The Undertaker and His Pals
Year of Release: 1966
Running Time: 63 minutes (1:03)
Director: T.L.P. Swicegood
James Westmoreland ... Harry Glass
Warrene Ott ... Friday / Thursday
Sally Frei ... Ann
Ray Dannis ... The Undertaker
A leather-clad, knife wielding band of lunatics randomly slaughter women to increase business for their pal, the Undertaker, who specializes in cut-rate funerals. The "left-over choice parts" of the victims are cooked and served in a sleazy diner, which offers daily gourmet delights like Leg of Lamb (removed from Miss Sally Lamb). The entire bloody matter is investigated by a determined but apparently "out to lunch" private eye, who loses several secretaries with food names before he closes the case.
The Undertaker and His Pals, remindin' everybody to cover anything you don't want cut off when answerin' the door. After all, you never know when cannibal maitre d's might come callin', an nobody wants to end up part of the daily wiener wrap special.
An speakin' of people of the "special" persuasion, I hadda reset the "6" on our "weeks without a drive-in fiasco" scoreboard hangin' on the wall in the Grime Time concession stand this past week. Which was a real drag, since Skunky Hernandez promised to give away free pizza pockets to everybody on the lot if we made it 10 weeks without the cops bein' called or anything catchin' fire. Really seemed like we'd turned the corner on that whole "County Wide Menace" designation the church'd slapped on us last year after Rusty Dockweiler got crocked an replaced the frank in a corny dog with his doodlebopper an stumbled around askin' all the women if they wanted to get batter dipped. The official charge was "impersonating a hotdog" if memory serves, an even though Tetnis beat the tar outta Rusty for that little stunt there was no stoppin' word from gettin' to the church, an then to the city council. Around here that's what we call "chain of command." Anyway, like I was sayin; we really hadn't had anything like that happen for quite awhile, that is, until last Saturday. Night started out fine; got clean through My Mom's a Werewolf without so much as a gunshot, an we were about 20 minutes into Undertaker when it happened. I remember, cause it was right about the time the Undertaker went screamin' down the sidewalk on that skateboard, an Billy Hilliard an me were sittin' up on the deck of the projection booth arguin' about which retro Pepsi logo was the best. "1987," I insisted. "Simple, symmetrical, an looked great on a pop machine. Good vibrant colors on that one too, so they were easy to find an curl up next to when you needed a place to sleep off your drunk." "Bullthit," was Billy's scientifically backed rebuttal. "Ayley theven lookth like it puh' on 30 pounz tho nobolly'd notith the Frenth flag behin' ih." I was ready for this, cause I've heard the ole "French flag" defense before, so I says "Oh come on! You only like the '62 cause of the bottle cap design, which kinda makes sense, on account of you bein' a big baby!"
As you can see, I clearly had the upper hand in the debate, only we never did get it settled, cause right about then we heard this horrified shriek from the back row, an next thing you know the dome light in Irv Knox's '86 Pontiac Bonneville kicks on to reveal Marla Ostman, stark nekkid, screamin' bloody murder an slappin' the crap outta Irv. So, OF COURSE, within' 30 seconds Skunky Hernandez, Tetnis, an the entire lot've gathered 'round Irv's rig to find out what in the heck is goin' on. I guess the two of 'em were testin' out the rear shocks a little too vigorously durin' Undertaker, an apparently Marla's sluice box wasn't the only thing workin' its way loose, cause eventually one of the springs in the seat broke free an punctured 'er cushion. Buried itself about three inches deep in there too; not exactly the kinda double penetration *anybody* wants. The second shriek was Irv tryin' to pull it out, with predictable results. The spring I mean, not... nevermind, you know what I meant. Normally this wouldn't be that bigga deal, cept a LOT of people'd brought their kids to see My Mom's a Werewolf to try scarin' 'em into behavin' for five minutes, but what we ended up with instead was a rather graphic, unscheduled sex education class, an I prolly don't hafta explain to you people how most folks around here feel about those. Tetnis endin' up havin' to get 'er outta there with a set of bolt cutters, cover 'er up with a tarp (you can't exactly put on a pair of pants when you've got a spring pokin' outta your hinder), an take 'er to his clinic to get the spring out, but suffice to say: we're in hot water with the city council again. I really don't see how this has anything to do with the Grime Time, but that's how these people are; they love them some "personal responsibility," least until they can pin the blame on somethin' they don't like.
