Dead & Buried

Dead & Buried is a 1981 American horror film directed by Gary Sherman, starring Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, and James Farentino. It is Albertson’s final live action film role before his death six months after the film’s release (his real final film, The Fox and the Hound was an animated film). The film focuses on a small town wherein a few tourists are murdered, but their corpses begin to reanimate. With a screenplay written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the movie was initially banned as a "video nasty" in the U.K. in the early 1980s, but was later acquitted of obscenity charges and removed from the Director of Public Prosecutions' list.

Dead & Buried
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGary Sherman
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
StarringJames Farentino
Melody Anderson
Jack Albertson
Dennis Redfield
Nancy Locke
Robert Englund
Music byJoe Renzetti
CinematographySteven Poster
Edited byAlan Balsam
Distributed byAVCO Embassy Pictures
Release date
  • May 29, 1981 (1981-05-29)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$216,166[1]

The film made little money at the box office, but has received praise from critics regarding Stan Winston's special effects and Albertson's performance. In addition to the film being subsequently novelized by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, the film has obtained a cult following in the years since its release.


James Farentino stars as Dan Gillis, sheriff of the small New England coastal town of Potter's Bluff. In the film's opening scene, a mob of townspeople attempt to kill a visiting photographer. He is beaten, tied to a post, then set on fire. He survives and is taken to a hospital, where he is murdered just out of sight of the sheriff and the doctor.

More visitors are murdered by the townspeople. Sheriff Gillis, assisted by Dobbs, the local coroner-mortician (Jack Albertson), works hard to discover the motive for the killings. Gillis becomes increasingly disconcerted as a grisly death occurs every day. In each case, the killers photograph the victims as they are murdered.

Gillis accidentally hits someone with his squad car following an attack. On the grill of his car, Gillis finds the twitching severed arm of the accident victim, who attacks him and flees with the arm. After the attack, Gillis scrapes some flesh from the vehicle and takes it to the local doctor, who tells him that the tissue sample has been dead approximately four months. Gillis grows suspicious of Dobbs and conducts a background check. He discovers that Dobbs was formerly the chief pathologist in Providence, Rhode Island, until he was dismissed 10 years before for conducting unauthorized autopsies in the county morgue.

At the climax, it is revealed that Dobbs has developed a secret technique for reanimating the dead, and all of the townspeople are reanimated corpses under his control. They obey Dobbs slavishly, and believe only what he tells them to believe. Dobbs considers himself an "artist" who uses his zombies to murder the living in order to create more corpses for him to manipulate as his puppets.

Gillis sees his hands decomposing, and Dobbs offers to repair them. To his horror, the Sheriff realizes that he is also one of the dead when Dobbs shows him a movie of his undead wife murdering him in bed during sex, under Dobbs' orders.



In a 1983 interview with Starburst promoting Blue Thunder, O'Bannon disowned the film, claiming that Shusett had actually written it by himself, but needed O'Bannon's name on the project, promising that he would implement some of O'Bannon's changes. Upon seeing the finished film, O'Bannon realised that Shusett had not included his material, but it was too late for him to take his name off the credits.

The opening shot depicting the central street scene in Potters Bluff was filmed along Lansing Street in Mendocino, California.

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes reports a 75% approval rating based on 12 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.27/10.[2]

Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For author Arnold T. Blumberg wrote that Dead & Buried "is another fine homage to the EC Comics style of horror, with a story that also echoes the structure of a classic Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode," adding that the film is "a late-night treat that works best with the lights off and no foreknowledge of what's to come."[3] AllMovie wrote, "it's easy to see why Dead and Buried never found a big audience. It is too plot-heavy for those viewers in search of a shock machine yet too visceral for the viewers who appreciate subtle horror",[4] but complimented its "blend of creepy atmosphere and gruesome shocks."[4] Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle said that the film "builds suspense effective and plays its genuine twists well, so long as you don't ask too many questions of the everyone-is-in-on-it-but-one-person plot."[5] Glenn Kay, who wrote Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide, called it a "solidly entertaining picture" and praised the special effects work by Stan Winston.[6] Film critic Matt Wavish writes that there is a "feeling of total dread lingering over the whole film" and concludes, "Dead and Buried is a master class in sheer terror."[7]


  1. "Dead & Buried". The Numbers. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  2. "Dead & Buried". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  3. Blumberg, Arnold (2006). Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For. Telos Publishing. p. 122. ISBN 9781845830038.
  4. Guarisco, Donald. "Dead and Buried (1981) - Review". AllMovie. All Media Network. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  5. Dendle, Peter (2001). The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-0-7864-9288-6.
  6. Kay, Glenn (2008). Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 978-1-55652-770-8.
  7. Wavish, Matt (March 27, 2012). "Dead and Buried (1981)". Retrieved March 29, 2019.
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