"To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of
these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. That
it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be denied
by those who think."
Edgar Allan Poe - The Premature Burial
Carrell (Ray Milland) is a man possessed - by the sheer terror of being
buried alive, a belief fostered by the childhood memory, or nightmare,
of hearing his newly buired father crying out for help from within his
tomb. He manages to control his terror when his financeé Emily Gault
(Hazel Court) arrives, and the pair soon announce their plan to be wed.
But he soon begins work on an incredibly elaborate mausoleum to give
him plenty of chance to escape should he find himself entombed too
Despite the success of House of Usher (1960) and The Pit and the Pendulum
(1961) with the studio, Roger Corman was looking to distance himself from AIP in 1962 due to a small dispute
and signed to make his next film with the film developing labs Pathé who were looking to go into distribution as well.
With Vincent Price locked into a contract with AIP, the producers had
to look to another star for the lead role, but AIP could do nothing to
stop Corman and director of photography Floyd Crosby from borrowing the
classic style of their Poe films and from the opening frame Premature Burial is
pervaded by the fog-enshrouded atmosphere that made the first two films
so effective. Ultimately Samuel Z. Arkoff threatened to take his
business away from Pathé if they went into direct competition and the whole production was sold back to AIP.
Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell tackle their first horror film and do
an admirable job. The Poe story is a particularly unusual choice, not
really counting as one of his gothic horror works, it is rather an
essay on the titular subject with the author telling of others who
suffered this fate and then recanting his own tale where he thinks
himself buired alive. However the script writes the man's fear of being
buired alive into a typcial gothic horror context and we get a rather
good mystery story with an unusually strong romantic theme, taking
advantage of the casting of a romantic leading man in the lead
role. Unfortunately once the inevitable has happened, the film descends
into a quite generic horror picture and the ending is a particular
and Crosby are on top form throughout with all of the atmosphere of
their earlier films being retained, from the fog-bound forests and the
blue tinted nightmare sequences to the
beautifully opulent castle sets that help to give the film a fantasy
period atmosphere while AIP staff composer Ronald Stein provides an
effective orchestral soundtrack. Ultimately the film looks good but
there is nothing that had not been done in the previous two entries.
Milland is rather the odd-one-out in this production and his seeming
replacement of Vincent Price has often lead the film to
become overlooked as part of the AIP horror cycle, however this
romantic leading man does seem to be a good choice for the role as it
is written and it
is hard to imagine that Price could have played the part as well.
Milland is even good in the horror sequences towards the end, although
he is let down here by the script. Beautiful English girl Hazel Court
plays the female lead particularly well with some good acting that
really brings come conviction to the romantic scenes, so often lacking
in horror films.
is often ignored because of the absence of Vincent Price, but Ray
Milland does an admirable job and it is clear that the role was written
to suit his performance. Roger Corman and the production team do a
typically strong job that although nothing original, provides the film
with an effective atmosphere. Even the storyline is solid, for the
first hour - unfortunately all of the romantic interest and mystery is
wasted with a generic horror movie climax and a rather sudden and
unexciting conclusion. Partly recommended for fans of the series but
there are many better entries to watch first.
Anyone famous in it?
Ray Milland - a lesser known Welsh actor who's biggest role came in Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954) Hazel Court - the beautiful English actress who became a horror star after Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Directed by anyone interesting?
Corman - most famous for producing hundreds of low budget horror and
sci-fi films, he also made a name for himself early on with the AIP
gothic horrors starting with House of Usher (1960).
Is it scary?
A scary atmosphere in a few scenes.
Who is it for?
Certainly of interest to fans of the AIP Horror Cycle, it is one of the lesser entries.
Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print quality is decent, colours and detail are strong - only light grain and damage.
English language original mono sound - sounds fine. French dub track.
English, French and Spanish.
The disc includes:
Interview with Roger Corman about this film, interesting. (8 minutes)
Original Cinema Trailer
Only available in a double-bill pack with Masque of the Red Death DVD on a dual-sided disc. Part of the MGM Midnight Movies series.
Region 1 (USA) - NTSC
A German R2 release with English and German audio tracks.
None known. The print is English language.
Some good acting and fine directing are let down by the script's rather generic climax. Partly recommended.