I guess it's all fun an games until someone exposes a thigh, but don't worry about it, we'll cross that minefield when we come to it. Meantime though, in case you've ever wondered what woulda happened if Herschell Gordon Lewis had directed The Pink Panther (an who among us hasn't?), this week we'll endeavor to answer that question with The Undertaker and His Pals, which is one of the most bizarre "ahead of its time" flicks in the history of the universe. Matter of fact, I'm not even convinced we've reached this thing's time 51 years after the fact, but we're gonna go ahead an see what all the fuss is about anyway, an to try preparin' you for what you're in store for, I've taken the liberty of snatchin' a few of the more telling facts in the case so you can decide for yourselves whether to keep readin', or whether to just save time an roll around in a pile of treble hooks in your pursuit of the ultimate agony. First, all you need to create a convincing Noon for Nine scene is a little cricket chirpin' over the soundtrack. Second, as long as you splice four seconds of dirt bike beach footage into your movie, you can charge your beach blanket barbecue on the flick's expense account. An third, the spirit of the '60s is way scarier than anything ever captured on film by Ghost Hunters.
Now, I don't wanna say this movie is bad, but it's actually possible to explore an infinite number of parallel dimensions an never come across one in which this flick doesn't suck. The unfortunate thing is it coulda been easily avoided, cause as we all know, the first rule of business is to never go into it with your friends, but our Undertaker, he's above that, see. He figures he can buck the old adage an partner with his "Pals," well, you're about to see how that turns out. If he'd had a licka sense he'da gotten a coupla investors an called the movie "The Undertaker and His Business Associates Who Are in No Way Emotionally Invested." This's just common sense, an it ain't personal. When you go in with friends there's no way of avoidin' the inevitable petty squabbles over who gets which body parts, an why it aughta be them instead of the other guy who didn't even wanna be part of this stupid scheme in the first place an only joined in cause he wanted to be supportive, but now finds 'imself on the verge of losin' his mortgage. I mean, you really can't have a "viewing" ceremony before a funeral if the corpse don't have a face to view, but then you can't exactly make headcheese without a freakin' head either, an this's just one example of a situation that's gonna crop up time and again without an independent party who can make a fair and reasonable judgment about who's got the rights to the butt cheeks when a hooker dies (her clients're obviously gonna wanna see 'em one last time at the funeral, but then you're also talkin' about some of the most succulent rump roasts on the market on the restaurant side of the equation). This's why The Undertaker and His Pals were doomed to financial ruin before they even filleted their first chick, so for anyone thinkin' about goin' into business with your own Pals, please hold off until you've read the complete review before makin' any life alterin' decisions. You'll be so glad you did that you'll prolly wanna show your gratitude by cosignin' on a 1982 candy apple red Iroc Z28 with black leather interior an 165 ponies under the hood that roars like a wounded jungle cat huntin' a dentist, which I'd be happy to discuss in private after the review.
The movie begins with these three guys dressed in Mad Max leather S&M outfits on motorcycles gettin' dizzy on a roundabout til they start gettin' nauseous from the blue exhaust fumes an decide to drive over to some blonde girl's apartment an cut 'er legs off with a fillet knife so she (Sally Lamb) can get on disability. Only she ends up bleedin' to death, so the next day the girl's fat mama takes a day off from eatin' Twinkies under a circus tent at Barnum & Bailey's to mourn the dead an blubber to the undertaker (Morty) about how his makeup job's made 'er look like an Insane Clown Posse groupie. Then Morty starts runnin' through the itemized invoice with the dad an he's just a little P.O.'d about the way the price has suddenly gone through the roof like a shotgun slug at an Ozark family New Year's celebration when he finds out about all the frills Morty tacked on without consultin' im. Elsewhere, Detective Harry Glass is gettin' hassled by his secretary (Ann Poultry) about how the only perks of the job're confined to her bra, an that if he don't get his act together an go public with his private dick she's gonna jump out the window an leave a coupla pineapple shaped dents in the sidewalk. Harry certainly don't want that, so he decides he'd better take 'er down to the cafe before she goes bombs over 'Nam with 'er D-52s, only the diner's run by these two greasy spoon goons named Doc an Spike, an when Harry gets his leg of lamb he hasta send it back cause it tastes like peroxide an bad decisions. Then he drops Ann off at home, but after strippin' down as far as the censors'd allow in 1966 she hears 'er cat singin' the Meow Mix song outside, an when she goes to find 'im she discovers the three gimps've escaped their leashes again an surrounded 'er, an next thing you know they impale 'er on a fence post, give 'er a mastectomy, an collect their boobie prizes. So the next day, Harry's over at Ann's place tryin' to solve the case of the lifted breasts, when Morty just happens to emerge from the hedge to offer his services an tell 'im about the Reaper 'fer Cheaper special he's got goin', an Harry says that's fine with him except for the fact that the contract don't have a price listed, an so he writes the quoted price in an signs. Thing is, Morty was plannin' on attachin' more service charges than a CenturyLink phone bill to help bolster his bank account, an once Harry fills in the base cost Morty gets so frazzled that he steps on some kid's skateboard an ends up goofy-footin' it down the sidewalk an tail grindin' his hinder all over the curb. Then Harry goes back to the cafe where Ann's dyin' wish for 'im to see what he's been missin' is finally realized as he samples the "Breast of Chicken" special, an while that's goin' on the restaurant's delivery guy shows up an finds all the niece's pieces stashed in the freezer an Doc hasta jam a hatchet handle into the guy's eye socket to disqualify 'im from providin' any future eyewitness testimony.
