Being buried alive is old ground in the movies

Gasp!

Adjust your eyes.

Feel around at your surroundings.

Don't panic, but you've been buried alive.

And you have just 90 minutes of air, a cellphone, a lighter and a Swiss Army knife to help you escape from the suffocating clutches of death.

Ryan Reynolds plays a truck driver in Iraq who finds himself imprisoned underground by terrorists demanding $5 million for his release in "Buried," which opens Friday. But he isn't alone: There have been short stories, movies and episodic TV anthologies that have also explored this frightening predicament that generally sends audiences on a roller-coaster ride of thrills, horror and chills.

So catch your breath and enjoy some of the other buried-alive goodies:

'The Premature Burial'

Edgar Allan Poe's legendary story has been the template for many buried-alive-in-coffin movies. In 1962, Roger Corman directed this deliciously fun adaptation starring Oscar-winner Ray Milland as a man who has been tormented by the belief that his father was buried alive after suffering a cataleptic attack. To avoid the same fate, he creates a tomb with an escape route. Of course, his best-laid plains don't exactly pan out.

In 1990, Frank Darabont helmed the USA TV movie "Buried Alive," which offered a quirky twist on "Premature Burial." Tim Matheson plays a husband trapped in a loveless marriage with Jennifer Jason Leigh. She and her boyfriend ( William Atherton) decide to do him in and inject him with a lethal poison from a tropical fish. Believing he's dead, they bury him. But he's far from meeting his maker and sets out to claw his way out of the grave and get revenge. Matheson went on to direct the 1997 sequel, "Buried Alive II."

Czech director Jan Svankmajer combined Poe and the Marquis de Sade for 2005's animated horror film "Lunacy," in which the Marquis is so afraid of being buried alive that he employs "purgative therapy": In order to rid himself of the fear, he has himself entombed.

' Kill Bill: Vol. 2'

The sword-wielding character the Bride (Uma Thruman) is buried alive as a preemptive strike by one of her would-be victims ( Michael Madsen) in Quentin Tarantino's 2004 hit. To the strains of Ennio Morricone's 'L'arena," from the 1968 spaghetti western "Revenge of the Gunfighter," she methodically works her way out of her coffin.

'The Vanishing'

The 1988 French/Dutch international film, directed by George Sluzier, is a breathtaking thrill ride based on the Tim Krabbe novella "The Golden Egg." A man's wife disappears and he spends three years trying to discover what happened, although the audience finds out before he does: She was kidnapped and buried alive. The abductor eventually reveals himself and suggests that he can satisfy the man's desire to know exactly what she experienced. Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets and Johanna ter Steege star.

Sluzier also directed the 1993 American remake, to far less effect. Jeff Bridges plays the baddie; Kiefer Sutherland plays the grieving boyfriend and young Sandra Bullock is the victim.

'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour'

William Whitney, who directed many of the great serials during the 1930s and '40s, helmed a splendid 1964 installment of the Master of Suspense's classic television series, "Final Escape." Edd Byrnes from "77 Sunset Strip" plays a prison convict who devises a unique way to escape. In a chapter out of "The Count of Monte Cristo," he changes places with a dead inmate and is buried in the coffin — planning for another convict to dig him up. But guess what happened to that fellow?

The episode was updated in the 1985 "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," with Season Hubley as the scheming inmate.

'Thriller'

"Welcome Home," a 1961 black-comedy installment of the venerable Boris Karloff-hosted horror and suspense TV anthology, casts Karloff and Estelle Winwood as dotty residents of a decrepit Southern mansion who have a penchant for burying their relatives alive and putting them in their mausoleum.

susan.king@latimes.com

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