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I Bury the Living

I Bury the Living(1958)

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FULL SYNOPSIS

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In the town of Millford, businessman and town council head Robert Kraft reluctantly accepts the position as manager of the Immortal Hills cemetery. Long-time caretaker Andy McKee shows Bob around the main office, which contains a large map of the grounds with white pins inserted in the plots that are reserved and black pins in those filled. Unsettled at having to assume this new responsibility, Bob nevertheless assures Andy that because the older man has worked for forty years he can now retire with a full pension. Andy, however, is not pleased about being forced to retire. A little later, Bob's old friend Stu Drexel and his new wife Beth arrive to discuss their plots. Back in the office, Bob finds the plots reserved for Stu by his father and sticks two black pins in their mapped location. Downtown, Bob entreats his uncle George not to force him into assuming the cemetery managerial position, but George insist it is Bob's duty. That afternoon, Bob receives notification from the undertaker of the unexpected deaths of the Drexels in a car accident. Newspaper reporter Jess Jessup awaits Bob at Immortal Hills, but dismisses Bob's unease about the Drexels' abrupt deaths. Bob's fiancée, Ann Craig, arrives and before they leave the office, Bob places another black pin in the map on a reserved plot for "W. Isham." A few days later at the cemetery, Bob is stunned to find papers revealing the death of William Isham. Dismayed, Bob contacts Jess, but the reporter insists that the death and Bob's second error in placing a black pin in the map are purely coincidental. Bob continues to feel perturbed, however, and asks George if he may resign as cemetery manager. George scoffs at Bob's fears and forces Bob to return to the cemetery office where George selects a name on a plot at random in which to place a black pin, proclaiming that if the man, Henry Trowbridge dies, Bob may resign. After fretting all day, Bob then telephones the Trowbridges and is shocked to learn that he is dead. Thoroughly disturbed, Bob telephones police, and Lt. Clayborne agrees to meet with him. At the office, Clayborne and Jess attempt to dispel Bob's increasing worry that he has caused the death of the Drexels, Isham and Trowbridge. George calls the town council into session to debate Bob's resignation request. Members George, Charles Bates and Bill Honegger agree to allow Bob's resignation provided there be a further test to prove to him that he is in no way involved with the mysterious deaths. The men insist on their own white plot pins being replaced with black ones to demonstrate the ludicrousness of Bob's suspicions. Bob refuses, but is outvoted. Bob telephones Jess to inform him of the council meeting, and Jess offers to check on each member later to assure Bob of their safety. Filled with foreboding, Bob remains alone at the cemetery office throughout the night. Jess telephones Bob to confirm his worst suspicions, that Honegger has been found dead, as well as Bates. In turmoil, Bob is now convinced that he somehow has the power to will deaths on people through the cemetery plot map. George arrives and attempts to convince Bob that he is in no way responsible for the deaths, but Bob refuses to return home with him. Later, when the police contact Bob to report that George is missing, Bob goes onto the cemetery grounds and finds George dead in his car. When Clayborne, Jess and Ann arrive at the cemetery, Clayborne orders Bob to replace businessman Jake Mittel's white pin with a black one on the map. Clayborne states that Mittel is in Paris and should he die, they may then consider Bob's strange explanation of having the power to will death. Tortured by this latest possibility, Bob remains alone another day and night in the cemetery office, then becomes convinced that if he has the power of death, perhaps he has the power of life. Bob replaces the black pins for all the recently dead townspeople with white pins, then collapses in exhaustion. Awakening some time later, Bob goes outside where his attention is drawn to a gaping hole nearby, which he realizes is the joint plot for the Drexels. Bob rushes to each of the victims' plots and finds each empty. Driven to despair, Bob returns to the office and as he contemplates suicide, Mrs. Mittel telephones to reveal her husband's death in Paris. As Bob hangs up, however, Andy steps out of the shadows to declare that Mittel's death is impossible because he has been behind the murders all along, strangling each of the victims with his scarf in his frustration and indignity at being turned out of his job after forty years. Driven to hysteria and guilt, Andy hears the arrival of the police and, convinced that his victims have returned for him, collapses and dies. Clayborne tells Bob that Andy was long a suspect, but they had no proof as the deaths all seemed to be brought about by extreme fear. The police officer calms Bob, admitting that Mittel's death report was false but was the only way they could think of to force Andy to confess after that they watched him dig up all the victims. Much relieved, Bob leaves Immortal Hills with Ann.