The Sinclair family is having a funeral for the patriarch of the family. Rufus Sinclair was placed in a coffin and taken to the cemetery. His coffin was then placed in a crypt. Rufus suffered from catalepsy and was afraid of being buried alive. In his will he left specific instructions. He was not to be put into the crypt for five days. A second doctor was to be consulted to confirm death. Torches had to be lit and placed in the crypt. The crypt was not to be locked.
At the reading of the will the family attorney Robert Harrington (Dino Narizzano) states that all the provisions of the will must be kept for a year before the estate can be distributed. It also states that should any of the provisions not be kept, the person responsible for each provision will meet with a death that will be from what they fear the most.
The eldest son Bruce (Robert Milli) is a Narcissus who is overly concerned with his looks and will be disfigured. The second son Phillip (Roy Scheider) is an asthmatic alcoholic and fears suffocation. Rufus' wife Abigail (Helen Warren) fears fire. Phillip’s wife Vivian fears drowning. His nephew James Benson (Hugh Franklin) will lose the thing he loves most, specifically his wife Deborah (Candace Hilligoss). Even the trusted servant Seth Lucas (J. Frank Lucas) is not immune. He will “join me in my tomb”.
Rufus was a cruel man and ended up creating cruel children so, of course, everyone has violated the terms of the will. But Rufus is dead now so what can he do about it, right?
Bruce is short on money and can’t wait a year to get his inheritance. Abigail says that she left a diamond brooch on Rufus’ coffin because it held bad memories. Rufus was cruel to her too. Bruce takes the young pretty maid, Letty Crews (Linda Donovan), with him to the crypt to get the brooch and to have a little nookie away from the household. Bruce is a dick. He tells Letty to wait five minutes before coming back to the house so they aren’t seen together. Not a good idea.
The next day, at breakfast, the dumb waiter arrives at the dining room from the kitchen with a covered tray on it. When Bruce takes the cover off, Letty’s head is staring up at him. Apparently old Rufus wasn’t dead after all and now, quite insane, is fulfilling the terms of the will.
“The Curse of the Living Corpse” was released in 1964. It is a horror movie that was produced directed and written by Del Tenney. It is a low budget “B” movie distributed by Twentieth Century Fox.
At first I had a few reservations about the film. The idea is a fun one for a horror movie but a little on the standard side. People dying in different and bizarre ways is a tried and true plot in horror films. Just look at the Dr. Phibes movies, “Theatre of Blood” 1973 and even the “Final Destination” films. No different here. I can’t fault Tenney for telling everyone the cause of death ahead of time as long as the manner of death is played out. Granted neither the cause nor the manner of the various deaths were wild or unique but each was different from the other.
The acting was solid. Scheider did quite well for his first foray into film. Milli did well in many soap operas during his carrier. Hilligoss is everyone’s favorite from “Carnival of Souls” 1962. The entire cast is mostly from stage plays so even those that didn’t do a lot of film work they still know how to act.
The constables were supposed to be some kind of comic relief but mostly they were annoying. There wasn’t a lot of special effects and there were a few pauses in the flow of the film but mostly it was good. It held my interest. When you consider Tenny’s body of work I was surprised to find that this one is as obscure as it is. Granted it’s not near as campy as “The Horror of Party Beach” 1964 but it’s also not nearly as stupid. All together it was a nice little horror movie.
Del Tenney played the corpse of Rufus Sinclair. It was Roy Scheider’s film debut. Candice Hilligoss was five and a half months pregnant during filming. The movie was filmed on the estate of Gutzon Borglum. He is the man who carved Mount Rushmore. Del Tenney is married to Margot Hartman. Her father owned the estate at the time.