Buried Alive (1939) Poster


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Minor late-show material
dinky-43 December 2002
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."
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Don't be Fooled by the Box
LynxMatthews19 September 2003
The cheapo box I had made it seem like a vampire horror movie where someone is buried in a grave. So horror fans beware. But fans of little B movies might find this a pleasant diversion. Most remarkable is the very clear "Of Mice and Men" style relationship between the lead guy and his big, dumb buddy.
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Not a horror movie
vampi196019 August 2006
despite the title buried alive is'nt a horror film,nor is it a film about anyone being buried alive,its a well made PRC poverty row prison melodrama about a prison trustee(Robert Wilcox) who gets in a jam after helping a prison employee in a bar room brawl.he gets hurt and ends up in the prison sick bay and falls in love with the prison nurse(Beverly Roberts)it has the look of an old warner brothers crime drama,i kept waiting for the dead end kids to show up.for a low budget movie its pretty good.warner Oakland and don Rowan(both from the buster Crabbe flash Gordon serials play supporting roles.it was directed by victor halperin(white zombie)i bought this DVD for a buck at a local dollar store,it has 2 features on it,the other is the infamous ;i bury the living with Richard Boone.now thats a bargain.as a fan of vintage horror and dramas I'm always on the prowl for these bargains.buried alive is 7 out of 10,pretty good b-movie.
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Awful, boring, inept noir -- AVOID!
fwmurnau23 November 2012
A prisoner with a spotless record, about to be paroled, encounters a series of misunderstandings, unlucky accidents, and set-backs that jeopardize his freedom and his future with the blonde prison infirmary nurse he's fallen in love with. Sound interesting? IT'S NOT!

This movie is so badly written, it might be used as a textbook example of how not to construct a story. The exposition wanders around, trying to get a story started, and fails miserably.

It's not even clear who the main character is until about 45 minutes in. The script seems to have been written as some kind of protest piece against capital punishment. A worse punishment is trying to sit through this movie to the end.

Wooden dialog, poor acting and direction, and scene after scene in which characters' actions make absolutely no sense. This is almost Ed Wood- bad, but sadly it's not "so bad it's good". It's "so bad it's depressing".
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Of Rice and Men
wes-connors8 March 2009
"A prison trustee is soon to be released from prison when he ends up stopping a bar brawl involving one of the prison guards. After some unkind press for him on the bar brawl, the convict is turned down for his early parole. Will his love for the prison nurse help him in getting past all of the people trying to keep him in prison and looking at the electric chair?" according to the DVD sleeve's synopsis.

"Buried Alive" is a potentially interesting look at the electric chair era, and the public servants who organize the executions. But, the main story, involving handsome Robert Wilcox (as Johnny Martin) doesn't end up serving the film's morality question; at least, not the one introduced in the opening, by twitchy switch-puller George Pembroke (as Ernie Matthews).

A "love story" between Mr. Wilcox and beautiful nurse Beverly Roberts (as Joan Wright) isn't terribly exciting. The book Wilcox describes, while driving, is John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" - which makes Wilcox "George" and cell-mate Don Rowan (as Big Billy) "Lennie". In the 1929s, prisoners did a lot more reading (and motion pictures were sometimes too talky).

*** Buried Alive (11/6/39) Victor Halperin ~ Robert Wilcox, Beverly Roberts, George Pembroke
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An odd title but even odder is that this PRC film is actually good!
MartinHafer22 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
reference to "Of Mice and Men" for Big Billy PRC was one of the crappiest studios of the day. It consistently churned out films that were ultra-low budget AND rather stupid. By comparison, the films of Monogram and Republic looked like Oscar-contenders!! And, it's because of this I was so shocked by "Buried Alive"...because it is actually very good! Sure, the acting is occasionally shaky, but the story was really good and it makes you think.

