(1962) dir. Roger Corman
The B-side of the Roger Corman/Edgar Allen Poe disc of The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Premature Burial unlike the others of Corman’s Poe movies, stars Ray Milland. Also, unlike the other film on the disc, I am not entirely sure that I’d ever seen it before.
However, like The Masque of the Red Death, Corman’s style is solid and workmanlike, following the story and building the drama within. Unfortunately, there is not a lot there. I’d always understood that Poe himself had a fear of being buried alive, and that is what Milland’s character has, an abject fear of falling into a state of paralysis, which is what he believes happened to his father, and then being stuck in a coffin to suffocate and die.
The film opens with the unearthing of a body with a lid scratched and bloody from the victim who had been entombed alive, and it’s one of the film’s most effective sequences. But Milland, who looks a bit old for his female lead, the lovely Hazel Court, spends most of his time fretting about what could happen and builds himself a special tomb with lots of escape hatches.
So, when he does end up going into this paralytic faux-death, and gets buried alive, you’ve got to think, “A lot of good that did him!”
Really, it’s not that compelling overall, though the film was also co-scripted by Charles Beaumont. It’s just a bit thin for a feature film.
What is interesting is the semi-psychedelic dream/nightmare sequence when Milland imagines he’s been entombed in his special crypt but none of the escape hatches are working. The best moment may be when the poison he tries to drink is just a cup full of writhing worms. It’s the visual effects more than the actual footage that is interesting, oozing green and yellow, it shares a parallel to The Masque of the Red Death in its dream/psychedelic sequence, but nowhere as interesting.
You can see why it’s a B-side.