The Undead (1957)

71 or 75 mins | Science fiction | 15 March 1957

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HISTORY

Following the opening credits, which appear through leaping flames, actor Richard Devon, as "Satan," addresses the audience, stating "You know who I am." After saying "Here is the story of my eternal work," he laughs, then the scene switches to a foggy, deserted street, where the story begins. Throughout the film, the action switches between present time and the past. The past setting appears to be medieval France, but that fact is never stated directly in the story. Modern sources include Paul Blaisdell in the cast as the corpse in the ... More Less

Following the opening credits, which appear through leaping flames, actor Richard Devon, as "Satan," addresses the audience, stating "You know who I am." After saying "Here is the story of my eternal work," he laughs, then the scene switches to a foggy, deserted street, where the story begins. Throughout the film, the action switches between present time and the past. The past setting appears to be medieval France, but that fact is never stated directly in the story. Modern sources include Paul Blaisdell in the cast as the corpse in the coffin. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 Mar 1957.
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1956
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1956
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1957
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
17 May 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Mar 1957
p. 299.
Variety
27 Feb 1957
p. 6.
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 March 1957
Premiere Information:
San Francisco opening: 14 February 1957
Production Date:
late July--9 August 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Balboa Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 November 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7859
Physical Properties:
Sound
Ryder Sound Services, Inc.
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
71 or 75
Length(in feet):
6,458
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18316
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a foggy night, Quintus, a hypnotist, lures prostitute Diana Love into the American Institute for Psychical Research and tells his former professor that he is paying Diana to undergo hypnosis. The professor is incredulous that Quintus, who has been away for seven years, would attempt his experiment, but reluctantly agrees to observe. Using techniques he learned in Tibet, Quintus plans to put Diana into a deep trance and keep her under for forty-eight hours, something the professor fears is dangerous. After placing Diana into a hypnotic state, the men hear her begin to speak as a French woman, then see her wringing her hands. In her trance, Diana goes back in time to the Middle Ages, where she is Helene, a woman imprisoned as a witch in a castle tower: Because tonight is the night of the witches’ Sabbath, she is to be burned at the stake before dawn. When her jailer, Gobbo, enters her cell and taunts her to kiss him, she begins to hear a woman’s voice directing her to save herself. Following the voice’s instructions, Helene knocks Gobbo unconscious with a blow from her heavy chains, then steals his keys and escapes. In the forest, Helene sees the coach of gravedigger Smolkin and sneaks inside to hide from a knight who is searching for her. After the knight questions Smolkin, he opens a coffin inside the coach and sees only the corpse. The knight is satisfied that Helene is not there but orders Smolkin to nail the coffin shut. After Smolkin complies and drives the coach away, the witch Livia materializes and calls to Helene's beloved, ... +


