Youve watched your House on Haunted Hill, I Saw What You Did and The Tingler over and over again. Last falls 13 Ghosts DVD has been in heavy rotation for months. The new Mr. Sardonicus, Straight-Jacket and Homicidal discs wont be out until March. Whats the avid William Castle fan to do in the meantime? Let me suggest MGMs release of I Bury the Living, the greatest William Castle movie he never made.
Instead, the film is the work of screenwriter Louis Garfinkle and, more importantly director Charles Band. (Famous to B-Movie buffs not just for directing such films as Draculas Dog, but for being the father of 80s schlock mainstay Albert Band.) I Bury the Living was one of Band the seniors first movies, and its clear that he and Garfinkle decided to emulate Castles popular horror flicks. The script, with its "are these events supernatural or the work of wicked men" plotline definitely recalls the Castle oevre, as does Bands amusingly florid, any-damn-thing-for-a-jolt direction. Star Richard Boone, late of TVs Have Gun Will Travel, even looks a bit like Castle mainstay Vincent Price, despite here being bereft of his similar trademark pencil mustache. Heck, even the harpsichord theme music borrows from some of Castles films.
Boone stars as a small town businessman assigned a yearly position as the head of the town cemetery. Given a tour by the facilitys aged caretaker, Scotty, Boone is shown the map that shows all the assigned plots. Those currently unoccupied are marked with a white pin, those that are tenanted with a black one. Boone accidentally marks the plots of a couple still living, only to learn hours later that theyve since died in a car crash. He begins to fear that he has a ghastly supernatural ability to cause the death of whomever he marks with a black pin.
Hats off to MGM for a simply spectacular transfer. The black and white photography is eye-poppingly crisp and the contrasts are gorgeous. Its simply stunning, about as good as any film from that period that Ive seen. In some ways, its too sharp. Veteran actor Theodore Bikel, aged thirty-four at the time, here is assigned to play a character in his sixties. This is accomplished through heavy make-up (not to mention about the thickest bogus Scottish accent Ive ever heard) and a gray wig, the artifice of comically enhanced by the discs digital clarity. The mono sound is equally good, absent of any hissing or background noise.
An extremely fun (and quite Castle-esque) trailer is included, which is a bit more speckled than the print itself. Thats about it. Still, for that price what do you expect?
Ken Begg, 3/12/2002