Monday, October 27, 2008

The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

Every so often, I will come across a film by accident that will completely take me by surprise. Sometimes I'll pick up a film just for the cover art, or I'll pick it up because I've heard about the film, and other times, as in this case, I'm purchasing a film which has another attached to it. Every Halloween, I'll make a round through all the local retail stores and see who has cheap horror films for sale to celebrate the season.

 Every so often, I'll find a good deal on a DVD that I already have on VHS cheap, or something will catch my eye. This year, I got to see a slew of compilations put out by TGG Direct - with some gruesome Rob Zombie-esque cover art - for the nice price of $5. Most of the films they were showcasing were ones I already had in my collection but I picked up one particular set because it had Pieces and I don't have that one on DVD format. At the end of the compilation's second disc was this film, nice and tucked away. I'd never heard of it so I thought I'd give it a try and all I can say is that I was really surprised.

The film opens up with a beautifully sequenced, or should I say, choreographed scene of three motorcycles in the night doing circles on a city street. Three motorcycles head off to a small apartment on the other side of town and end up killing a beautiful girl and hacking her to pieces. Her name? Sally Lamb. There's a reason I mention her name but I'll get to that shortly. Cut to a small funeral home where an undertaker with no name - played by Ray Dannie - is performing the funeral service for poor Sally. The murder is then investigated by a handsome private eye with a beautiful secretary who's trying to get him to marry her. Deciding to talk about it over lunch, they go to a small diner and what do you know? The chef's special is Lamb's Leg. Oh yes, I went there. The diner is owned by two low lives who are trying to strum business by getting the undertaker to supply the meat for the restaurant. Get the idea now? This movie must have caused a sir back in the late sixties. Gore, trash, sleaze, it's all there and yours for the taking. I don't want to give much of the plot away but this was probably one of the funniest slasher films I've ever seen. This was probably the predecessor to future classics such as Blood Feast and Motel Hell as the tongue-in-cheek humor mixed with blood and gore are enough to please. The film has a very dark tone but you don't really don't feel it, mainly because you actually get familiar with the characters and start liking them for the sheer comic value of their personalities. The movie is a laugh riot and before I knew it, I was really into the film and wondered to myself just how many people this film grossed out back in its drive-in heyday.

This took me by complete surprise and it's now in my top list of funny horror films, beating out Motel Hell by a long shot. If you can be patient - even with its very short 63 minute running time - and give this a chance, you'll end up loving it and wonder where it'd been hidden for so long. The best part of this whole film is the treat the producers give you at the end: when all the dead victims 'come back from the dead' to give one last bow and smile to the cameras. I apologize that this review is really short, but seriously, if you've seen the other two films I mentioned, you're already familiar with this type of plot. I've seen this on many of those 'multi-film' compilations and just last week I saw this one alone selling for about $2 in the bargain bin. If you see it, grab it, it's worth the price and worth investing your time in. You'll be laughing at the camp silliness - seriously, some of these scenes are a total laugh and a half - and paradoxical gross out factor - there are some genuine slasher scenes - that this has to offer. Look for this one. You will be smiling at the end during the closing credits and you'll want to see it again, just for the comedic value and you'll sit there wondering just how director T.L.P Spicewood got the nerve to not only write this film, but helm it as well.
Have fun with the trailer!

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