PREMATURE BURIAL is generally considered one of the least successful of Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, which I think has a lot to do with the absence of series star Vincent Price (this is the only film of the eight he didn't star in). Because the film started as an independent production and Price was under contract with AIP at the time, he was not able to do the film. Price's inimitable presence would have indeed turned this into an entirely different film (and probably would have helped diffuse some of the more horrific elements of the story), but I have no problem whatsoever watching Ray Milland in the lead role either. I also have no problem with the series taking a more serious turn. While not quite up to some of the other Corman Poe films, it's in many ways one of the more atypical (it's fairly grim, moody and foggy), but that doesn't mean it is a bad horror film by any stretch. It's actually pretty good.
Mr. Milland plays a cranky medical student who is obsessed with the idea that he will one day be buried alive; a fate that also befell his father. He has even devised his own special tomb, complete with trap doors, alarms and escape hatches in case his fears do indeed become a reality (one of the more clever touches in the Charles Beaumont/Ray Russell script). Naturally, all doesn't work as planned and before the movie is over Milland gets buried alive, goes mad and busts out of his tomb to indulge in a murderous rampage. Hazel Court, who usually passed up playing the lead virtuous good girl role for the naughtier supporting ones, actually gets to do play both here. The fine supporting cast also Richard Ney as a doctor who may or may not be up to something bad, Heather Angel as Milland's concerned sister, John Dierkes, Alan Napier, Dick Miller (who is credited as "Richard Miller" and is hard to recognize in a small role as a grave-robber who become a victim) and Brendan Dillon.
MGM's Midnight Movies DVD collection doubles this movie with the timeless MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964), which is a must for horror film collectors. It has two great interviews with a grinning Roger Corman about the productions of both films, plus trailers.
Score: 6 out of 10