Thursday, October 22, 2015

13 Films Of Halloween:


Starring: Ray Milland, Hazel Court, Heather Angel, Alan Napier, Richard Ney.
Written by: Charles Beaumont
Directed by: Roger Corman
Produced by: Roger Corman

A change of stars and a change of writers. The backstory is that Roger Corman felt that AIP was making all kinds of money from these films, but their creative accounting was making sure that he did not get his fair share. So he decided to make a film on his own, partially financed by Pathe labs. Because Vincent Price was under contract to AIP, he had to find another actor... and that was Ray Milland. The sets and props they had accumulated in the previous films belonged to AIP. But many of the key crew members like cinematographer Floyd Crosby came with him (even though this film has a different look). The screenplay was by Charles Beaumont, who wrote a bunch of TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, as had Richard Matheson (who wrote the previous Corman Poe films). This script has a different feel than the two previous films in the series... and takes place in a different time period...

Sometime in Victorian era (around 1830) two laborers Sweeney (John Dierkes) and Mole (Dick Miller) dig up a grave in a foggy graveyard as Guy Carrell (Ray Milland) and Dr. Gideon Gault (Alan Napier - Arthur from BATMAN) look on. Sweeney & Mole are both grave diggers and bodysnatchers - stealing this corpse for Dr. Gault’s medical research. They pull off the lid of the coffin - it is scratched and bloody! Sweeney & Mole scream and jump out of the grave - inside the coffin a man, arms up, trying to claw his way out... dead now, but not when he was buried!

Pretty Miss Emily Gault (Hazel Court) rides up to the fog shrouded mansion in a carriage, knocks on the door, which is answered by butler Judson (Clive Halliday). Just inside Emily runs into stern looking Kate Carrell (Heather Angel) and asks to see Guy... but Kate says he does not wish to see her. Emily says she will have to hear that from Guy himself, she deserves an explanation. She brushes past Kate and enters Guy’s study, where he is painting. Seems that Guy broke off their engagement with a letter, and this did not please Emily. She asks him to say that he doesn’t love her - but he can’t, he *does* love her... which is why he had to break up their relationship. “I didn’t run away from what was inside that coffin, but from what is inside myself. That is why there can never ne a marriage between us.” He asks Emily to come with him... down to the family crypt.

Bats fly through the dark corridor at them. When they reach the crypt, Guy says she always wanted to meet the rest of his family... well here they are. The famous and infamous. “From the beginning, death has come to the Carrell’s like an assassin.” For years he has lived in dread of being buried alive, “Can you possibly conceive it? The unendurable oppression if the lungs, the stifling fumes of the damp earth, the rigid embrace of the coffin, the blackness of absolute night, and the silence - like an overwhelming sea. And then, invisible in the darkness, but all too hideously read to the other senses, the presence of the conqueror worm.”

Guy tells Emily that every member of his family has met with a violent and horrifying death, and now he waits his turn. His father had catalepsy - and when Guy was 13 years old seemed to have died of a heart attack, was sealed in his vault... but that night Guy heard him screaming. Buried alive!

Kate does not believe this. She believes their father was dead when he was buried.

Guy says his wedding gift to her would be his catalepsy and his morbid fear of being buried alive... but Emily says she accepts this, and still wishes to marry him.

So they are wed.

At the wedding reception, Emily’s old flame Miles Archer (?) (Richard Ney) wishes her happiness. Emily plays a tune on the piano, “Molly Malone”... which seems to drive Guy crazy, he yells at her to stop and runs upstairs to his bedroom.

Later, Emily (in her negligee) enters the bedroom and wakes Guy with a kiss. She asks if he is feeling better. Guy explains that Sweeney & Mole were whistling that same tune when they unearthed that man who had been buried alive... wen she played it on the piano it brought back memories. She kisses him to make him forget. Then a scream in the night! Guy grabs a candle to investigate, tells Emily to stay in the bedroom.

He creeps through the dark and stormy night for the source of the scream... finds Kate over his dog. The dog was killed by the lightning. Guy says he will get a shovel and bury him... but then the dog pops to his feet, only stunned by the lightning strike. Guy freaks out - he was going to bury his dog alive!

The next morning Emily asks if they will be going on honeymoon to Venice... Guy says they will not. He has a project that will be taking up his time here at home.

A month later, Emily calls for Miles... she is concerned about Guy. He is ill. Something he may have caught while they were on honeymoon in Venice? She tells him they never went to Venice, and leads Miles outside to the mausoleum that Guy has built. She knocks on the door, and Guy gives them a tour of the mausoleum... It has a fully stocked bar! Also a coffin built so that it can be opened from the inside. It also has a bell that can be rang from the inside the coffin, various tools within the coffin, a larder in the mausoleum in case he needs to eat, books, music... and in the event that no one comes to open the mausoleum - poison to kill himself so that he will really be dead. Every possibility accounted for. If Guy is buried alive, this mausoleum provides every solution!

