Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Robert Milli, Candace Hilligoss, and Hugh Franklin 
THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE (1964). Produced, written and directed by Del Tenney.

In New England in 1892, old Mr. Sinclair passes away and his family learns that his will has strange provisions, mostly having to do with his terror of being buried alive. If these provisions aren't carried out, there will be dire consequences, with family members dying according to their greatest fears. Oddly, the first person to die is the maid, Letty (Linda Donovan), who is beheaded. You would think knowing that someone is running around cutting the heads off of the staff would be enough to make everyone move out of the old house, but no, these people almost act as if it's, like, no big problem. Then there are more murders, with one person being dragged behind a horse, another burned to death in her bedroom, and so on ... Is old Mr. Sinclair really dead or not?

Helen Waren and Roy Scheider
The Curse of the Living Corpse has an interesting cast, many of whom came from the theater. Robert Milli, who gets right into the 19th century tone of the piece as vain Bruce Sinclair, worked with Richard Burton in Hamlet around the same time.  Roy Scheider [Sorcerer] is acceptable as drunken Philip Sinclair, and later gained fame when he starred in Jaws, although one wouldn't have imagined he was necessarily destined for great things. Margot Hartman, who plays Philip's wife, Vivian, and is quite good, was married to the writer and director of the film, Del Tenney. One of the best performances in the film is given by Helen Waren, who plays the widow Abigail in very convincing fashion. Hugh Franklin is notable as family lawyer Benson, as is Jane Bruce as the cook and housekeeper. George Cotton makes an amusing Constable Winters, and Candace Hilligoss pops in from her more famous feature, Carnival of Souls, to make a modest contribution in a supporting role.

Roy Scheider in a dramatic moment
The Curse of the Living Corpse doesn't suffer from any great logic, but it it is enthusiastically presented and Tenney directs some of the sequences with a small degree of flair. The picture has atmosphere as well, and with all its scenes of a cloaked figure sneaking about reminds one of silent flicks like The Cat and the Canary or later films such as The Bat.  One suspects that no one took the film very seriously, but it manages to be modestly entertaining in spite of it. This was released on a double-bill with Tenney's rock horror "classic," The Horror of Party Beach.

Verdict: Watch out for that head on a platter! **1/2. 


angelman66 said...

Wow, was not aware of this one, looks like I would enjoy it—and I am a very big fan of Mr. Scheider. A great actor and a very sexy guy...and so versatile. Love him most in the Fosse film All that Jazz...he could also dance!! We lost him too soon.
- Chris

William said...

Yes, and while he doesn't give a great performance in this early role he's vivid and makes the most of his appearances. If your a Scheider fan you might enjoy this atmospheric thriller.