I Bury the Living

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I Bury the Living

Horror, Drama, Thriller | 76 Mins | Released: 1958
Director: Albert Band
Starring: Richard Boone, Theodore Bikel, Peggy Maurer, Howard Smith, Herbert Anderson, Robert Osterloh, Russ Bender
Our Rating: 6
Black & White

Robert Kraft (Richard Boone) is the newly appointed chairman of a committee that oversees a large cemetery. The cemetery caretaker, Andy MacKee (Theodore Bikel), keeps a map in the cemetery office displaying the grounds and each grave site. Filled graves are marked by black pins, and unoccupied but sold graves are marked with white pins. New to the position and unobservant, Kraft accidentally places a pair of black pins where they don’t belong, only to discover later that the young couple who had bought the grave sites in question died in an automobile accident soon afterwards. He believes that he marked them for death.

Hoping it will give him peace of mind, Robert replaces a random white pin with a black pin. When that person dies later in the week, however, he becomes increasingly convinced that either he or the map has some kind of dark power. Repeated experiments, undertaken upon the insistence of skeptical friends and co-workers, yield the same result. Kraft slips into deep guilt and depression and believes he is cursed.

The police, who are initially skeptical, eventually begin to take notice and, in the hopes that it will reveal the cause of the deaths, ask Robert to place a black pin on the grave of a person who is known to be in France. Although he does so, Robert continues his slide into despair. That same night, he decides that if black pins give him the power of death, white pins might give him the power of life. He replaces all of the recently placed black pins with white pins. When he goes to the associated grave sites later that night, he discovers that they have all been dug up, with the bodies gone.

Upon returning to the cemetery office, Robert receives a call informing him of the death of the man in France. As he hangs up the phone, the cemetery caretaker comes up behind him, covered in dirt. He reveals that he has been killing all of the marked people as revenge for being forced to retire. However, when Robert informs him of the passing of the man in France, the caretaker, who couldn’t have killed the man, begins to lose his mind. When the police arrive, they find the caretaker dead and tell Robert that the news of the man’s death was all a ruse to flush out the cemetery caretaker.

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Movie Notes:

As the film progresses and Kraft gradually comes to believe that the map controls him, the map on the wall becomes slightly larger in each progressive scene, symbolizing it slowly controlling him.
When Bob Kraft (Richard Boone) waits for phone calls at his desk, on the wall behind him is a picture of John Wilkes Booth.