On a foggy night, Quintus, a hypnotist, lures prostitute Diana Love into the American Institute for Psychical Research and tells his former professor that he is paying Diana to undergo hypnosis. The professor is incredulous that Quintus, who has been away for seven years, would attempt his experiment, but reluctantly agrees to observe. Using techniques he learned in Tibet, Quintus plans to put Diana into a deep trance and keep her under for forty-eight hours, something the professor fears is dangerous. After placing Diana into a hypnotic state, the men hear her begin to speak as a French woman, then see her wringing her hands. In her trance, Diana goes back in time to the Middle Ages, where she is Helene, a woman imprisoned as a witch in a castle tower: Because tonight is the night of the witches’ Sabbath, she is to be burned at the stake before dawn. When her jailer, Gobbo, enters her cell and taunts her to kiss him, she begins to hear a woman’s voice directing her to save herself. Following the voice’s instructions, Helene knocks Gobbo unconscious with a blow from her heavy chains, then steals his keys and escapes. In the forest, Helene sees the coach of gravedigger Smolkin and sneaks inside to hide from a knight who is searching for her. After the knight questions Smolkin, he opens a coffin inside the coach and sees only the corpse. The knight is satisfied that Helene is not there but orders Smolkin to nail the coffin shut. After Smolkin complies and drives the coach away, the witch Livia materializes and calls to Helene's beloved, Pendragon, who is on his way to prove Helene's innocence. Later, after telling Pendragon that he has not seen Helene, Smolkin is about to place the coffin into a fresh grave when he hears noises from within. Upon opening the coffin, Smolkin finds Helene hidden under the corpse. Smolkin accuses her of putting a spell on him, but she denies it and begs him to hide her. He then takes her to a cottage in the forest in which the hag Meg Maud lives. Meanwhile, at Gabriel's Horn Tavern, Livia talks with innkeeper Scroop and learns that Pendragon is upstairs. While Livia tries to seduce Pendragon, Meg comes to the tavern looking for Pendragon and tells Scroop that Helene has escaped. Hearing that Pendragon is with Livia, Meg pleads with Scroop to send him to her cottage immediately. Meg then goes upstairs to tell Livia that, while she is not a witch, she is a match for Livia. When Pendragon arrives at the cottage, he and Helene embrace and he allays her fears of Meg by saying that she is the one who summoned him to the cottage. In the woods, as Livia and the imp who is her companion ponder the upcoming Sabbath she remembers that she needs a head for the ceremonies. Helene and Pendragon return to the inn, where Scroop and Meg welcome them. Pendragon then leaves Helene and asks his friends to look after her while he tries to prove her innocence. As these events unfold, at the Institute, Quintus asks the comatose Diana what is happening and she tells them everything. When Quintus sees a new bruise on her arm, he expresses amazement that she has apparently been transported through time in a physical as well as mental form and becomes concerned that events from the past have now been altered. In the past, as Pendragon rides through the woods, Livia appears to tell him that Helene has been captured and shows him a vision of Helene in the castle’s tower. Pendragon then rides toward the tower, unaware that Helene and Meg have gone to Meg’s cabin. Livia arrives first at the inn, chops off Scroop’s head, then places it in a basket for the witches’ Sabbath. In the forest, Smolkin warns Meg and Helene that Livia and the imp are near and that Pendragon has gone to the tower. Moments later, a disheartened Pendragon encounters Livia in the woods and tells her he failed to find Helene in the tower. When Livia says that, as a witch, she can save Helene, he initially recoils but agrees to her implied request to sell his soul. At the Institute, Quintus warns that if Helene, the Diana of the past, does not die, then the Diana of the present will not live. Over the professor’s protests, Quintus uses a device to connect his brainwaves with Diana’s and transport himself to the Middle Ages. Back in the past, the knight is attacked by Quintus, who then dresses in the knight’s armor. He then comes upon the witches’ Sabbath and sees Livia offer up Scroop’s head to Satan. Satan then summons all who want to sell their souls to state their request and sign his book. Livia brings forth Pendragon, but before he can sign the book in exchange for Helene’s life, Quintus, whom Satan recognizes from the future, interrupts and suggests that, instead of selling his soul to Satan, Pendragon rent it. Although both Satan and Livia object, Pendragon goes with Quintus. Meg has secretly observed this and goes back to her cottage, arriving before Pendragon. When she is reunited with Pendragon, Helene reveals that she was never in the tower. Meg then tells the lovers to leave the cottage and let Smolkin hide them. When Quintus enters Meg’s cottage, she rebukes him for coming from the future to make Helene die, but he explains that if Helene does not die now, all of her future lives will be lost. As they talk, Quintus uses a cup to capture a mouse, which is the guise that Livia has now taken. The imp forces himself into the cabin and fights with Quintus but is defeated when Meg throws Holy Water onto him. Meg and Quintus then leave the cabin, after which Livia assumes a bat’s form and flies away. Meg, Smolkin, Helene, Pendragon, Quintus and Livia soon meet in the forest, where Satan joins them. After Quintus reveals to Helene what will happen if she does not die at sunrise, she tearfully says that she must die now so that she can live through the ages. Pendragon tries to follow Helene, but Livia turns into the bat and flies ahead to stop him. When Livia appears to Pendragon in human form, he stabs her with his knife. As the sun rises in the village, the executioner beheads two convicted witches, who die screaming, but Helene calmly places her head on the block. Realizing he now can do nothing, Pendragon watches as Helene is beheaded. At the Institute, Diana now awakens and tells the professor that she does not hate Quintus, who remains in the past, for what he has done as he has given her new life. Still horror-stricken at what has transpired, the professor looks at Quintus’ empty clothes and ponders his fate. In the past, Satan tells Quintus that there is no road for him to return to his own time and when his present years are done, “I’ll come a calling on thee.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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