The Thing That Couldn't Die

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The Thing that Couldn't Die
Original film poster
Directed byWill Cowan
Written byDavid Duncan
Produced byWill Cowan
StarringWilliam Reynolds
Andra Martin
Jeffrey Stone
Carolyn Kearney
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byEdward Curtiss
Music byHenry Mancini
Color processBlack and white
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 27, 1958 (1958-06-27) (NYC)
Running time
69 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Thing that Couldn't Die is a 1958 American 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 in the United States on a double bill in May 1958[1] 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 plot of this film is likely to have inspired the "head of Judah Zachary" plotline in the 1966-1971 gothic television serial Dark Shadows and the 1972 Euro-Horror film Horror Rises from the Tomb.[2] It was riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, S08E05. "Thing That Couldn't Die" is included on the Shout! Factory Blu-ray release "Universal Horror Collection: Volume 6" and comes with a Tom Weaver commentary that provides information about the making of the movie.


  1. ^ McGee, Mark Thomas; Robertson, R.J. (2013). "You Won't Believe Your Eyes". Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-273-2. Page 342
  2. ^ "Review". Retrieved 2020-01-19.

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