Emily and Miles discuss Guy - is he crazy? Miles worries that this obsession with catalepsy will actually cause Guy to develop the disease. Emily wishes Miles could spend more time with her, and Miles mentions that Guy has offered him the use of the basement laboratory... so maybe he will take him up on that offer and spend more time with Emily? Kate overhears all of this...

In the basement laboratory, Miles demonstrates how an electrical current can create reanimation in the body of a dead frog... then encourages Guy to continue with his own experiments... to take his mind off these troubling thoughts of his.

Emily and Guy take a walk through the spooky fog shrouded woods around their house. Guy hears a strange noise - whistling? - and runs to follow it, leaving Emily behind. He ends up lost in the fog, trying to follow someone whistling “Molly Malone”... and eventually comes face to face with Sweeney & Mole and faints.

He wakes up in a green tinted sequence, trapped in a coffin! He tries to escape, eventually knocking the coffin over - he is in his mausoleum! He tries ringing his bell - no one answers. All of his James Bond Mausoleum Gadgets break or fail to work! And there’s a freakin’ tarantula on his box of TNT and rats have infested his food and booze supplies! He is left with only one “escape” method left... his poison! He prepares to drink it - but the flask is filled with worms!

He awakens from this nightmare with Emily and Miles callling his name - he has passed out. Emily never saw Sweeney & Mole nor heard them whistling. They take him back to the house and put him to bed. Then Miles tells Emily that Guy *imagined* the Laborers because he’s obsessed with premature burial... probably because his father was buried alive. Kate has been eves dropping (as usual) and chimes in that their father was *not* buried alive - she saw him in the coffin, resting in peace.

Guy wakes up... hears the whistling coming from somewhere in the house. Follows the sound... down to the basement. Opens a door and *wham* a rocking horse toy’s head pops out at him. He goes deeper into the room. A voice behind him: “It’s the wind!” Guy spins and Kate stands in the doorway. The window *has* blown open, and Guy goes to close it... but Sweeney looks through the window at him. Guy jumps back. “Did you see him?” “See who?” Only Guy has seen Sweeney.

Miles and Emily hatch a plan to cure Guy...

Emily find Guy painting in his mausoleum (?) - a hideous painting of Satan lording over a world consumed in flames. You know, something a perfectly sane person would paint. Emily tells Guy he must make a choice - be obsessed by death and hang out in his mausoleum... or come back to the house and be a husband. But if he doesn’t come back, she’s going to split. The mausoleum or her - he must choose one or the other.

He decides to choose Emily, and destroys his mausoleum.

A dinner party Friday night to celebrate his decision.

The hand of someone unseen unlocks a cupboard exposing several keys and selects one, the hand then takes the key down into the basement crypt below the house and unlocks the tomb door for Guy’s father and enters the chamber.

At the dinner party, Guy is looking and acting much better. As they are having brandy and cigars, Guy hears the cat mewing... from within the walls! So does everyone else, and Miles finds a loose wall panel and rescues the cat. But Guy worries - what if they had not heard the cat? And it was walled up forever. Miles tells Guy the only way he will get over this fear is to go down to his father’s crypt and see with his own eyes that his father was *not* buried alive. So the whole danged dinner party goes down the spooky stairway, through the spider webs, to the crypts... but first a stop at that cupboard to get the key. Except the key is missing. Miles wonders if Guy took the key, so that he wouldn’t have to actually look into his father’s tomb and see that he was not buried alive. Guy says he did not do that... and they don’t need a key, they can pry it open. Grabs a crow bar and the dinner party goes deeper and deeper into the crypt. To the door to his father’s tomb - where Guy gets cold feet. “If you fail now, you’ll be haunted forever”, Miles says.

Guy takes the crowbar to the door and pries it open... and his father’s skeleton falls out at him... out of it’s coffin! When the skeleton hits Guy, he goes down.

They carry him upstairs - Dr. Gault examines him... heart attack, dead! Eyes open, unblinking. Not breathing. Dead.

We hear Guy’s thoughts: “I’m not dead, I’m alive!”

Miles says there is one more test, and has the women leave the room as he brings in his electrical apparatus and gives Guy a shock. Nothing happens. His heart does not seem to start up again. “He’s dead.”

Guy’s thoughts: “I am not dead!”

“May as well take him back to the crypt,” says Dr. Gault. Emily says she promised him that she would not bury him in the crypt.

Guy’s funeral. Guy in a coffin, we hear his thoughts: “Help me! Someone help me!”

Emily gives him one final kiss, everyone says their goodbyes.

The pall bearers carry his coffin to the graveyard, funeral procession following behind. The coffin has a small glass window... and Guy’s eye pop open! He wonders if anyone will look inside the window and see that his eyes are open now... but nobody does. They put him in the hole, not even noticing that his eyes are wide open. “I’m alive! I’m alive!” Then Sweeney & Mole shovel dirt over the coffin... over the window and Guy’s open eyes. Soon the coffin is covered in dirt.

