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The Premature Burial

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The Premature Burial (1962), starring Ray Milland, Hazel Court, directed by Roger Corman
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The Premature Burial (1962), starring Ray Milland, Hazel Court, directed by Roger Corman

In The Premature Burial, an artist grows distant from his newlywed wife. His father was a cataleptic, who was mistakenly buried alive. And so he’s terrified of the same. And step by step he grows more distant from his wife, more obsessed …

Guy Carrell has a terror of being buried alive. Starting on his wedding night, his terror grows, slowly, gradually. Slowly he progresses into seeming madness with increasing symptoms.

  • First, on his wedding night, he runs away from the wedding reception. Due to music played by his wife. Because the song was whistled by grave robbers as they dug up the corpse of a man buried alive.
  • Next, he orders his wife to not brings flowers into their house, since it reminds him of funerals.
  • After, he doesn’t go away on his honeymoon as planned. He won’t even leave his house and grounds.
  • Then he builds a special mausoleum, so that if he’s buried alive, he’ll be able to escape.
  • He hears that same whistling song, while on a walk with his wife. He pursues the sound. Finally he finds the same grave robbers that whistled it earlier, thinking they’ve come for him. This leads to a nightmarish episode.
  • And he keeps hearing that same, whistling tune …


Finally, his wife Emily gives him an ultimatum. He must choose life, or she’ll leave. Or, as an alternative, she urges him to destroy the mausoleum. So, he chooses life …. And Emily. And destroys the mausoleum. Then, at a party, they hear a cat that somehow became trapped in a wall. And Guy’s fear comes rushing back in.

At Miles’ urging, Guy goes to his father’s crypt. Miles wants him to see that his father wasn’t buried prematurely buried. But the skelton lurches out, putting Guy into a cataleptic trance. And he’s declared dead …

But Guy survives his premature burial, and goes on a murder spree!


  • Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) … Guy Carrell. Our central character and protagonist. Sympathetic, but he appears to be slowly succumbing to madness …
  • Hazel Court (The Masque of the Red Death, The Raven) … Emily Gault. Guy’s fiancee, and then his wife. She’s supportive, and seems to truly love her husband.
  • Richard Ney (Mrs. Miniver) … Miles Archer. A doctor, who works at the hospital with Dr. Gault. Clearly, a former beau of Emily’s. But he appears to sincerely want to help Guy.
  • Heather Angel (Peter Pan) … Kate Carrell. Guy’s stiff sister. She clearly doesn’t care for Emily. And, she does care for her brother.
  • Alan Napier (Batman, The Mole People) … Dr. Gideon Gault. Emily’s father. Who’s not above hiring grave robbers, to supply cadavers for his medical school.
  • John Dierkes … Sweeney. One of the two grave diggers … And grave robbers.

Editorial review of The Premature Burial

Psychiatric thriller. In The Premature Burial, Guy Carrell believes that his father was buried alive while in a cataleptic fit, thinking that this could be hereditary he tries to put off his approaching wedding. His fiancee Emily persuades him otherwise. After the marriage strange events occur sending Guy out of his mind. Guy”s sister Kate believes that he should see his father’s body to reassure him that the death was natural.

The tomb is opened and the skeleton lurches out, sending Guy into a cataleptic trance. Thought to be dead he is buried, however, he is subsequently dug up by a doctor who wishes to carry out scientific tests on the body. As the coffin is opened the `corpse” has a fit and kills two gravediggers, the doctor and finally Emily, who is revealed as the person behind the uncanny happenings in order to profit from Guy”s wealth on his death. …

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