The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

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You just never know.  You watch enough of these and you stumble across a real gem, a movie so funny yet so odd and surreal that it transcends the genre it ostensibly was aiming for.  By all accounts The Undertaker and His Pals could easily be passed over as nothing more than a Herschell Gordon Lewis-style splatter-fest without so much as a thought to technique, script or craft other just getting through the story and showing some onscreen gore but you’d have to be a fool not to see the brilliance of The Undertaker and His Pals.

To be sure The Undertaker and His Pals is undoubtedly a completely miniscule budget affair but, unlike Gordon’s films, everything that the movie doesn’t have is used in its favor.  Bad acting, cheap effects, corny dialogue and predictable and ludicrous plot devices are deliberately played for laughs – but, then again, if you weren’t expecting to laugh at a movie called The Undertaker and His Pals, then you are probably too serious for your own good.  And something that’s often overlooked in these types of films is that the direction from one time director T.L.P. Swicegood (who wrote the script as well) is good!  You cannot say that about an H.G. Lewis picture!

The “plot” is a mish-mash of events that includes three homicidal, machete wielding bikers, a shady undertaker who overcharges on funeral costs, a local diner which serves “leg of lam”, a series of gruesome murders, some cannibalism, a stereotypical private dick who tries to solve the murders, a hot femme fatale named Friday and her equally hot, twin sister, Thursday.  There’s absolutely no reason to further talk about the plot since it’s merely just a frame for a series of ridiculous events, visual gags and slapstick humor.  Some of these are funny; some not so much.  The undertaker tripping on the skateboard was pretty lame (maybe that’s what they were going for) but the site of closeup of the sailor’s photograph, which changes during the murder of a young woman is quite funny.

It’s clear the entire thing is played tongue in cheek like say, A Bucket of Blood or The Little Shop of Horrors but, unlike those films, this one gets as grizzly as say Blood Feast, 2,000 Maniacs or Color Me Blood Red.  There is a machete to the face, scalpel through a forehead, severed limbs, a man dipped into acid, a body disposed of via meat grinder and, grossest of all, a “surgery” sequence in the back of the diner in which we’re treated to an actual closeup of medical, surgery footage to create the “effect.”  Well, it was pretty effective to say the least.

Unfortunately I can’t really say much about who is in the movie because the credits don’t link characters to the actor names except for the super hot Warrene Ott who played Friday and her twin sister Thursday and played some minor roles in some Hollywood sex comedies, James Westmoreland, who played the private dick was in a few TV shows and in the 1980 slasher Don’t Answer the Phone and, unsurprisingly Ray Dannis, who played the Undertaker, also played similarly creepy roles in Al Adamson’s awesome The Corpse Grinders and Tom Alderman’s The Severed Arm.  I also liked the wicked, jazzy score.

And now for the greatest orange soda commercial of all time.

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