At the house, Kate wonders if Emily will stay in the house, or move on with her life (and hook up with Miles)? Emily says she hasn’t thought about leaving. Miles believes that Guy killed himself in a way - because he was so obsessed with death, he created the situations which lead to his death.

That night Sweeney & Mole are digging up a grave... more medical research. They get to the coffin and Sweeney has Mole go fetch the crowbar to pop the lid. While Mole is gone, Sweeney managers to get the lid open by hand... and the corpse reaches up and strangles him!

Mole grabs the crow bar, hears someone walking up behind him and says, “Found it Mr. Sweeney!” But it is not Mr. Sweeney... it is a deranged Guy who stabs Mole with the crow bar!

Dr. Gault is in the basement laboratory of his medical practice when the door opens and Sweeney enters with the corpse over his shoulder. The corpse, wrapped in a burlap sack, is placed on a table in the back. “Ironic isn’t it? In life Guy Carrell contributed nothing to medical science, but in death he shall serve it admirably.” Dr. Gault unwraps the corpse from the burlap... but when he uncovers the face, it isn’t Guy... it’s *Sweeney*! Dr. Gault spins to see Guy standing in the darkness behind him. “No! You’re dead!”Guy knocks out Dr. Gault - hooks up Miles’ electrical apparatus to him and lights him up. Electrocuting Dr. Gault.

Meanwhile, back at the house - Dr. Miles is examining Emily, if you know what I mean and I think you do. She’s half naked in bed and tells him that she in need of someone to give her solace. “You and I were very close once, Miles.” She puts the moves on him. “Maybe it’s not too late for us.” Just as they are about to kiss, a knock at the door.

Judson enters - A medical emergency, Dr. Gault needs him.

Emily brushes her hair when a figure enters her bedroom... Miles? Nope, Guy. “No kiss?” Is she seeing a ghost? Her husband is dead. She reaches out to touch the ghost... gets flesh instead. Faints on the spot.

Meanwhile, Miles has discovered Dr. Gault dead - electrocuted. He races back to Emily.
But when Miles gets back to Emily’s bedroom he finds the bed empty.

Guy has carried unconscious Emily away... through the fog, back to the grave he was so recently buried in. Emily wakes up and pleads with Guy. She wasn’t the one who set up his father’s corpse - that was Kate. Kate is the evil one, not Emily. Emily *loves him*. She just adjusted to what happened next. “You wouldn’t kill me?” “No, darling, not at all. Just as you didn’t kill me. You wouldn’t soil your pretty hands with murder. No, you just stood aside and let men bury me alive! And so, I shall not kill you... That sorry task I shall leave to the earth... and the darkness... and the terrified pounding of your own heart.” Then he dumps her into the coffin he so recently vacated and grabs a shovel. Emily screams as he throws shovels full of dirt on her face!

Miles shows, and they fight for the shovel. Guy wrestles the shovel away from him, raises it up to cleave it down upon his face!

Bang! A gunshot. Guy falls over, dropping the shovel. Kate stands there with a gun.

As Miles scrambles into the grave to rescue Emily, Kate walks up to where Miles lays dying. Miles digs through the dirt and finds Emily, pulls her out of the grave... but it is too late. She is dead. Miles freaks out, but Kate says Emil got what she deserved, look around her neck. Miles pulls out Emily’s necklace... and the crypt key is at the end of it! (Hidden between her lightly freckled bosoms.) Emily was the one who set up the corpse in the crypt that sent Guy into a state of shock... but she never had time to return the key. “Sweet, beautiful, gentle, Emily... Once you told her how easy ot would be to use Guy’s fear to kill him, she went to work. First, hiring the grave robbers to torment him, the cat in the wall, and finally the desecration of our father’s tomb.” Kate will see to Guy’s funeral, now that he is really dead.

Fade Out...

If you are wondering what happened between Roger Corman and the AIP guys, well, they bought the rights to PREMATURE BURIAL and came to some sort of agreement with Corman which brought him back into the fold for more AIP Poe films with Vincent Price. In the DVD extras, Roger goes out of his way to say that AIP treated him fairly, and my guess is that this film was partially a learning experience for him - that every distributor does “creative book keeping” (look at the HARRY POTTER movies that Warner Brothers claims lost money) and you kind of have to just accept that (and make *your* deal with that knowledge). (Some novelist, and I’m going to guess it was Lawrence Block since I read his Writer’s Digest column every month, said you can only expect to be paid whatever you get upfront, and that is my advice for screenwriters - the money in hand may be the only money they ever give you - no matter what they promise to pay you later.) Roger Corman continued to work with AIP - making 4 to 5 films a year for them.

We are going to skip one of the films in the series for time (we only have 13 days) so next up is THE RAVEN.


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