The Curse of the Living Corpse – USA, 1963

‘From out of the grave stalks the creature that undrapes the passions of the living!’

The Curse of the Living Corpse is a 1963 American horror feature film, written, directed, and produced by Del Tenney (Violent MidnightThe Horror of Party Beach; I Eat Your Skin). The movie stars Roy Scheider, Helen Warren, Robert Milli and Margot Hartman.

The film marked the film debut of actor Roy Scheider (Jaws). It was picked up for distribution by 20th Century Fox and co-billed with Tenney’s The Horror of Party Beach. Both movies were filmed in black-and-white by Iselin-Tenney Productions, a short-lived company formed with Alan V. Iselin, the owner of a chain of drive-in theatres extending from New York to Florida.

Plot:

New England, 1892: Tyrannical millionaire Rufus B. Sinclair was obsessed with a fear of premature burial. In his will, he stipulates that if buried alive, he will return from the grave and murder his heirs in the manner each of them fears most: his wife, Abigail, will die by fire; his sons, arrogant philanderer Bruce and alcoholic Philip, will die by disfiguration and suffocation respectively; and Philip’s unfaithful wife, Vivian, will drown.

Several days after Rufus’ burial, his corpse vanishes from the family crypt, and the anticipated homicides start to occur. In addition, Letty, the maid, and Seth, the servant, are murdered…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“An early gore movie – its best moment has the maid’s severed head served up on a breakfast tray – it is evidently intended as a straight-faced parody of the old-dark-house school (complete with secret panels and watching eyes) but is so laboriously directed that it emerges as creakily old-fashioned melodrama.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Curse of the Living Corpse is a good, competent (if formulaic) little horror film, with only the occasional piece of less-than-sterling camera work ruining the mood.” The Bad Movie Report

Curse is a mix of “Old Dark House” trappings (dopey cop comedy, singular location), Dark Shadows production values, and visual Ed Wood fixations (lo-fi crypts at night, men in black capes). The credits tell us it’s 1892, but the delivery is pure 1964. That’s the real hook — boiling lust, terrific gore, and ghastly violence prickle it up like no other year can.” Joseph A. Ziemba, Bleeding Skull!

“It’s not a great film, suffering from a lack of originality, predictable plot, low budget, and poor soundtrack that mars the atmosphere. But it feels focused and sincere, and the actors’ performances are strong across the board.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

” …the whole terrifying thing is finally explained logically in the usual illogical manner of an Edgar Wallace mystery […] Still, lively gore flick, more stylish than most,” John Stanley, Creature Features

” …this early gore “who-done-it?” effort is a convincing period piece done on a shoestring budget, and even though it was shot in black and white, it’s reminiscent of some of the AIP and Hammer films done around the same time. With its masked murderer on the loose and inventive killings, it also pre-dates the Italian giallo cycle by a few years…” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

“Just about the only ho-hum aspect of the film is the semi-comic police inspector and his booze-hound lackey, who sits around waiting to be klonked on the head by the prowling killer. Otherwise, The Curse of the Living Corpse rates a solid ‘not bad at all.” Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant

Curse of the Living Corpse loses its way a bit with the addition of two inspectors in the finale; their comic relief isn’t nearly as biting as the sardonic material that precedes it. This glorious-looking, unabashedly nasty little melodrama is also a sinfully entertaining black comedy about some loathsome people who receive some retribution.” Greg Woods, The Eclectic Screening Room

“The gore and sex aspects of the movie were certainly up-to-date in 1964, but the skulking cloaked figure, the whole “old dark house” plot, and the comic relief all seem to belong to another era.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

” …boasts decent production values and a couple good moments, such as Vivian’s bathtub scene. The acting is all over the board, but remember, this stuff isn’t Chekhov anyway.” The Terror Trap

Choice dialogue:

Bruce Sinclair: “Noblesse oblige! Now that I’m master I can do what I please, when I please and where I please. Are you so callous as to deny rank its privilege? Or so fickle as to have forgotten our nights in the kitchen?”

Cast and characters:

  • Roy Scheider … Philip Sinclair (as Roy R. Scheider) – Jaws and Jaws 2
  • Helen Waren … Abigail Sinclair
  • Robert Milli … Bruce Sinclair
  • Margot Hartman … Vivian Sinclair
  • Hugh Franklin … James Benson
  • Linda Donovan … Letty Crews, the Maid
  • Dino Narizzano … Robert Harrington
  • Candace Hilligoss … Deborah Benson – Carnival of Souls (1962)
  • J. Frank Lucas … Seth Lucas. the Servant
  • George Cotton … Constable Winters
  • Jane Bruce … The Cook
  • Paul Haney … Chief Constable Barnes
  • William Blood … Minister (as Williiam B. Blood)
  • Del Tenney … The Living Corpse (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Stamford, Connecticut, USA – filmed on Tenney’s father-in-law’s estate.

Running time:

84 minutes

Release:

Opened on 1 April 1964 in Detroit, 29 April 1964 in New York City, and then 3 June 1964 in Los Angeles.

Censorship:

20th Century Fox submitted the film to the official UK censorship body, the BBFC, and it was rejected on 6 May 1964.

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Image credits: 3B Theater |  DriveInTheater.com

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