One stormy night in Cornwall, schoolteacher Ellen West becomes hysterical when she sees a gigantic bird with a human face fly out of the open grave of Francis Real, an 18th-century seaman. Real, buried alive with a huge, murderous bird he had found in the South Pacific, had sworn vengeance on all descendants of Squire Stroud, the man who ordered his interment; nevertheless, Brian Stroud, the present squire, is unconcerned by the prophecy of doom.
American scientist Eric Lutyens, husband of Brian’s niece Trudy, is troubled when he finds the mutilated body of a sheep in what appears to be a vulture’s nest. He visits Professor Koniglich, a scientist friend of Brian’s who believes himself to be a descendant of Real, and correctly surmises that Koniglich had attempted to disintegrate his own body in the grave and reassemble it through nuclear energy; unfortunately, the professor had failed to consider the bird buried there, and a mutation resulted.
Before Eric can warn the Strouds, Brian and his brother Edward are found dead on a cliffside, and Trudy is carried away to the same site by the bird after she is lured to Koniglich’s house. At the cliff, Eric finds his wife threatened by the beast with Koniglich’s head and screams at her to use the gun he had given her. Trudy shoots the bird and it crashes to its death on the rocks below; Eric then weights it with an anchor, tows it out to sea, and sinks it
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