Written by: Christopher O’Neill on October 16th, 2011
Theatrical Release Dates: US, May 9th 1990 (TV premiere)
Director: Frank Darabont
Writer: Mark Patrick Carducci; David A. Davies (story)
Cast: Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton, Hoyt Axton, Jay Gerber
DVD released: October 17th, 2011
Approximate running time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33.1 4X3
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Second Sight
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99
Not to be confused with the Gérard Kikoïne film of the same title and production date, Buried Alive is a made-for-television film that may not be particularly exceptional, but then it never aspires to be and this is one of the film’s strengths. On its own modest merits, this is an enjoyable thriller thanks to an efficient screenplay, taut direction and decent performances. As a morality play with a ghoulishly macabre premise, Buried Alive is clearly inspired by the EC comic books of the 1950s, as well as both the short story The Premature Burial by Edgar Allen Poe and the Roger Corman film adaptation from 1962. With these unacknowledged influences, it is unsurprising that it comes across as an extended episode of the Tales From The Crypt television series yet, despite sometimes feeling overstretched (particularly in the second act), overall it expands the scenario nicely to feature-length. This is thanks, in no small part, to the cast who each create extra textures that the screenplay is only able to go so far with. Tim Matheson is a likeable everyman hero who becomes the avenger of his own intended murder, while William Atherton plays yet another two-faced lowlife that he’s perfected throughout his film career and makes a suitably manipulative villain. At the centre of the love triangle is the bitter and resentful wife, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as ever brings more to her role than the screenplay anticipates. The actor is able to convey a frustration that at least allows an understanding of her character’s predicament, even if the way she revolves the situation makes her despicable with no redeeming qualities.
Buried Alive proved to be popular enough to spawn a sequel in 1997 which is essentially a mediocre reprise of the first film but with a gender reversal (Ally Sheedy plays the heroine). Matheson not only returned in a supporting role as Clint (shoehorned into a rediculous subplot that serves only to connect the two films together) but also directed the film.
Buried Alive was shot by cinematographer Jacques Haitkin (A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Hidden) for American television, and the film is therefore framed at the then-standard aspect ratio of 1:33:1. Utulizing an analogue master, the results are unexceptional but serviceable with moderate grain and a slight amount of image noise. Considering its non-theatrical origins, the film looks as good as it has ever done.
The audio is clean with clear dialogue while Michel Colombier’s music score comes across nicely.
There are no extra features.