THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE
(director: Will Cowan; screenwriter: David Duncan/story by David Duncan; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Edward Curtiss; music: Joseph Gershenson; cast: William Reynolds (Gordon Hawthorne), Andra Martin (Linda Madison), Jeffrey Stone (Hank Houston), Robin Hughes (Gideon Drew), Carolyn Kearney (Jessica Burns), Peggy Converse (Flavia MacIntyre), Charles Horvath (Mike), Forrest Lewis (Julian Ash), James Anderson (Boyd Abercrombie); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Will Cowan; Universal-International Pictures; 1958)
“Cheesy B/W low-budget (made for $150,000) supernatural horror pic that speaks to the viewer looking for cheap thrills.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Cheesy B/W low-budget (made for $150,000) supernatural horror pic that speaks to the viewer looking for cheap thrills. It has become a cult favorite among many of those who watched it on network TV over the years, when there were no videos or DVDs. Will Cowan(“The Big Beat”) is known for directing shorts, as this is only his second feature helmed. It’s enjoyable but second-rate hokum, written with a tongue-in-cheek flavor by David Duncan. It also suffers from an unsatisfying conclusion, where things conclude without much tension.
In the California countryside, the eighteen-year-old Jessica Burns (Carolyn Kearney) uses her psychic powers with a dowsing rod to find water on the ranch of her aunt, Flavia MacIntyre (Peggy Converse). Ranch guests for the summer include former hometown resident now an archaeologist Gordon Hawthorne (William Reynolds) and his boozy artist friend Hank Houston (Jeffrey Stone) and Hank’s well-dressed fiancée Linda Madison (Andra Martin). When Linda requests help locating her lost watch, Jessica locates it to prove to the doubters her powers are real. At the mulberry bush site of the watch, a 400 year old talisman is found and given to Jessica by Gordon, her would-be suitor, as an apology for doubting her. Digging further at the tree site, despite Jessica’s warning not to because they will unearth evil, handyman Boyd Abercrombie (James Anderson) and the simple minded gentle giant manual laborer Mike (Charles Horvath) locate a metal chest with the markings 1579 and writings in Old English that is difficult to see clearly. Believing it might be gold buried by Sir Francis Drake, Gordon convinces Flavia not to open it until he brings the next morning to the ranch from Berkeley the noted archaeologist Julian Ash (Forrest Lewis) to verify the find. The handyman and Mike guard the valued chest overnight, but its contents intrigue the greedy handyman and he convinces Mike that Flavia gave him permission to open the chest. It turns out to contain the disembodied, live head of Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes), a sixteenth-century devil worshipper, who was punished by Drake for his sins by having his head live forever in search of his corpse buried somewhere else in a casket on the grounds. Drew’s head, with hypnotic powers, influences a killing spree as he goes in search of overcoming his curse to become a whole person again by possessing those who hold his head to continue the search. The greedy Flavia and the visitors get caught up in the greed of their discovery, as only the innocent Jessica wants nothing to do with it.
REVIEWED ON 8/1/2013 GRADE: C+