The Thing That Couldn't Die

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The Thing that Couldn't Die
Original film poster
Directed by Will Cowan
Produced by Will Cowan
Written by David Duncan
Starring William Reynolds
Andra Martin
Jeffrey Stone
Carolyn Kearney
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Edward Curtiss
Universal Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • June 27, 1958 (1958-06-27) (New York City)[1]
Running time
69 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Thing that Couldn't Die is a 1958 American black-and-white horror film produced and directed by Will Cowan and starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, and Carolyn Kearney. Based on an original screenplay by David Duncan for Universal Pictures, it was released on a double bill with the British Hammer Films classic Horror of Dracula.


Jessica Burns (Carolyn Kearney), a young woman who claims to have psychic powers, lives on a remote dude ranch with her Aunt Flavia (Peggy Converse). An ancient box is discovered while digging a well discovered by Jessica while dowsing. Against Jessica's warnings, her Aunt takes it back to their house. Gordon (William Reynolds), a young man who has shown interest in Jessica, goes for an archaeologist, arguing the box should be kept intact for appraisal and opening by an expert. However, the Aunt's greedy ranch foreman, anticipating treasure, secretly convinces the slow-witted handyman to break it open. Instead, the box contains the intact head of Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes), a man executed for sorcery 400 years earlier. The head awakens and telepathically takes over the mentally vulnerable handyman.

After murdering the foreman, the head has the handyman conceal it while arranging to have a coffin retrieved containing Gideon's body. After the handyman helps the head take control of a young woman (Andra Martin) staying at the ranch, it drives him to approach police in a threatening manner holding the knife that killed the foreman. The police had arrived to investigate the theft of the box's remains and the blood left behind from the killing of the foreman. Failing to stop, the handyman dies in a hail of police bullets.

Once his head and body are joined, Gideon will be fully able to exercise his powers. The young woman is aware of the evil and is protected from the head's influence by an ancient cross she wears around her neck, but when Gordon removes it to make a cast so its historical value could be appraised, the head takes control of her mind. Jessica then helps find the head's body, previously being against doing so since they only wished to make money out of it as well as fear that it was an evil business. The young woman joins head to body and Gideon arises from his coffin, but Gordon, aware of the error of his ways, catches the monster off guard with the cross. This forces Gideon back into the coffin and, when they drop the cross in with his body, they watch the total disintegration of his mortal remains.



The film was mocked in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and shown on an episode of Svengoolie.[2]


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