Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Undertaker and His Pals

The 1960s were a fascinating time for no-budget horror movies. Loosening censorship rules enabled the violence in such films to be ratcheted up tremendously, far beyond what their meager budgets were capable of handling. This mid-60s effort is a perfect example, where the budget for gore effects so compromised the rest of the film that the cover of the DVD actually has to advertise that it’s in color as though that in itself were a major draw, rather than the standard. And then they don’t even properly hold true to this, as the film opens in sepia tone, and only turns into color completely randomly halfway through the first murder. Utter madness.

The film’s basic premise isn’t that bad, as these things go. An undertaker and two restaurant owners go into business together by hitting the town and murdering people (generally moderately attractive women), whereupon the restaurant owners take key pieces of their bodies to sell at their businesses, and the undertaker get the added business of a steady supply of customers in need of extensive restoration and burial. Not a bad racket, all things considered, and it certainly helps that the entire town is deeply afflicted with the stupids and can’t figure this all out for the life of them.

The film’s largely played for laughs, which is a wise decision here, and the guy playing the undertaker spends every moment onscreen mugging shamelessly for the camera. In a nice change of pace, the film’s creators also knew when to end it, leaving the film only an hour long rather than trying to stretch out the flimsy premise much further than it could really take. That said, the movie is just so much light fluff, and not exactly quality fluff either. If you watch it, you won’t find it outright terrible, but you’re hardly going to view it as anything more than a waste of an hour. The acting is fairly atrocious, the directing inept, and the humor the only thing keeping it afloat. You may want to just check out its trailer in the first volume of 42nd Street Forever, it does a damn impressive job of making it look much better than it really is.

Rating: *

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