Movie Review: The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1958 horror movie starring William Reynolds and Andra Martin

Synopsis: While digging a new well, a group of California ranchers discovers a buried medieval box they believe contains treasure from Sir Francis Drake. Instead, the box contains the still-living severed head of a 16th-century criminal and devil worshiper that has the ability to control people's minds and a desire to find his body.


My daughter and I picked this film to be our weekly father/daughter movie and, based on the description, I did think it was going to be halfway decent. However, the movie just wasn't quite what I was expecting it to be.

I will give William Reynolds some credit for being surprisingly creepy as the powerful severed head. He didn't say anything throughout the majority of the movie (rather than the unheard whispers he mutters when possessing people) and had to rely primarily on facial expressions. Despite the difficulty of that task, he did really well.

The fact he could control people was also a nice touch because it made it easy for the head to manipulate the situation to get what it wanted and, by possessing people that were trusted, could do some pretty serious damage.

However, the movie does tend to drag on a bit in between the very few intense scenes and, because of that, wasn't as enjoyable as we thought it would be. The editors could have cut quite a bit out of this film and it would have been considerably better had there not been so much inaction.

Another thing that I was personally bothered by was the way Kearney's character, Jessica, was pretty much ignored throughout the film. She proved, very early on in the movie, she had considerably psychic powers and, both after finding a missing watch and apparently causing a tree branch to fall, you would think her family would pay attention when she cautioned them about digging in a specific "evil" spot and bringing the mysterious box inside the house. Instead, they simply refused to listen to her and were put in danger as a result. How stupid were these people?

The Thing That Couldn't Die

"If ye valuest thy immortal soul, open not this accursed chest." So reads the inscription on the 400-year-old metal box found by teen psychic Jessica Burns (Carolyn Kearney) on ...

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Final Opinion

This movie sounds much more interesting than it really is, in part because there's really not a lot of action or suspense. As a result, it wasn't as enjoyable as I hoped it would be.

My Grade: C

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Updated: 12/01/2016, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/04/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does not have The Thing That Couldn't Die catalogued amongst its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I don't expect to see it in the immediate future.

How would this film -- with less inaction, with perhaps family members listening even as others didn't and therefore providing more action -- fare as a colorized reboot or remake? Perhaps it would work well in a double-feature showing of a rebooted, remade The Mummy's Hand!

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