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Nicholas Le Prevost
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Released in America as "The Woman Who Wouldn't Die"
1964's "Catacombs" was the debut feature from Hitchcock disciple Gordon Hessler, shot in England like most of his subsequent films, and importing American actor Gary Merrill, a frequent guest star on the Hitchcock's teleseries, to assure distribution in the US, under the new title, "The Woman Who Wouldn't Die." Scriptwise, an extension of a typical Hitchcockian TV plot, as astute businesswoman Ellen Garth (Georgina Cookson) holds all the purse strings over her weak-willed husband Raymond (Merrill), to whom she is completely devoted. Despite a bad hip that requires the use of a cane, Ellen has a very active sexual relationship with her husband, who doesn't mind being dominated since she continuously dotes on him with her money. Problems arise when Ellen's young niece, Alice Taylor (Jane Merrow), arrives home from art school in Paris, showing a recently developed, somewhat unorthodox, attraction to her all-too-willing uncle, until after the pair are caught in a tender embrace by her insightful aunt, who threatens to disown her faithless husband if he doesn't abide by her rules. When Ellen makes plans to spend a week alone in Italy, her unscrupulous attorney, Richard Corbett (Neil McCallum), who has a prison record and has been caught forging her name on his checks, conspires with Raymond to make sure she has an unfortunate 'accident' due to her notoriously poor driving skills. Unfortunately, Raymond cannot resist the opportunity to drown his wife in her bathroom sink, burying the corpse behind their isolated country cottage, left to him in her will provided he spend the rest of his life there. Corbett carries out his part in the plot by hiring an actress to portray Ellen, seen leaving England by plane, then cold-bloodedly dispatching her on the continent. Raymond gets no time to relax however; he remembers that Ellen believed in life after death, and there are signs that she is not content to remain in her grave. Hessler works wonders with a routine script, and is aided by good performances from the tiny cast of seven players. Actor Neil McCallum, Irish accent intact, later played opposite Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in 1964's "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors," and died in 1976 at the youthful age of 47. "Catacombs" was completed in November 1963, co-produced by McCallum and Jack Parsons, whose next production in January 1964 would be the underrated "Witchcraft," importing American star Lon Chaney, in his only British film.
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