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Buried Alive (1939)

Approved  |   |  Drama  |  6 November 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 4.8/10 from 113 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 2 critic

A prison trustee rescues a despondent executioner from a bar-room brawl, and is blamed for the fight by a tabloid reporter who actually started it, and loses parole, becomes embittered, and gets blamed for murder of guard.



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Complete credited cast:
Johnny Martin
Paul McVey ...
Jim Henderson
Ted Osborne ...
Ira Hanes (as Ted Osborn)
George Pembroke ...
Ernie Matthews (as Geo. Pembroke)
Stephen Chase ...
Dr. Robert Lee (as Alden Chase)
Gus Barth (as Peter Lynn)
Wheeler Oakman ...
Norman Budd ...
The Kid
Boyd Irwin ...
Edward Earle ...
Charlie Blake
Robert McKenzie ...
Al Garrity (as Bob McKenzie)
Don Rowan ...
Big Billy


Ernie Matthews, who operates the prison electric chair, is having a crisis of conscience about his role as state executioner. His unrequited love for Joan Wright, another prison employee, adds to his depression. She in turn loves Johnny Martin, the warden's chauffeur and a trustee eligible shortly for parole. When the despondent Matthews goes to a local road house after an execution to get drunk, he's taunted by a sadistic reporter, and a brawl results. Because Johnny came to Matthews' aid in the fight, the parole board, pressured by the press, turns down his expected release, and Johnny reacts bitterly, forcing the warden to rescind his privileges. When Johnny's mentally challenged cell mate Big Billy strangles a sadistic warder, it is only Johnny's intervention that keeps a second guard from being killed. Another vindictive convict, Gus Barth, the only living witness to Johnny's heroism, spitefully hides the truth, hoping that Johnny goes to the electric chair. Written by Gabe Taverney (

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Love finds its way... behind the gates of prison!




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

6 November 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bakom fängelsets murar  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Actor/stuntman Dave O'Brien plays the part of a reporter without his signature hairpiece, but he is wearing it when he doubles Robert Wilcox in the bar brawl scene. Even with his hairpiece on, it is obviously O'Brien. See more »


The Kid: I'm gonna complain to the warden about that executioner testing his dynamos - interferes with my readin'! In about ten minutes Johnny'll be kickin' off.
The Kid: Probably wishin' he could just have five minutes alone with you before he crosses over.
Gus Barth: He won't get five minutes of my time! He's through!
The Kid: Maybe... maybe not!
Gus Barth: Whattaya mean?
The Kid: Well, he may claim five minutes of your time on the other side... if there is another side, Barth.
See more »


Referenced in The Man Who Came to Dinner (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Minor late-show material
3 December 2002 | by (Minneapolis) – See all my reviews

With its limited settings, slow pacing, and small cast, this "B" movie could almost be staged as a radio drama. It offers little in the way of suspense or romance and has no comic relief but there may be some academic interest in its Roosevelt-era attitudes toward prisons, capital punishment, and the power of the press.

Robert Wilcox, who always deserved better and who has one of the greatest heads of hair in the history of the movies, does what he can as the inmate who suffers a contrived and implausible string of bad luck. His best part came in the following year, however, when he played an inmate who endures a memorable flogging in "Island of Doomed Men."

7 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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