The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964)

THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE (1964)
Article 1797 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-14-2006
Posting Date: 7-14-2006
Directed by Del Tenney
Featuring Helen Warren, Roy Scheider, Margot Hartman

When a man with a dread fear of being buried alive dies, his relatives gather at his estate. It is then discovered that he left instructions in his will for each heir outlining several tasks to be performed by each one, all of which are then neglected. Each heir begins to die one by one.

For what it’s worth, this is Del Tenney’s best feature film; it’s certainly the most professional looking as well. In fact, it looks like it’s going to be pretty good at first; then one of the actors begins to speak and the illusion is shattered. Basically, it’s a cross between THE PREMATURE BURIAL and the whole “Old Dark House” genre, with a skulking figure in black, secret passages, villains watching people through the eyes of paintings, etc. It does get a little more outdoor action than most of those movies ususally do. The movie is so bluntly contrived at times that it’s amusing on this level alone; each heir has a task that they fail to perform, and each heir has a special fear that the villain uses as a means of disposing of them, and one can almost see the the boxes on a checklist being marked off.

One thing that did strike me is how old-fashioned the movie was in some ways, while being quite modern in others. The gore and sex aspects of the movie were certainly up-to-date in 1964, but the skulking cloaked figure, the whole “old dark house” plot, and the comic relief all seem to belong to another era. In particular, the comic relief characters feel like throwbacks to the thirties. This aspect would also pop up in Tenney’s HORROR OF PARTY BEACH; remember Eulabelle the maid? The movie also features the only other movie appearance of Candace Hilligoss (from CARNIVAL OF SOULS ), and the feature film debut of Roy Scheider, and I found it rather strange to hear him spouting some of the heightened, flowery dialogue he was given as I’m so used to seeing him work in a much more realistic mode; nonetheless, he gives perhaps the best performance in the movie.

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