Cast & Crew
One night, Alan, a bullying, demented theatrical director, forces his troupe of five actors to accompany him to a burial island off the coast of Florida. He gives them a brief tour of the graveyard, showing them the cemetery's pauper section, where he says criminals of violent misdeeds were buried hastily in unmarked graves, and the "hallowed ground" of the marked graves, one of which holds the remains of a man who put a curse of revenge on the area. Although the actors complain of hearing mysterious, eerie sounds that make them uneasy, Alan leads them to the caretaker's cottage that he claims has been uninhabited for about two years. At Alan's instruction, Paul, a leading male type, breaks into the house through the window and opens the door for the others. As one of the actors, Jeff, starts a fire in the fireplace, Alan tells the others that the original caretaker was institutionalized for killing his wife and children and that the subsequent caretaker hung himself in an upstairs room. Although disturbed by Alan's stories, the group nervously makes jokes about ghouls and ghosts, but Anya, an ethereal, slightly mad actress, says it would be "beautiful" to be in the presence of a ghost and asserts that evil spirits are simply manifestations of one's own bad thoughts. Alan calls everyone together and shows them a chest from which he pulls a string of garlic, a heavy tome he calls a grimoire and a long robe, which he dons. Then, after announcing that their purpose for being there is to summon the dead to rise, he explains that the book contains spells and summations, one of which will call forth the dead from the grave to serve him in this world and the next. Enthusiastically, he explains that the island is the perfect place to carry out his task, as it has the consummate evil of the criminals buried within its depths, the curse of a vengeful man and fresh cadavers. As it is near midnight, which he claims is the appropriate time to carry out his goal, he orders the group to exhume the recently deceased Orville from his grave and threatens to fire them if they refuse. After they open the grave, Alan instructs Jeff to go into the grave and lift up the corpse for the others to pull out. When he does so, the "corpse" grabs him by the neck, scaring everyone. However, when Alan laughs hysterically, the group soon realizes that they are the butt of a practical joke he has devised with the help of two of their fellow actors, Roy and Emerson. The two homosexual actors admit to making the strange sounds and have also, unknown to the others, tied up the real caretaker of the cemetery and left him sitting alone in the woods. As Roy and Emerson have already removed Orville from his coffin, the group is instructed to prop him against a cross-shaped grave marker, in front of which Alan draws a five-pointed star. Using an envelope of dried blood called for in the book of spells, Alan begins a ritual, in which, among other things, he anoints each grave and invokes the lord of the netherworld during a lengthy prayer. When nothing happens, Alan feels betrayed and cheated out of the money he spent on the grimoire and, in a tantrum, calls the devil a fraud. The actress Val, who is least intimidated by Alan, says that it takes a real artist to deal with the devil. In a mighty, theatrical voice, she calls out to the devil and her voice echoes as thunder rumbles. She then assumes the voice and character of a Jewish matron and insists that the devil do what is expected of him, to the amusement of the others. When she is finished, Alan insists that the group carry Orville into the cottage, where he has them enact a mock marriage ceremony, with him as the groom, Orville as the bride and Jeff, the preacher. Paul and the ingénue, Terry, express abhorrence, but Alan soon brings Terry to tears by threatening to renege on her contract and forces her to apologize. The otherworldly Anya urges Alan not to make fun of the corpse, warning that doing so will make it angry, but Alan deliberately makes disrespectful remarks. Anya becomes so upset that she cries out for God to forgive them and poignantly pronounces Alan evil, prompting the others to subdue and calm her. Although Jeff helps Alan place Orville on a bed upstairs, he tells the director that he has gone too far. Unrepentant, Alan lies on the bed with Orville and talks to him. Downstairs, concerned with Anya's state of mind, the others decide to leave the island without Alan. Outside, where Roy and Emerson are under orders from Alan to fill in the graves, corpses reach out from the dirt, pull themselves out of their graves and chase the men. They catch up with Emerson and begin devouring him, while others find the frightened caretaker. As the actors are leaving the cottage, Roy, severely mauled, runs toward them, followed by the newly risen dead, who force them all back into the cottage. As the corpses pound on the door, the actors bar it securely. Suddenly, everything becomes quiet, but the actors can see the ghouls standing outside. They turn to Roy to ask him what happened, but find he is dead, leading them to assume that Emerson was also killed. When Val suggests that one of them must escape to the boat and get help, Paul offers to go. The others open the front door to distract the ghouls, and after Paul slips out the back, they quickly retreat inside. However, when they hear pain-filled cries, they look out to see that Paul has been captured and is being devoured, and soon after, two corpses grab Terry and drag her away. Val angrily accuses Alan of causing all the trouble, but Jeff, who has been a source of calm throughout, suggests they look for a counterspell in the grimoire . Alan reads from the book aloud, as Val and Jeff monitor what is happening outside. The counterspell seems to work, as the corpses back away toward the cemetery and the woods become quiet. Grabbing weapons, Val, Jeff, Alan and Anya walk quickly yet cautiously down the path to the boat. All seems clear, but suddenly they are confronted by the ghouls, who surround and separate them, killing Jeff and Val. Anya and Alan are forced back into the cottage and up the stairs. Hoping to save himself, Alan pushes Anya toward the crowd of corpses and takes refuge in a bedroom. Too late, he realizes that Orville, who is now revived, is in the room. Orville embraces the terrified Alan, as the others enter the room eagerly. Later, having killed the troupe of actors, the ghouls board the boat and head toward the mainland in search of more people.
James B. Clark
Lee James O'donnell
Get out of the grave, Alan. Get out of the grave and let an artist show you how to call a curse down on Satan!- Val
I peed in my pants!- Jeff
Humans are machines for generating manure.- Alan
Satan was an acid head, so let's freak out!- Alan
According to the film's copyright registration, alternate titles of the film are Things from the Grave, Revenge of the Living Dead and Zreaks. During the credits, the characters "Roy" and "Emerson" are seen, costumed as decaying corpses, frightening and then abducting the "Caretaker" of the cemetery. The character Orville's name is misspelled as Oruille in the onscreen credits. Near the end, when the ghouls enter the bedroom to devour "Alan," they are shown in slow motion.
Although the Box Office review listed the release date of the film as May 1972, no public showings of the film have been verified prior to its Los Angeles opening on February 28, 1973, and the only other review was in Los Angeles Times on March 2, 1973. The onscreen credits and reviews list Brandywine and Motionarts as the production companies, and Geneni Film Distributing Co. as the distributor. However, SAR information lists Midnight Owl, Inc. as production company and Europix International, Ltd. as the releasing company. According to a January 1973 Box Office news item, Europix International acquired the film's worldwide distribution rights from Midnight Owl. The film was not registered for copyright until May 29, 1998, by Midnight Owl, Inc. as the claimant, under the registration number PA-889-432.
Director-screenwriter Robert Clark (1939-2007), who was credited onscreen as Benjamin Clark, made a career of B-movie horror films, but received the most acclaim for directing the 1983 classic A Christmas Story. Although Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things was Clark's second film as director, the film marked his debut as producer. The onscreen crew credit of Alan Ormsby, who also portrayed "Alan" in the film, reads: "Special make-up created by & screenplay collaboration." The film marked the first of Ormsby and Clark's several film collaborations. Onscreen credits include an acknowledgment to the Dade County Dept of Parks, City of Miami.
Released in United States 1972
Released in United States 1972