A woman is possessed by the evil spirt of her husband’s deceased first wife.
“Did she come back to LOVE or KILL?”
Every now and then I am surprised to find myself watching a movie made in the 1950s – or early 1960s – that features satanism or satanic rituals. It’s a subject that seems more at home in the horror films of the 1970s. And yet there it is in The Devil’s Hand (1961) and The Devil’s Partner (1960), both of which I’ve talked about in this blog. Much to my surprise, it’s also an important part of Back from the Dead (1957).
I suppose Curse of the Demon (1957), AKA Night of the Demon (1957), is another horror film that dabbled in this area, in the very same year, albeit in a completely different way. It’s also a bonafide classic horror film – and a masterpiece – so I probably won’t be talking about it much here…
Back from the Dead (1957) is actually a serious-minded movie – like Curse of the Demon, and it’s not terrible. It’s actually pretty good. But it’s no masterpiece, and it’s mostly forgotten, so I feel it’s earned in place in annals of #NotQuiteClassicCinema.
So whats’s it all about?
In some ways, Back from the Dead feels more like film noir than horror. But it does feature possession, satanic rituals, and a dead woman returning from the grave…
It’s about a newly married woman named Mandy Hazelton Anthony, who becomes possessed by the spirit of her husband’s dead first wife, Felicia. And if that isn’t bad enough, it turns out that Felicia was a member of a local satanic cult. As you might imagine, her intentions are not all good when she takes over Mandy’s body.
The Star of Back from the Dead: Peggie Castle
According to the IMDb, “Peggie Castle was a tall, sultry, green-eyed blonde” who was discovered while eating lunch in a Beverly Hills restaurant. She often played a man’s “woman” rather than his wife or girlfriend, and she mostly appeared B-movies.
So, Back from the Dead was a rare opportunity for her to not only play a man’s wife – but his dead ex-wife, too.
With over sixty film and TV credits, it’s surprising to learn that she died far too young in 1973, at age 45.
Charles Marquis Warren wrote a bunch of westerns, for movies and television. He also directed a bunch of westerns – including some of the ones he wrote. He only made one or two films that weren’t westerns – except in 1957. For some reason, that year he made two horror films: The Unknown Terror (1957) and Back from the Dead. As far as I know, he never wrote or directed another horror film – before or after that.
It might be worth noting that he didn’t write either of those horror films. So, maybe westerns were what he really understood, and horror was just something that seemed to make sense in 1957. It was a fairly big year for horror, as a quick search of this blog might demonstrate.
Not to suggest Warren did a bad job with the horror films. As I said, Back from the Dead is actually pretty good. I haven’t seen The Unknown Terror, but it gets a decent – although slightly lower rating than Back from the Dead. The two films were apparently released together as a double bill, which makes me think that I really need to track down The Unknown Terror next…
Back from the Dead (1957) is the kind of laid back, understated #NotQuiteClassicCinema that’s easy to take, but also easy to forget. It’s not ragingly bad, it’s not surprisingly brilliant – it’s just a decent little film that could help to pass the time on a lonely #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.
A woman is possessed by the evil spirt of her husband's deceased first wife.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) January 6, 2024