Back From The Dead (1957)

Back_From_The_Dead_(1957)‘Once you have accepted the possibility of everything, then everything is possible; the barriers are gone.’

A newly married couple are vacationing at his holiday home on the coast when the bride is taken seriously ill. When she wakes up, she seems to have been possessed by the husband’s first wife, who drowned under mysterious circumstances.

Hokey mystery tale that has a decent premise but never builds any real suspense or a head of steam. Story development just hauls in the usual ragbag of clichés; the concerned husband, the anxious sister, the previously loving family pet that suddenly turns nasty. At times, it seems that the script was being written ‘on the fly’ as it simply throws in some more facts whenever the pace starts to flag a little (which is quite often). But this obviously wasn’t the case because the screenplay was written by Catherine Turney from her own novel; so the clumsy execution must be laid at the door of the filmmakers.

Having said all that, I suspect that some scissor work in the editing suite also contributed to the disappointing nature of the finished film. After all, it only runs 79 minutes and the presence of respected players Arthur Franz (concerned husband) and Marsha Hunt (anxious sister) would suggest this was intended as more than just a bottom of the bill time passer. Franz and Hunt weren’t ever stars or leads in big films but both had provided significant support in features that found favour at Oscar time such as ‘The Caine Mutiny’ (1954) and ‘The Human Comedy’ (1943) as well as big hits like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (1940) and ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ (1949).


Next time I’ll just have the Chicken Korma.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The film does benefit from the coastal locations and a surprisingly good performance from Peggie Castle. She never escaped ‘B’ pictures in a pretty undistinguished career but is good value here in the good girl (second wife)/bad girl (first wife) leading role, even though the characters aren’t exactly complex. In the same year she fought off giant grasshoppers in ‘The Beginning of the End’ (1957) with Peter Graves; a far weaker but much more entertaining exploit than this.

Part of the problem here is that director Charles Marquis Warren shoots everything in the most standard way imaginable. He went on to a long and very successful career as a Writer-Producer of TV westerns including ‘Rawhide’, ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘The Virginian’; the small screen being far better suited to his talents.

This is a painless but distinctly unmemorable 79 minutes; a tale that would have been better fitted to a 30 minute ‘Twilight Zone’ than a place on the big screen.


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