Meanwhile, Harry's gone down to the funeral parlor to inspect Morty's arrangements, cept when he asks why everything looks cheaper'n an Alabama lap dance Morty starts explainin' how you can't expect a Steven Spielberg production with a Ray Dennis Steckler budget til Harry gets P.O.'d an inters his fist in Morty's nasal septum. Then Harry hires Traci Lords' mama to be his new secretary cause he feels bad for 'er when he finds out she's named after a Rebecca Black song that will remain nameless on the basis that namin' it would violate my personal code of conduct. But anyway, Harry still ain't catchin' on to the fact that the diner's servin' up sloppy hos an so he sends 'er down there to pick up lunch, an while she's down there the Doc decides to have Spike prep 'er for surgery, only this fly starts buzzin' around in the middle of the procedure an Spike hasta run around the kitchen like Gordon Ramsay on acid destroyin' the fly an the ozone layer with a can fulla deodorant to sterilize the area. Then she dies on the cuttin' board an gets ground up into Bimburger Helper, an about that time Morty shows up whinin' that they didn't leave any of the good parts for him an how if they don't start helpin' him out the only organs they're gonna be grindin'll be down on the boardwalk. They could just turn the little weasel into wiener wraps, but they start feelin' sorry for 'im, an so they all go out to a brothel that night an beat the hell outta this gal who misunderstands what they mean when they order the "chain gang special." Cept while they're makin' their escape, the other hookers see what's goin' on an start doin' pelvic thrusts an firin' hollow points into the guys' bikes until they dislodge Morty's license plate, an when Harry finds out who's been doin' all the killin' he's on the verge of bein' mildly annoyed. Then the dine an slashers make it back to the cafe an their shaky alliance devolves into a 3 Stooges sketch that ends with the Doc an Morty lowerin' Spike into a drum fulla acid an turnin' 'im into a haunted house prop while he screams like a cartoon woman cowerin' from a mouse. But while that's goin' on, Harry's gettin' in touch with his underground cannibal informants who tell 'im that Morty's in league with the short odor cooks, an when he goes down there he meets his most recent secretary's twin sister Thursday, who kisses 'im with 'er eyes wide open despite Bruno Mars' objections. Then Harry an Thursday go cruisin' the Hollywood Hills til he runs outta gas an hasta thumb a ride back into town, an about that time the Griller Killers find Thursday an chase 'er around like they're filmin' The Jack Benny Show til a truck comes around the corner an the Doc ends up gettin' real intimate with the pavement. Don't even bother tryin' to guess how this thing ends, cause if your guess didn't at least partially involve a reverse Hamlet, you're prolly wrong. That's no problem though, cause you can always click the link below to check it out, as we're in public domain territory.
Alrighty, so, this's gonna be another one of those flicks where its fans tend to claim that if you don't like it, it's because you don't "get it." It's a lot like Creature from the Haunted Sea in that regard, but rest assured - I get it, and I don't care for it. In their defense, horror/comedy is a tough genre to balance, and everyone in the audience has a different tipping point. My tolerance for the amount of comedy in one of these flicks is pretty low, and it shrinks even further when you consider it's all centered around fruit that's hangin' so low you could trip over it. The bulk of the comedy comes in the form of sight gags and bad puns, and they're a text book example of lowest common denominator nonsense. That said, for 1966, this flick was way ahead of its time, because, while it's obviously attempting to cash in on Herschell Gordon Lewis' financially successful gore films of the early '60s, Undertaker takes that concept a step farther and dares to inject levity into Lewis' trademark brutality, which, in 1966 was a pretty gutsy thing to do. I mean, we're talkin' the same time period that gave rise to the Beach movie, and My Three Sons, so despite being irreparably dated now, it probably got a LOT of folks' hackles up. Something else I feel compelled to point out is that one can't help but spot the similarities between this flick, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Parts 1 & 2. From small similarities like the body parts on meat hooks, to the overall plot involving lunatics killing people and selling their body parts as cuisine, you *could* argue that Undertaker might have influenced two of the greatest horror films of all time. But even if it didn't, one thing is clear; you can definitely see the beginnings of what would later become the horror farce, and therefore, in one way or another, it is definitely historically relevant. It's very much a Troma film, just one that happens to have made long before Troma ever existed, and even though some of Herschell Gordon Lewis' movies had a pretty sizable helping of humor in them (Two Thousand Maniacs, for instance), this movie definitely goes a lot farther than Lewis' earliest flicks did. Don't get me wrong, Lewis' movies were in no way works of art, and the fact of the matter is that, on a technical level, they're downright bad, but the difference between Undertaker and Blood Feast is that Blood Feast knows it's ridiculous and plays it straight anyway, where Undertaker makes a concerted effort to be as preposterous as possible. It's a comedy, first and foremost, where Blood Feast is a horror film, and that's why I kinda like Blood Feast, but will probably never watch Undertaker ever again. I mean, compare this thing to The Corpse Grinders, and it becomes abundantly clear that, with a little subtlety, the concept could have worked, even as old as the movie is. They've essentially got the same premise, but Corpse Grinders is, in my opinion, vastly superior despite having equally tight budgetary restrictions. I guess what I'm saying is that I completely understand why some people like it, because it really is different, but "different" doesn't always equate to good.
