The Curse of the Living Corpse is more memorable for being the film debut of Roy Scheider more than anything else, but it is a fun movie about that which motivates many people – revenge. Things are not always as they seem though, especially in a movie such as this. It is actually one of the better things that this picture does as it ends with a surprise that you never see coming. Before it all comes down to that surprise though, the audience is introduced to a family who buries the patriarch of the family only to realize that during the reading of the will, they have expressly ignored all of his wishes on exactly how to be buried. While alive, the man was frightened that he would be buried prematurely and had informed his family of that fear and what should happen if that scenario ever occurred. But the family, being as greedy as they are, went against those wishes and now they have been told that they will all die by their greatest fear. So one by one, they do indeed start dying as old man Sinclair has seemingly come back from the dead to mete out his vengeance.
While it is not necessarily a drawback, the film looks like an old BBC television production. Not cheap but not polished either. For this obviously B picture, there does not seem to be that much of a budget, not that it needed it. There are no real special effects except for costumes and makeup and our villain looks more like the Shadow than anything else. Perhaps that was the intended purpose, to make the perpetrator look as mysterious as possible, and if so, it worked for the most part but still looked kind of poor as he simply had a scarf wrapped around his face. Most of the money must have gone to the cast which did a great job on turning this mediocre picture into a slightly better than mediocre picture.
As a horror film, this movie would fail on that particular account. Seeing a woman get strangled or a simple decapitated head is fairly tame, even by the standards when this film came out. It was more a mystery-thriller than anything else and though it entertained, it was not scary or frightening in the slightest during any moment whatsoever. It is a bit of a shame because there was ample opportunity for director and writer Del Tenney to take the movie in various directions and if he had concentrated on mood and atmosphere there was every chance that this film could have ended up being one that delivered even a few chills. As it stands, not even a child would be scared of what they would see on-screen while watching this.
All in all, with some actually good performances from the cast including Scheider and the gorgeous Margot Hartman, the film does end up being a good one. The lack of horror is a concern, especially as it was marketed as such and it is doubtful that anyone would call it a great one as there was a lot that could have been improved upon but in the end, it does keep one entertained and there is never a moment where one feels bored by it. For all that it is worth, The Curse of the Living Corpse is one to watch should it be happened upon.