Stars: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, and Jack Albertson
Writer: Screenplay by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon
Dir: Gary A. Sherman
Nothing pleases me more than to stumble onto something others had discovered and hailed as a classic before it wound up in my hands. While I must say at the outset that I knew this was not exactly zombie fodder, its reputation demanded I take a look.
And I am glad I did.
“Dead and Buried” is what I would call a great episode of “The Twilight Zone.” It plays out very much like that. The film opens with a photographer on a secluded beach (passing by a sign welcoming him to “Potter’s Bluff — A New Way of Living”), and finding a more than willing and attractive subject in a young blonde. Within a few moments, he is beset upon by a horde of old men and women, even the blonde herself. He’s strung up, tied to a pole, and burned alive. Later, a tow truck driver (Freddy fricken’ Krueger himself Robert Englund, prior to his “V” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” days) and Sheriff Dan Gillis (Farentino) examine a car wreck, where, they find none other than the torched photographer — very much alive and screaming.
The sheriff suspects that things are not what they seem and begins investigating the accident involving the out-of-towner, inquiring with the local coroner, Dobbs (a splendid performance by Albertson, who won an Oscar in 1968 for “The Subject Was Roses” but was probably better known as Grandpa Joe in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” or "The Man" in "Chico and The Man" TV series; his last big screen performance was this film). Albertson’s performance is low-key but incredibly charismatic and stands out above the others (even though all are very solid).
As the film moves forward, the audience starts noticing that some people appeared to have died — but are now walking around and working in the town as other people in different occupations.
As the sheriff delves deeper into a few other mysterious out-of-towner deaths, the secret of Potter’s Bluff is revealed and the film ends with a nice twist — not one that you don’t see coming, but a very satisfying one all the same.
Romero Rules Followed: None at all
Gore factor: Moderate, despite some real attempts
Zombies or Wannabees? Wannabees
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic, but not in the zombie sense
Additional comments: While the film featured a lot of great performances (and included some early effects work by Stan Winston) and is a satisfying horror film, it does not belong in the zombie canon. It is closely married to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” And, it holds its own in that vein. I mean, come on, it was made by the same team that unleashed “Alien” onto the world, and later “The Return of the Living Dead.” It’s worth a look. Just don’t look for flesh-eating zombies.