In any event, it's about time we chewed the fat a little to find out if those wacky cannibals were on to somethin', or whether it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The plot, despite its lack of details (it's only 63 minutes, so that's gonna happen), was truthfully revolutionary for its time. You didn't see movies coming out in 1966 that involved cannibalism, and you sure as heck didn't run into many where cannibalism was foisted on an unknowing public in a comedic fashion, so whatever other problems it may have on a technical level, it must be acknowledged that the plot was damn original, and probably more than a little upsetting for a lot of movie patrons. The acting, on the other hand, is pretty atrocious. But when you consider how intentionally goofy the movie is, the inept acting is not nearly as damaging as it it might be were it attempting anything in the ballpark of "serious." Fans of the movie are likely to even consider it a plus, or at least a contributing factor for why they enjoy it, because it certainly contains both intentional and unintentional humor. James Westmoreland is actually okay in what is a deliberately stuffy role, and while the villains are occasionally entertaining with their hammy deliveries, they're really not what you'd call classically trained. I did kinda like the guy who plays Doc though, cause he talks like Joe Pesci with a speech impediment.
Here's who matters and why: Warrene Ott (The Witchmaker, The Phantom Planet), James Westmoreland (Don't Answer the Phone), Frei (Women of the Prehistoric Planet), Ryck Rydon (Satellite in the Sky), Charles Fox (The Corpse Grinders), Dodie Warren (Blood of the Iron Maiden), Robert Lowery (Batman and Robin 1944, The Mummy's Ghost, House of Horrors 1946, Revenge of the Zombies), Ray Dannis (The Severed Arm, The Corpse Grinders). Not exactly an impressive list of credits, but that is to be expected.
The special effects are, understandably, terrible. Again, *for the time* they would likely have been passable because audiences had no basis of comparison other than Herschell Gordon Lewis' movies. These kinds of gore flicks had only been around for three years, and despite having pretty laughable effects, I can see audiences actually being affected by them. Speaking of Lewis though, if you were to compare the effects in this movie to Blood Feast, without knowing who'd made them, it's very likely you'd assume he'd made them both, because they're almost identical in terms of style and appearance. You've got that trademark vibrant red blood that resembles paint, and various mannequin parts representing all the severed limbs, just like a Lewis movie. The reason being, neither man had 20 years of special effects makeup from which to model their efforts, so even though they're pretty bad, it really couldn't be helped. The shooting locations are pretty cut-rate, although only one is really meant to be an important fixture in the movie, and that's the diner. You never get a good enough view of it to be sure whether it was or was not a real cafe, but I'm inclined to think not, because the kitchen is very obviously just somebody's kitchen, and if they were filming in a real diner, you'd assume they would have had access to the kitchen as well as the seating area. Beyond that there's the funeral parlor (which was obviously thrown together in a really cramped room that was likely part of someone's home), the detective's office (likely someone's study), and a few short exteriors shot along a two lane highway somewhere in California. The simplest way of summing up the shooting locations is that they are representative of the flick's budget, which was rather meager. The soundtrack is one of, if not THE goofiest aspects of the movie, and features a lot of that "girl tied to the train tracks" music you'd normally only hear in a silent film. Which makes sense, because the final chase sequence involves our sole surviving female heroine moving at that ridiculous pace you're used to seeing in an old silent film that hasn't been time corrected. It's also got several instances of the classic "sad trombone", as well as some really cartoony piano music, so again, even though I don't personally care for the movie, this particular aspect definitely fits in perfectly with the zany tone the filmmakers were going for, and is going to be another big selling point for fans of the movie. Overall, despite the abominable score, I'd still recommend this to anyone with a high threshold for bad and/or excessive comedy in a horror movie, because if that doesn't bother you (or you see it as a positive), there's a good chance you'll enjoy this. However, if that's not the case, you'll probably want to skip it.