Dead & Buried (1981) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Sheriff Dan Gillis has a nice life with his wife, the teacher Janet Gillis, in the small coastal and friendly town of Potter's Bluff. When visitors are mysterious killed in the town, Sheriff Gillis investigates the cases carefully and finds that dead people are reanimating and coming back to life. Dan finds a book of witchcraft and voodoo in his wife's drawer and he suspects that she might be practicing black magic. Dan meets the coroner-mortician William G. Dobbs and learns the dreadful and surprising secret.

  • Potters Bluff, Rhode Island. may seem to be a sleepy little town. At least for the casual visitor and the local sheriff, Daniel Gillis. However, all of a sudden, there are a lot of strange murders where strangers or people passing through are killed by mobs of townspeople. Only Sheriff Gillis has no clue to what's going on. Fortunately, the town has an excellent undertaker, William G. Dobbs, who is happy to take care of this sudden death-wave which is good for his business. Gillis soon discovers clues that lead to many of the local inhabitants involved in the killings, including his own wife Janet.

  • A suspense horror film set in a small coastal town where, after a series of gory murders commited by mobs of townspeople against visiting tourists, the corpses begin to come back to life.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The small beach community of Potters Bluff advertises "A New Way of Life."

    George Le Moyne (Christopher Allport), a vacationing photographer, snaps photographs on the beach when an attractive young woman (Lisa Blount) approaches. She asks him who he is and what he is doing. When she asks him his name, he refuses to answer. She says his name should be "Freddie," so he calls her "Lisa," and she poses for him until they are surrounded by a group of townspeople. The girl takes his camera away and others in the crowd take pictures as George is beaten, tied up to a post and set on fire.

    Later that evening, Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) examines the site of a car accident with George's burned body inside. William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), an elderly coroner-mortician, arrives from his funeral home with his hearse radio blaring jazz music, but as Dobbs examines the burned body, George screams and is rushed to the hospital.

    The next morning, Sheriff Gillis stops at the diner where fisherman Phil (Barry Corbin) and a few other locals ask about the unknown victim. As Dan informs them that the man is in the hospital, he is served coffee by Midge the waitress (Linda Turley) one of the towns persons who set George on fire.

    That night, an intoxicated fisherman (Ed Bakey) on the docks is murdered by another mob of townspeople, who once again record the event with their cameras.

    The next day, when Sheriff Dan Gillis asks hotel proprietor Ben (Macon McCalman) if any guests have disappeared, the lawman is shown George's room. Ben claims that the sheriff's wife, Janet Gillis (Melody Anderson), visited the photographer yesterday. When Dan queries Janet, she admits to buying photographic equipment for the school where she teaches. Later, Dan runs into the principal, Mr. Haskell (Robert Boler), who denies purchasing equipment. Dan is then called to another crime scene where the dead and mutilated body of the fisherman is discovered.

    At the hospital, George is awake, but only his left eye and mouth are not charred. As Dan and the doctor (Joe Medalis) speak in the hallway, the same woman from the beach known as "Lisa" (now dressed in a white nurse's uniform) sneaks into George's room and kills him with a hypodermic needle into the eye.

    Later, at George's graveside, coroner Dobbs is angry at Dan that he was not allowed to work his "magic," restoring George for viewing. That night, before Janet leaves for a PTA meeting, she hands her husband a roll of 16mm film that her students shot for a class project and asks him to drop it off to be developed.

    Meanwhile, a family of three stops at the diner to ask for directions and Midge refers them to "Freddie," a gas station attendant who resembles burn victim George LeMoyne, but in perfect condition. As the family drives through the fog, an unidentified creature runs in front of their car and they crash. They go for help at a nearby house, which is seemingly deserted until the family is surrounded by townspeople. The couple and their young son escape, but as they drive away, a woman in the back seat attacks the boy. The couple grabs their child, ripping the woman's hair and revealing stitches on her scalp. She is thrown from the car as it speeds off.

    Meanwhile, driving the deserted streets, Sheriff Dan Gillis is startled as the family's car races past. He follows but hits a pedestrian. Dan gets out to investigate and finds the man's severed arm on the front grille of his car. The injured man sits up, hits Dan, grabs the arm and runs away. Dan follows the man but quickly looses him. The sheriff rushes home to get ammunition, but instead of bullets, he finds a book on witchcraft and voodoo. He confronts Janet when she arrives home about it. Janet claims that she plans to lecture her students on witchcraft.

    The next day, Dan drops off his wife's students' film with storekeeper Ernie (Bill Quinn) and insists only he can pick it up. Later, the sheriff gets a phone call from tow-truck driver, Harry (Robert Englund), as he pulls a car from the ocean (it is the same station wagon the family of three was driving). The car is empty, except for a child's toy airplane.

    Dan pulls skin from the grille of his car and asks the doctor to analyze it. The hotel proprietor, Ben, tells Dan that he saw George LeMoyne, as "Freddie," at the gas station and wants Janet to verify the man is actually George.

