling back then.

Obsessively, Guy now starts building his own foolproof vault, where he has built in many an escape hatch & even stores some food, should he really be buried alive. When he shows this to his wife & his friend doctor Miles Archer (Richard Ney) though, they show little understanding - & Emily even grows worried enough to ask Archer to set up a lab at their home to have an eye on her husband, for which he would be the perfect choice, as he is not only an able medical doctor but also knows some things about the (then new) medthods of psychotherapy.

Guy's state worsens though when he has (or thinks he has) a further encounter with the graverobbers (Dierkes, Dick Miller), which tfriggers a nightmare about being buried alive in his custom-made vault & still being unable to get out. Emily & doc Archer come to the conclusion the only way to release him from his obsession is to have him destroy the vault, which Emily persuades him to by having him choose between the vault & her ... & he chooses her, blowing up his vault as a result.

For a time, Guy seems to be a changed man, firmly rooted in life again, but it only needs a cat being caught up behind the wallsw to bring back, even augment, his fears again.

Soon, Emily, Archer, & Guy's sister Kate (Heather Angel) see only one more way to release him from his fears - they have to open the crypt of his father to prove to Guy that man was not buried alive - a plan that backfires of course, when right at the door to his own private crypt, Guy's dad's skeleton is found, falling all over Guy when the door is opened. Obviously the man was buried alive after all & made it thus far from his coffin before actually dieing. The shock causes Guy to die fropm a heart attack, & since he always refused to be laid to rest in the family crypt, Emily has him buried in the local graveyard.

Dead ?, you may ask. Of course not, just when the earth is shovelled onto his coffin, he awakes from his catalepsia, but is unable to free himself.

Just a good thing his father in law has hired his favourite trusted graverobbers yet again to dig up his son in law for medical examinations (he would stop at nothing, would he ?), but by now Guy is really mad & kills the 2 of them, before going to his father in law & kill him as well. Only then does he go to Emily, but through the window he witnesses that she tries to rekindle an age old love affair with Archer.

As soon as Archer is away, Guy abducts Emily & buries her alive. Archer is hot on his trail & wants to stop him, though, but is almost killed by Guy himself instead, only a timely intervention by Kate, shooting down her own brother, can save Miles - but it's too late for Emily, who is already dead when she's digged up. However it turns out that everything was just an elaborate scheme of Emily to get rid of her husband in the first place, having arranged everything - from the frequent encounters of Guy with the graverobbers to him blowing up his tomb, to the cat caught up behind the walls, to Guy's fater's skeleton falling onto him & causing his catalepsia - in the first place ...

 

As Roger Corman planned to film this movie for Pathé but Vincent Price was under contract at AIP, this resulted in being Corman's only Poe adaptation not starring Price (even though Corman wanted him). Ironically, before filming was ended, AIP had taken over the production of Premature Burial from Pathé (incidently their processing lab), & as a result they were releasing the movie under their banner after all.

If nothing else, this movie proves that Corman's Poe-adaptations work equally well with a more restrained central actor, relying on a macabre plot, a morbid, brooding atmosphere, all brought to bloom by great colourful sets & camerawork.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD