BURIED ALIVE (DVD)

BURIED ALIVE (DVD)
3 Stars
Year Released: 1939
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 74 minutes
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It’s difficult to say why I enjoyed “Buried Alive” so much. As a film I’ve never heard of before–and for the right reasons–it’s completely botched. From the very beginning it’s goofy, ridiculous, and has immensely hackneyed direction (In one scene change Beverly Roberts’ hat goes from black to white; instead of sets, the actors stand in front of screens that look like streets ala “Honeymooners” except more obvious). I can also point out how the DVD quality is terrible seeming as if the VHS was just transferred to the DVD. And let’s not forget the sometimes hokey, sometimes questionable, and sometimes laughable “Of Mice and Men” relationship between our hero Johnny Martin and his bunk mate Big Billy. Whose dialogue, by the by, consists of basically “I’m Big Billy, I’m strong” followed by his following remaining words. It’s a gimmick that can not be scrutinized too harshly, because it’s really of its time period.

However, it’s still a rather goofy plot device because Big Billy is never developed as much as the script hints. The funny thing is, I don’t know what’s more disturbing: that the name Big Billy is the name of a villain from “The Powerpuff Girls”, or that I know that bit of useless trivia. Big Billy appears in the first ten minutes and then again for the last twenty, while the entire film focuses on Johnny Martin. Regardless, though no one is buried alive in “Buried Alive”–and the cover hints at more action than we ever see–the story of this pure B movie is interesting as it unfolds. Johnny Martin is just about to get out of jail, and he’s allowed privileges since he’s been such a model prisoner. He mostly plays chauffeur to his warden, and follows him around. But after prison corruption is uncovered inadvertently by Martin, they look for any reason to keep him jailed for life at risk of him spilling the beans.

They soften him by having the local nurse, a spunky dame, to soften him up, and then they lay the pinch on him against his will. And that’s pretty much the simple story. Johnny is jailed. It’s incredibly difficult not to reveal the big twist since the entire film is basically only ten minutes over an hour, but it’s valid to know what you’re getting. One true twist I’ll reveal only to revel in its disturbing method of delivery is the climax. The main character dies and there’s the end where everyone laughs? How wholly inappropriate for a murky thriller. Ever see a sitcom where all the characters laugh as the credits roll? That’s basically what happens here. I could almost hear the screenwriter saying: “The hero dies, his friend dies, and the criminal gets away free, but–how do we end it with a happy note?” In their own disturbing, demented, uncomfortable way, they pulled it off.



Posted on March 27, 2006 in Reviews by
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