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I Bury the Living

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The 1958 psychological thriller "I Bury The Living" features the newly appointed administrator of a cemetery who inadvertently marks a few newly purchased, empty sites on a map using the black pins ordinarily reserved to indicate occupied graves—and the owners of the plots die soon after. Is this a mere coincidence, as the friends of the increasingly terrified administrator suggest, or is the straight pin jockey killing off his patrons with the power of his mind? Check out this week's podcast to learn about probability theory and the scientist's motto that correlation doesn't equal causation. Cold comfort, perhaps, if the dead bodies happen to be piling up.

Academy Award nominee Theodore Bikel plays Andy, the Scottish undertaker and headstone engraver whom the cemetery board tries to pension off after 40 years of loyal service. Bikel, who is fluent in numerous languages, appeared as a German officer in "African Queen" (1951), Captain Von Trapp in Broadway's original cast of "The Sound of Music", a Serbian King in "Moulin Rouge" (1952), and Captain Koch in "Crime and Punishment" (2002), to name a few of his notable performances. In addition to possessing a talent for accents, he's a folk music demigod who plays guitar, mandolin, balalaika, and harmonica and has several record albums to his credit.

Richard Boone (of "Have Gun, Will Travel" fame) stars as Robert Kraft, the Eternal Hills chairman who comes to believe he has supernatural powers. Driven to the edge of sanity, he dares to swap some black pins for white in an effort to revive the unfortunate victims of his mistake. When the graves come up empty, there is, for him, only one explanation—but then, Kraft doesn't know he's in a psychological thriller, not a horror movie (a mistake shared by a number of the movie's critics).

Director Albert Band makes good use of Boone's expressive face and the menacing map which, if you squint, could pass for a 20th Century abstract painting. Band's international film career spanned nearly 50 years. As a writer, he provided John Huston with the screenplay for "The Red Badge of Courage" (1951) and he wrote, directed, produced, and even acted in numerous screen titles. His legacy is carried on by his sons Charles and Richard, both of whom have established successful film careers of their own.

The Science

Kathy Eppler

Kathy EpplerMathematics professor Kathy Eppler of Salt Lake Community College discusses probability theory and the film "I Bury the Living."

 

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