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CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE, THE (director/writer: Del Tenney; cinematographer: Richard L. Hilliard; editors: Jack Hirschfeld/Gary Youngman; music: Bill Holcomb; cast: Roy Scheider (Philip Sinclair), Candace Hilligoss (Deborah Benson), Helen Warren (Abigail Sinclair), Margot Hartman (Vivian Sinclair), Robert Milli (Bruce Sinclair), Hugh Franklin (James Benson), Del Tenney (The Living Corpse), Linda Donovan (Letty), Dino Narizzano (Robert Harrington), J. Frank Lucas (Seth), George Cotton (Constable Winters), Paul Haney (Chief Constable Barnes), Jane Bruce (The Cook), Williiam B. Blood (Minister); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Del Tenney; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1964)
“If you love bad films, this one is irresistible.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Stage personality Del Tenney (“Zombies”) directs this cheapie Old Dark House murder mystery, on the second bill with his “The Horror of Party Beach” at drive-ins. The cast is made up of actors from the stage that Tenney knew. Roy Scheider in a hammy performance makes his big screen debut in this fright pic, that’s only remembered because it made some lists as one of the worst films ever made (In my opinion, a bad film, but not that bad!). In any case, it had some entertainment value. If you love bad films, this one is irresistible. It was filmed on a Stamford, Connecticut, estate owned by Tenney’s father-in-law.

Old Rufus Sinclair, a deranged and despised millionaire dies and his greedy relatives gather at the Sinclair mansion in New England, in 1892, to hear the will read by the attorney Benson (Hugh Franklin). Rufus had suffered from seizures and had a fear of being buried alive, as the seizures make it seem like he’s dead. To the relatives surprise anger, the will states that Rufus will return from the dead to murder them in the manner which they fear most if they failed to carry out some of his last wishes and that the inheritance money will not be allocated until a year passes.

Sure enough there’s a living corpse returning to carry out Rufus’s promise. It starts with the promiscuous maid Letty (Linda Donovan) beheaded and placed on a platter that is sent up the dumbwaiter; the arrogant oldest son Bruce (Robert Milli), needing the inheritance because of gambling debts, is disfigured with a cane sword and dragged by a galloping horse to his death; the deceased’s wife Abigail (Helen Warren) is set on fire while tied to her bed; the servant Seth (J. Frank Lucas) is stabbed to death with the cane sword; Vivian (Margot Hartman), the unfaithful wife of the deceased’s other son, the nasty alcoholic loser Philip (Roy Scheider), is drowned in the bathtub and, finally, the killer is dispatched in quicksand.

Candace Hilligoss (starred in the great cult film “Carnival of Souls,” her only other appearance on film) plays the nice girl girlfriend of Robert (Dino Narizzano), a nephew of the deceased. Paul Haney plays the police chief investigating the crime, while George Cotton plays the dumb constable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”