Monday, March 26, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Bury Me Dead (1947)

I didn't have much free time tonight, so I chose to watch BURY ME DEAD, an unusual little film noir with a short 68-minute running time.

As the film begins, wealthy Barbara Carlin (June Lockhart) is presumed dead in a fire. Barbara is very much alive, however, and she watches her own funeral from behind a heavy veil. After the service Barbara makes her presence known to the family lawyer, Michael (Hugh Beaumont), and confides she believes someone made an attempt on her life, but who?

Was the murderer Barbara's unreliable husband Rod (Mark Daniels), who had his eye on a model (Sonia Darrin)? Or perhaps her unstable little sister Rusty (Cathy O'Donnell), who resents that she'd been adopted and their father had never gotten around to writing her into his will? Was boxer George Mandley (Greg McClure), who'd romanced both Barbara and Rusty, involved? Or...

And who was buried at the funeral, anyway?!

This is an odd but interesting little movie in that it doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It starts off very dramatically, in classic noir fashion, but when Barbara turns up alive, the drama one expects never really quite ensues. Indeed, Barbara makes all sorts of lighthearted quips to the lawyer about who might have wanted to kill her, and much of the film is played for laughs -- is there such a thing as comedy noir?

Barbara doesn't even bother to notify the police that she's alive, but instead gauges each character's reaction to her "return from the dead." The film turns dark again near the end as the would-be murderer is revealed and attempts to get rid of Barbara for good, at which point Barbara finally seems truly nervous!

It's a lot of fun seeing Lockhart and Beaumont, who were later the stars of classic "family" TV series, in the leads. Lockhart's Barbara is a bit strange, however, in that she never really seems particularly disturbed about her life potentially being in danger, sailing through the film with a serenity which doesn't seem to quite fit the situation. I've got a real soft spot for June Lockhart, though, so I liked her in this even though I was perplexed by her character.

The disturbed young Rusty is completely different from confident Barbara, and indeed, Rusty resents the ease with which Barbara approaches everything in her life. This was Cathy O'Donnell's first film after playing Wilma in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946). She starred in several more film noir titles in the ensuing years: THE AMAZING MR. X (1948), THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (1949), and SIDE STREET (1950). In 1948 she married Robert Wyler, the brother of William Wyler, who had directed her in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Robert was decades older than Cathy, but they were happily married until her death from cancer on their 22nd wedding anniversary.

There are some great faces in the cast such as John Dehner, Charles Lane, and Virginia Farmer. Particular kudos go to Milton Parsons for his very funny turn as the deadpan butler.

BURY ME DEAD was released by Producers Releasing Corporation. It was directed by Bernard Vorhaus (SO YOUNG SO BAD) and filmed in black and white by the great John Alton. Alton's next film, T-MEN (1947), also included June Lockhart in the cast.

There's a TV version of BURY ME DEAD which was edited down to a mere 26 minutes!

I watched BURY ME DEAD on a DVD from VCI. The picture was soft in a few places but overall it's a nice-looking DVD. It's a "double feature film noir" DVD which also includes the film THE CHASE (1946).

BURY ME DEAD has also been released on VHS.

In 2010 Alan Rode of the Film Noir Foundation interviewed Lockhart about BURY ME DEAD and T-MEN on video here and here. She shares some fun stories.

BURY ME DEAD wasn't exactly what I was expecting and it's not a completely successful film, but it's a unique little movie which is worth a look.


Blogger DKoren said...

I love the title of this movie. So lurid, but what an odd movie! I always liked Cathy O'Donnell in Ben-Hur.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Isn't it a great title? Sort of like I WAKE UP SCREAMING.

It's neat that some of Cathy O'Donnell's best-known work, including BEN-HUR, was directed by her brother-in-law, William Wyler.

Best wishes,

12:13 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Just about to view this after getting dvd double bill of it with The Chase.
It is a great title, isn't it!
Great review as always.

1:11 AM  

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