Thursday 2 May 2024

I Bury the Living (1958)

Director: Albert Band
Writer: Louis Garfinkle
Stars: Richard Boone, Theodore Bikel and Peggy Maurer

Index: 2024 Centennials.

Robert Kraft is the new chairman of the Management Committee of the Immortal Hills cemetery in Milford so Andy McKee, who’s been its caretaker for as long as anyone can remember, shows him around. Bob Kraft is Richard Boone, well known on TV in 1958 for his role in Medic, which landed him a 1955 Emmy nomination, but was becoming a bigger star through roles in westerns like The Tall T, Ten Wanted Men and Man without a Star, along with a new TV show for 1957 called Have Gun – Will Travel, in which he played a gentleman wandering the West as a gun for hire to help people in need. McKee, an old Scot with a thick accent whose retirement is one of Kraft’s first priorities, is Theodore Bikel, then a thirty-four year old Austrian Jew. He was born in Vienna but moved to what was then Mandatory Palestine (now Israel), learning acting there and later in London, to which he moved at twenty-one to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He racked up many European nationalities in movies. A Scot was just one more.

The easiest way to see I Bury the Living is as an unassociated feature length episode of The Twilight Zone, so it doesn’t hurt that Boone bore a resemblance to Rod Serling. He had similar rugged good looks, a similarly serious attitude and, of course, a similar suit given that Bob is also the president of the Kraft department store. The Kraft family run the town of Milford and Bob’s Uncle George, who was chairman two years prior, explains to him how they maintain their level of prestige. Every man in the family “served on every community project, board and committee that was ever created. They served for free but they did it for business.” So, even though Bob is busy with the store, he’s now going to have to dedicate a few hours a week to the cemetery. Given that most of the feature is set at Immortal Hills and we never see the store, you can imagine how well that doesn’t go for him. There’s a reason for that and it is inherently tied to the big board on the far wall of the cemetery’s office that McKee talks him through on that first fateful visit.