J. Frank Lucas
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The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964)
29th Jul 06
Rufus Sinclair is a miserable old millionaire who dies leaving a considerable will which his greedy relatives soon congregate to hear the reading off.
If your name is Del Tenney and you'd just made a monster mash, beach bingo camp classic (or travesty, depending on your appreciation of daft rubber suited monster movies), what do you do next? More monsters? More beaches? Or do you try for something altogether more different instead? Well, back in '64 Tenney went for the latter, choosing to lay off the latex and instead loosely remake a much earlier film called Secret of the Blue Room, which itself was a Ten Little Indians style drawing room whodunit, the likes of which were very popular at the time in contemporary literature and cinema.
Rufus Sinclair is a miserable old millionaire who dies leaving a considerable will which his greedy relatives soon congregate to hear the reading off. But because of Sinclair's bizarre obsession or rather fear of being buried alive, the will comes with certain conditions regarding his death and subsequent burial and threats that he will return from the grave and wreak terrible vengeance if these conditions are not observed.
And in no specific order he predicts the following for his estranged kin; for his eldest son Bruce he predicts a nasty death by disfiguration, for his next son Philip (Roy Scheider in a rare pre-Jaws role) he promises suffocation, for Philip's wife we're talking death by drowning, and his final prophecy is reserved for his long-tormented wife with the prediction being death by fire. Predictably (although whether or not it was so predictable 40 years ago or not is questionable), a few days after the reading of the will by Benson, the family attorney, Sinclair's body vanishes from its unlocked crypt and a masked figure begins to prowl the family's Connecticut estate, and Sinclair's gruesome predictions slowly become true.
Now, for a black and white thriller made in the early 60s there's a reasonable amount to like in The Curse of the Living Corpse. For a start the cinematography, especially in the outdoor scenes, is really rather good, as is the majority of the directing and the acting, notably the stand out performances by a ridiculously young Roy Scheider and the beautiful Candice Hilligoss, last seen in the Night of the Living Dead influencing Carnival of Souls. The deaths too are quite inventive if not very gory (it was '64 for crying out loud) and there's the added bonus of quite a bit of skin in one scene in particular, so watch out for that.
The main problem with The Curse of the Living Corpse is I guess that it is very much a product of its time in the sense that, by the very nature of the story, a lot of time is spent just standing around waiting for something to happen. Gone is the campy fun of The Horror of Party Beach in favour of a black and white somber seriousness, and when you've been bought up on Italian gut-munchers and American slasher movies, it all seems a bit dull. And Sheesh.
Available on a double-bill feature DVD with the afore mentioned The Horror of Party Beach, The Curse of the Living Corpse is probably officially the more critically acclaimed of two films, but I doubt very much that you'll ever watch it more than once. The Horror of Party Beach, on the other, has the kind of re-playability that you'd expect from a movie whose main monster looks like he as a dozen mini-baguettes shoved in his mouth. I did warn you.
Versions Available as a Region 1 double-bill with The Horror of Party Beach.