Monday, November 9, 2015

Cult Movie Theatre: I Bury the Living

This review is by guest blogger ClassicBecky from ClassicBecky's Brain Food.

Richard Boone in IBTL.
Have you ever been digging through a big barrel full of DVDs at Walmart and thought you found a gem...and the gem turns out to be cheap glass? A few years ago, I found a collection of DVDs with 85 science fiction movies. Frankly, I had forgotten my glasses that day, so I couldn’t read the tiny type required to list all 85 titles on the back of the DVD set. I figured, what could go wrong? Surely there would be a bunch of good ones in the group. That’s how I found the 1958 film I Bury The Living (IBTL), starring Richard Boone. It was one of three movies that even seemed like they might be good, the others being White Zombie, which I do like, and The Crawling Eye, which I thought sounded fun. The rest had names like Hercules vs. the Amazon Women and Clowns on Mars.  Pretty sad.

I really like Richard Boone, having suffered a huge crush on him when he played Paladin, the gentlemanly, very moral gunman on Have Gun--Will Travel on TV. That black and silver ensemble – what girl child could resist it? It was strange to see him in ordinary street clothes in IBTL, and he didn’t seem as tall without his black cowboy hat. However, he was still masculine, appealing, and a good actor. The movie also starred Theodore Bikel, a well-respected actor, and Robert Anderson,  a well-known character actor and Dad to Dennis the Menace.

Boone plays Robert Kraft, a businessman who has to take his turn amongst the big boys in town to run Immortal Hills, the town cemetery.  Bikel is Andy McKee, a Scottish cemetery groundsman who has 40 years in the business and is creepily attached to his graveyard. Anderson is Jess Jessup (his parents must have had no imagination), the town newspaperman who must be frantically looking for some kind of story…he is always at the cemetery.  Other members of the cast include recognizable character actors and a woman who plays Boone’s love interest. She is actress Peggy Maurer, whose only other claim to fame is the two-minute part of grown-up Wendy in 1960’s Peter Pan.

The real star of the show is The Map. I capitalize The Map because it is the centerpiece of the movie.  isual effects man Edward Vorkapich (who never did anything much else in the movie biz) designed The Map, and it is fairly creepy. It’s really big, and shows the topography of the cemetery. Big black lines, which are never explained as far as what they represent, are scrawled across the map, and look like weird Picasso-ish eyes. Throughout the movie, the map changes perspective, becomes brighter and the black lines bolder. It does so as Kraft goes quietly crazy. 

Bikel and Boone in front of The Map.
In his capacity as manager of the cemetery, it is Kraft’s job to keep track of the dead who are already buried there, and the pre-planners who are yet to come. Black pins are used to mark the already-present dead, and white pins to mark customers who have not yet arrived. The tension begins when Kraft, who apparently can’t tell black from white, keeps using black pins to mark the living. When he accidentally does this, the people die, like right away, pretty much dropping in their tracks from auto accidents, heart attacks and the like. Kraft begins to believe that he is causing the deaths. He becomes hyper-aware of McKee’s annoying singing and the sound of the chisel chipping away at the gravestones McKee is making. McKee, in the meantime, is of little help to Kraft’s mental state, and is just generally strange. The story, which has holes like swiss cheese, finally wraps up with a barely believable ending.

IBTL is directed by Albert Band, known for extremely B movies (my favorite title of his is Dracula’s Dog). The music, which is OK but not particularly good, was done by music editor Eve Newman, also known for her work on Roger Corman’s Poe movies. She also composed the score for TV’s Sky King, one of my favorites when I was a kid (“Out of the blue of the western sky comes … Sky King!”)  According to IMDb, most of the people involved in IBTL appear to be best known for this movie, which apparently wasn’t much of an asset to their curriculum vitae.

Turner Classic Movies did show IBTL on its underground movie schedule in 2007. Otherwise, I don’t know where you would find it except in the big barrel at Walmart. By the way, it didn’t really have 85 movies–just 30. Still, three good movies out of 30 is not a good bargain!

The poster is great, but whoever designed it must not have actually seen the movie.  A great “cry”?  Maybe from the audience who paid money to see it.  Otherwise, I didn’t hear a thing.


  1. Becky, that was fun. It has a great title that would certainly draw me in. Don't give up on that bin hunting!

  2. Hey, I like a good bargain, too! Like you, I am also a fan of Richard Boone as Paladin. "Have Gun Will Travel" is classic TV for me. I laughed out loud when I saw the poster and you told us that there were no cries that "froze the blood" or not. Best of all, it was really fun to read your post. Thanks for sharing, Becky!

  3. The full movie, I Bury the Living, is available on YouTube:

  4. Well, you did mention The Crawling Eye (The Trollenberg Terror), which I've always half-way liked. Cheesy monsters with typical B-movie ending, and Forrest Tucker really underplays his lead, but the basic plot is very good, and of course there's the wonderful Janet Munro. It's fun enough.

  5. I really like the first half of "I Bury the Living." I remember seeing it on AMC a million years ago, the same weekend I first saw Roy Scheider in "The Curse of the Living Corpse." The premise of the pins was eerie, and the small claustrophobic sets -- not to mention the focus on The Map -- drew me in. (Btw, I always thought the avant-garde squiggles were paths or roads through the cemetery?) But, ugh, what an unrewarding ending. And a truly weird accent by Bikel as McKee. Thanks for reminding me of this one!

  6. Becky, I haven't seen this film in decades. What I remember best is indeed The Map--a terrific creepy visual. I'd like to see it again, as I have become a big Richard Boone fan courtesy of watching HGWT repeats.

  7. Ever notice the music score in IBTL is very similar to Have Gun Will Travel episode, "The Hunt?"