The Premature Burial (1962)

MAY 8, 2012


As a Vincent Price enthusiast, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about The Premature Burial, a rare Roger Corman/Edgar Allan Poe film that did not star the legend. Since most of them are quite obviously padded from their original short stories and kind of blend together in my memory after a while, it’s basically just Price’s always interesting performances that keep me coming back. But I don't have that attachment to Ray Milland (yet!), so I’d have to judge it on its own merits.

Well, hey, it’s pretty good! Again, its origin as a short story is pretty obvious, as not a lot happens for a while as we wait for the obvious (our hero being buried alive), and are treated to many long rambles about how afraid he is of vivisepulture, something that the first-person short story could internalize. A deaf infant could probably figure out his fear after about 20 minutes; it’s not until around the hour mark that we get to the “fear came true” business.

But it’s not really a bore until then, thankfully. There are a few fun isolated suspense scenes, including a fake scare involving a rocking horse that I found quite delightful – someday I gotta make up like, Jump Scare Bingo cards and pass them out to friends who watch as much horror as I do. Each card can be filled with random objects, and when you see one get used for a scare, you cross it off. First one to “Bingo” gets, I dunno, a copy of Paranormal Activity 2 (which would feature prominently in the DVD. “Pool Filter!”).

I also liked part of what set him off – the most casual response to a dead dog in recorded history. He’s walking around with his lady and he comes across his dog, seemingly dead. “Aw, the lightning must have gotten him. I’ll bury him,” he says, in a tone of voice one might use to express disappointment that their favorite show is a repeat this week. Then the dog snaps out of it, and he’s equally non-emotive about the poor mutt’s return. Man, my cat pukes and I’m running to the pet doctor – either I’m a baby or this guy is the worst pet owner ever.

Then there’s the burial bit, which recalled Vampyr with its see-through coffin, and any number of accidental burial movies (or episodes of Lost) where the folks are just paralyzed and assumed dead. The movie actually takes on a twist here, which allows for some surprising murders, including that of a young “Richard” (Dick) Miller – I always enjoy an out of nowhere killing spree. It’s enjoyable enough to forgive that the movie (spoiler for 50 year old movie ahead!) becomes one of those “let’s fuck with a guy’s mental state in order to screw him out of his inheritance/house/marriage/whatever” movies. I dunno, maybe only a HMAD-er can see too many of these in their lifetime, so I shouldn’t rag on the ones that do. Least their plan wasn’t TOO elaborate – scaring a guy with a rocking horse isn’t exactly rigging up full blown ghost machines like some others have done.

Oh and Milland was fine, not much of a surprise since he IS an Oscar winner. I mean, he's no Price, but who is? He’s got the perfect look, where you can buy him as a villain or a hero quite easily – a benefit during the back and forth finale. The rest of the cast is also pretty good; it’s always nice to see Hazel Court, and Alan “Batman TV show Alfred” Napier is great as a doctor who at one point stands by looking bored when Milland is found “dead”. It seems like they were putting some effort into making up for Price’s absence by having a lot of the characters give dryly sarcastic reactions to things, as he would; if so - it worked!

What say you?


  1. There's something amazing about the Poe Corman films that keeps drawing back to them too. I can't put my finger on what it is but no matter how many times I've watched them before whenever I turn one on and that mist and velvet start to roll something clicks inside me and I'm content for the next 100 minutes.
    Love this review of Premature Burial. Didn't know the lead was an Oscar winner and had forgotten about his shocking lack of pet concern. Doesn't he get bummed-out after that bit... "I would have buried him alive!"?
    Mmm... I must go now... there's something moving in the mist outside my drawing room window - something red,something velvet

  2. Brian, if you haven't seen it yet, you need to see Milland and Corman working together in a film called "X - The Man With the X-Ray Eyes". It's a personal fave and Milland is just brilliant.

  3. I agree, you need to see "X". It's probably one of Corman's very best (and, yes, Milland is brilliant).

  4. I haven't seen "The Premature Burial" yet, but I'll join in on the "X" praise. Neat flick.


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