Movie Name: The Premature Burial
Release Date(s): March 7, 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Guy Carrell (Ray Milland) is haunted by the fear that he will be buried alive. Believing that it happened to his father, Guy sees it happening all around him. Despite his wife Emily (Hazel Court), his friend Miles Archer (Richard Ney), and his sister Kate (Heather Angel) trying to convince him that it will not happen, Guy begins to go to extreme lengths to make sure it will not occur…but the harder Guy tries, the closer death seems!
Directed by Roger Corman, The Premature Burial is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Premature Burial” from 1844. The film is the third entry of what is known as Corman’s Poe films and follows The Pit and the Pendulum in 1961. The film was generally well received.
Roger Corman made a name for himself for his cheap, money making movies but a lot of his Poe movies are better looking than some of his other efforts. Unlike many of his other pictures in the series which starred Vincent Price, Corman used Ray Milland and tried to produce the film alone…until American International Pictures claimed he was under contract and enveloped The Premature Burial for their studio.
The problem with The Premature Burial is that there isn’t a lot to work with. Poe’s story was rather short and the scrip had to be expanded for a feature length film. The first part of the film with Milland’s fear and attempts to avoid a premature burial rather work, but by the end of the film, the movie goes in a different direction that feels forced…with a twist that doesn’t seem very legitimate in the last few minutes of the film.
Ray Milland is an Oscar winner who seemed to be destroyed by it later in his career. He went from starring in movies like The Lost Weekend to Frogs and The Thing with Two Heads in the ’70s. Here is part of his descent, but he tries. Milland doesn’t feel like he’s giving up here, but Vincent Price might have made a better lead (he was under contract to AIP which it turned out didn’t matter). The movie is built for Milland and his madness, so the rest of the cast are essentially fillers for Milland’s occasionally over-the-top performance.
Visually, the movie also is pretty slick. There are some fantasy and dream sequences involving Milland’s fears and those are well done. The movie actually could have done more to bring the horror of the claustrophobia, but it is handled decently at times.
The Premature Burial has some creep factor tied to it, but it isn’t as horrific as some of the other movies in the Poe series. I like the movie in general though I feel that the ending doesn’t work well (though I can’t think of a satisfying ending regardless). Corman followed The Premature Burial with Tales of Terror also released in 1962.