Despite the title, the film is set in prison. The film is an indictment of the prison system and a call for reform. It also appears to be a strong condemnation of newspapers. It begins with a prison trustee, Johnny Martin (Robert Wilcox), doing his best to make his stay in prison as brief and productive as possible. He is not only a model prisoner but does his best to look out for other prisoners. However, when he comes to the aid of a prison worker who is pulled into a fist-fight, a long series of unfortunate events occurs--resulting in Johnny NOT being paroled but being sentenced to the death chamber!! In addition to savaging the press, the film is very clearly anti-capital punishment and in favor of rehabilitation. It's unusual for its day and although it's a tiny bit preachy, it makes its case very well and is well worth your time. Cheap but effective and with a nifty ending.
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A very tedious prison drama
Red-Barracuda19 August 2010
This mind-bogglingly tedious and utterly meaninglessly titled prison-drama is about a convict who is wrongly accused of killing a prison guard and subsequently sentenced to death by electric chair. Victor Halperin is at the helm here, he will be known to some as a director of some low grade poverty row genre pictures of the 30's. This has to be his least enjoyable feature that I have seen so far. It simply never gets going. It's very much a drama with little in the way of thrills; however, this is not a problem in itself. The issue is that the set-up and character relationships are not believable or compelling. The prison itself is like no other I know of, where felons are allowed out to work as chauffeurs for staff and even go drinking with them in bars in town. It's very silly. So too is the romantic sub-plot, where it seems that every man in the prison is deeply in love with the nurse/token woman. It's kind of trite and is a weak and pointless thread, as it doesn't really generate any worthwhile developments in the plot.

One of the few points of interest in the plot is the way the film deals with the issue of capitol punishment. It seems to be very much anti-death penalty. This surprised me, as I thought that the general consensus back in the 30's would have been 'kill them, kill them!' Shows you what I know, turns out there were some very libertarian humanistic views on the subject back then. So that was quite interesting. Sadly not a lot else actually was.
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Give this one a miss!
JohnHowardReid4 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Victor Halperin, who make such excellent work of both "White Zombie" (1932) and "Supernatural" (1933) obviously had an off day when he agreed to direct "Buried Alive" (1939) (available on a quite good Alpha disc), which is actually not a horror film by any stretch of the imagination, but a slack prison picture in which the luckless hero is condemned to an endless stretch.

So no-one is actually physically buried alive at all. It's merely a figure of speech. That, in itself, is more than somewhat disappointing. But there is even more bad news to come! Burdened with a surfeit of dialogue and a totally uninteresting cast (including throaty-voiced Beverly Roberts in her final movie appearance — and who could blame her for quitting after being incarcerated in this turnkey turkey?), it makes for a boring 62 minutes, despite an obvious borrowing from John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men".
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This film should be buried...and not in a time capsule!
mark.waltz15 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is a z grade snooze fest, one of the worst prison movies I've ever seen, which really gives PRC the name of perfectly rotten cinema. It surrounds the trustee of a prison who is framed on a murder charge and faces the death penalty. The convoluted plot keeps falling through the invisible sieve, so many holes and nothing coming out of it. This is extremely difficult to get through with Wilcox giving too moody of a performance to sympathize with and Beverly Roberts, once a Warner Brothers leading lady, absolutely lifeless. This is especially surprising to be so dull with cult director Victor Halperin at the helm. Even the intense prison scenes fall flat, and a seemingly serious car accident is badly staged with unrealistic details surrounding the crash.
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Neatly Tied Up, But Overall Ridiculous
Hitchcoc5 November 2009
Let's see now. A central figure is the guy who throws the switch at electrocutions. There are three guys in love with a woman who works as a nurse at the prison hospital. One of the prisoners gets to dress up in a suit and drive people around. The warden spends all of his time trying to help this guy. The security is non-existent. The nurse falls in love with the convict rather than the three guys who are in love with her. If prisons were run like this, they would be empty. Everyone would have walked away.

My favorite character is the executioner. He has the shakes but can't seem to quit the job. About once a month he puts the juice to someone. He really wants to buy a farm and raise chickens. Oh, there's also a chaplain who is in love with this woman. Then there is an evil reporter who frames the poor schmoe. Does this sound like something you'd like to see?
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