Bury Me Dead
or, DEATH BY PROXY. 1947

Director: Bernard Vorhaus

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Bury Me Dead A stable burns down with Barbara Carlin (June Lockhart) the wife Rod Carlin (Mark Daniels) killed in the fire. But on the day of Barbara's funeral, she turns up alive, in Bury Me Dead; aka, Back Home from the Dead (1947). A version of the film truncated for early television was retitled Death by Proxy.

Barbara claims to have been away at her Arrowhead summer place & hadn't heard about the fire, & doesn't know who was burned in her place.

Rod may have planned a murder & Barbara notes, at least, "My death hasn't dulled your appetite." A mutual friend of the family, Mike Dunn (Hugh Beaumont), helps Detective Archer (Cliff Clark) investigate the crime.

Until Barbara turned up alive, the butler (Milton Parsons) had believed Rod & his mistress Helen Lawrence (Sonia Darrin) had murdered Barbara before she could divorce her wastrel husband leaving him & his girlfriend without a cent of his wife's wealth. But Helen hasn't been around for a while, so perhaps it is the mistress who was killed.

Bury Me DeadBarbara can't prove she was at her Arrowhead retreat. Could she have killed Helen? Rusty (Cathy O'Donnell) is a young woman of the family, mentally unstable & a mite randy. Could she be the killer?

[SPOILERS ALERT!] Mike lets slip that when the body is exhumed, evidence will disclose that Helen died not by fire but a hammer in the back of the head.

He believes this evidence will cinch Barbara's guilt. But how could he have known about the real cause of death before exhumation?

It begins to appear that Mike Dunn is in love with Rod! He's jealous of Barbara having displaced him as Rod's constant companion. He killed Rod's mistress & now plans the demise of Rod's wife. [END SPOILER ALERT]

Structured like a magazine short story quick & to the point, Bury Me Dead ends in action & menace. A witty fillip at the close has Rod promising to change his ways & never again be selfish.

Lacking a sufficiently noir mood, with inappropriate comedy relief bits spoiling whatever mood this mediocre mystery might've had, it sometimes feels as though the screenwriter intended a satire but the director mistook it for a serious mystery, thus failing to direct it for proper comedy timing.

It is in general quite a bad movie, but entertaining, & the subliminal homosexuality (if you could call it subliminal!) of Hugh "Ward Cleaver" Beaumont's character makes it almost historic for gay cinema.

Bury Me Dead


[Some years ago I'd written another review of this film, & include it below as I seem to have seen different things in it the first time around.]

Bury Me Dead (1947) introduces us to the prize fighter George (Greg McClure) who has been dating the neurotic Rusty (Cathy O'Donnell), but it looks as though he has been successfully seduced by her married sister Barbara (June Lockhart). This drives a wedge even deeper between the already estranged sisters.

Barbara's husband Rod (Mark Daniels) meanwhile seems to have taken an interest in his attorney's bathing beauty secretary Helen (Sonia Darrin). Through miscommunication & the apparent mutual faithlessness of Rod & Barbara, divorce is mentioned. Rod stands to lose the most, since he married into wealth.

Barbara had been seductive toward George only to prove to Rusty her boxer sweetheart was a womanizer. Rod, angered to be misjudged & manimplated, more from anger than serious interest, flirts with the secretary Helen, & so on round we go.

Behind the spoofy madcap relationships there's simultaneously a film noir mystery in play, although the punning & smart aleckiness of the script makes one slow to realize we should take very seriously the story's stalker psycho, a truly menacing fellow who started out seeming rather nice.

Bury Me DeadWhen the stable burns down & it's assumed Barbara was burned to death, there are plenty of suspects catching the attention of Detective Archer (Cliff Clark).

Barbara attends her own funeral in disguise, unwilling to reveal herself because just about everyone could have been the one who tried to kill her. In solving the mystery we need to know not only who set the fire, but also who was the burned corpse?

There's a shortened version of the film in which George's role is mostly deleted, probably to increase the seriousness, but without him there are lapses of continuity, like how did Rod get the black eye. The film also includes some outright mistakes, like forgetting it's after midnight when the police call the office of family attorney Mike Dunn (Hugh Beaumont) expecting his secretary Helen to be there, & she was, despite that it turns out to be her body in the fire.

Despite the budgetary limitations & faults, this is an entertaining mystery tale not ruined by its humor, though a little schizophrenic in not knowing if it wants to be a screwball comedy or a severe tale of murder. The cast is good even though second-string, though fans of 1950s television will enjoy seeing Hugh Beaumont the dad from Leave it to Beaver & June Lockhart the mom from Lassie.

The director, who also did the intriguing B-programmer The Amazing Dr X (1948), is competent to his task even if no genius. But who knows what he might have filmed if McCarthy hadn't put the kabosh on his career.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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