BURY ME DEAD (director: Bernard Vorhaus; screenwriters: from Irene Winston’s radio play “Bury Me Dead”/Dwight V. Babcock/Karen DeWolf; cinematographer: John Alton; editor: W. Donn Hayes; music: Emil Cadkin; cast: Cathy O’Donnell (Rusty), June Lockhart (Barbara Carlin), Hugh Beaumont (Michael Dunn), Mark Daniels (Rod Carlin), Greg McClure (George Mandley, The Boxer), Milton Parsons (Jeffers, the Butler), Virginia Farmers (Ms. Haskins, Housekeeper), Sonia Darrin (Helen Lawrence), Charles Lane (Mr. Brighton, Police Investigator); Runtime: 68; rated: NR; producer: Charles Reisner; Eagle-Lion Films Inc.; 1947-UK)
“Not without some humor.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The British B-film noir’s premise is about the wealthy and cute Barbara Carlin (June Lockhart-she was only 22 at the time) attending her own funeral. An interesting idea for a film but too bad the story itself falters and does not live up to its potential. The film opens with a fire in the stables of Mrs. Carlin’s estate, and the recovery of an unrecognizable charred body that is identified as Barbara’s because of a diamond necklace found at the scene. But Barbara was away at the time in her retreat in Arrowhead, as she was contemplating about her divorce plans for her philandering husband Rod (Mark Daniels). The body turns out to be that of Helen Lawrence (Darrin), who was having an open affair with the thoughtless and inconsiderate Rod. This was going on while Barbara was having a make-believe affair with a dopey and flirtatious prizefighter named George (McClure) in order to take him away from her kid half-sister Rusty (Cathy O’Donnell-RKO lent their under contract actress out), as a means of protecting her from the much older man. The gold digging Helen was George’s secretary and would have married him, but he had no dough and no prospects. Rusty has vehemently resented her sister ever since Barbara was left the entire inheritance from her father’s will, as Rusty’s stepfather only left her a meager monthly allowance since he wasn’t her father. Rusty also is fuming because the love of her life, Rod, left her for Barbara. She rants that her sister “takes everything away from me.” Though Barbara generously allows her to stay on in one of the estate cottages.
Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.
Barbara shows up to her own funeral disguised in a black veil, and afterwards gets into the car of her surprised husband’s attorney and her financial adviser, Mike Dunn (Beaumont). She tells him she let the funeral continue because someone was trying to kill her and she plans to find out who that person is before they strike again. The obvious suspects include Rod, Helen, George and Rusty. But in this whodunit like in the Charlie Chan ones, the most unlikely one will turn out to be the guilty party. In the film’s stretch run, it’s revealed that Mike was embezzling Barbara’s money and wants her out of the way ever since she started to get interested in observing what he was doing.
It’s a minor movie, that was not totally unbearable and not without some humor — though of the gallows humor kind. A morbid butler named Jeffers (Milton Parsons) performs his services as if he were a robot, and adds some zany facial gestures as comedy to the weak mystery story. Charles Lane plays a police questioner who is so smug and full of himself that he can’t understand why the innocent suspect he’s grilling wants to kill him, as he keeps questioning him even though the police are tipped off that the real murderer is in the house alone with Barbara. Cinematographer John Alton does his usual fine job of capturing film noir shadowy figures and images. But outside of Lockhart, no one else demonstrates that they can act a lick — with Greg McClure and Mark Daniels being the worst of a bad lot.
REVIEWED ON 9/30/2002 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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