    In her classroom, Janet lectures on voodoo, explaining that the "walking dead" closely imitate the living but are completely at the will of their master, who maintains control by hiding the person's heart. One of her students is Jamie, the same boy who tried to escape with his parents the previous night. Dan arrives at the school and questions his wife why Principal Haskell was unaware of the photographic equipment purchase, but Janet claims it was a surprise gift for Haskell from the PTA. When they reach the gas station, Janet does not recognize "Freddie."

    Across town, a female hitchhiker (Lisa Marie) accepts a ride into Potters Bluff, but the driver is the recently murdered fisherman. The mob of townspeople attack, pull out the hitchhiker from the truck and her skull is crushed by the townspeople. At the funeral home, Dobbs restores the hitchhiker's beauty with sculpting, makeup and a new eyeball. After Dobbs leaves the room, a shadowy figure appears, touches the corpse and she sits up.

    Elsewhere, the doctor informs Dan that the flesh from the car's grille has been dead for at least three months. Later, as the doctor studies the flesh under a microscope, townsfolk (whom include Ernie, Harry, the fisherman, Midge the waitress, Nurse Lisa and the female hitchhiker) murder him by shoving tubes of acid in his nose.

    The next morning, Dobbs arrives at the sheriff's office and is frantic, claiming that the hitchhiker's body is missing from his funeral home, but he does not want to tell anyone because it will ruin his reputation. Dan is further confused to what is going on, when Dobbs claims that Janet visited him several times, assuming the undertaker knew about voodoo.

    A short time later, Dan learns that the St. Louis police have identified George LeMoyne and want the body. At the cemetery, Dan gets tired of waiting for Dobbs and asks the gravedigger, Sam (Michael Pataki), to dig up George's grave. As Sam digs, Sheriff Gillis searches the funeral home, but does not find Dobbs, who is resting in one of the corpse drawers. At the grave site, Dan and Sam open the casket to discover only a severed heart inside.

    At the police station, Dan orders the receptionist and secretary Betty (Estelle Omans) to contact the state police in Rhode Island for any criminal or arrest record and background information on Dobbs. While Dan goes outside to wait, the doctor (now a reanimated being) approaches Dan, where he asks the doctor if there is any way possible to raise and control the recently dead. But the doctor dismisses Dan's theory. The sheriff returns to the station where he and Betty read a message on the station's telex that arrives which reads that Dobbs was formerly "Doctor Dobbs", the chief pathologist for over 30 years in Providence, Rhode Island until he was dismissed from his job on October 10, 1969 when he was discovered performing unauthorized autopsies of dead bodies in the city morgue. Dobbs escaped prosecution by a grand jury hearing but on November 30, he had his doctor's credentials removed from the RI medical society, and he left Rhode Island shortly thereafter and settled in Potters Bluff, Maine the following year in the spring of 1970. Dan then wonders what has Dobbs been doing most of this time in town for the past 10 years.

    Dan picks up the developed reel of film from Ernie (who is hiding his decomposing right hand, being a reanimated cadaver). Dan goes home and watches the film alone (Note: the movie camera that one of the towns person used to film the murders is in Gillis coat closet). In the film, Dan watches an unknown man enter a house and then sees footage of a woman having sex with a man in the house's bedroom before she stabs him to death while the townspeople enter the scene. The woman in the film is Dan's wife Janet. Dobbs is also in the film and watching the events unfold.

    Dan races to the funeral home where Dobbs screens films of all the murders. Dobbs admits that Janet was his first reanimated cadaver that he brought back to life when he first arrived in Potters Bluff 10 years ago and greatest creation, but will not reveal his secret method to reanimating the dead despite Dan's threats to shoot him. When Janet arrives, acting as if nothing is amiss, Dobbs insists the dead only have the memories he gives them. Part of Janet's skin comes off in Dan's hand, and he shoots her. Unhurt, she leaves claiming that she is dead. Dan shoots Dobbs and follows Janet to the graveyard, where she climbs into George's open grave. She begs Dan to bury her and insists she loves him as he gently drops dirt on her using his bare hands.

    Meanwhile back at the funeral home, the fatally wounded Dobbs revives, plays some jazz swing music on his turnstile record player, and after making his face up, shoves two embalming tubes in his own stomach before falling dead.

    Outside at the cemetery, the townsfolk zombies, in various stages of disrepair, surround Dan and offer their condolences to Janet being "dead and buried". It is here that Dan is shocked to realize EVERYONE is involved, including the doctor, Betty, Midge, Ernie, Phil, Harry, George, and Nurse Lisa (all of whom are strangely not attacking him). Dan flees from the cemetery and returns to the morgue where Dobbs, seemingly alive, awaits. Dobbs tells Dan, that "there is one more thing" he needs to know. Dobbs turns the sheriff's attention to one of the screens playing the murders, where Dan sees that he himself is Janet's murdered lover. In the final shot, Sheriff Dan Gillis comes to realize that he is also one of the living dead this whole time... when he finds his hands that he used to bury Janet cracked and decomposing. Dobbs offers Dan to fix his damaged hands for him. On this creepy and eerie note, 'Dead and Buried' comes to a close with a freeze frame and fade out.

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