The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

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.

The Body Shop (1973)



All righty!  This is what I’m talking about!  Here we have a creepy, sick, disturbing and underrated splatter classic from writer/director J.G. Patterson Jr., who worked with and drew inspiration from H.G. Lewis but managed to make a movie that is actually kind of good!  The Body Shop – also known as Doctor Gore (a better title IMO) – serves as a prototype for Re-Animator with its theme of a doctor that tries to bring his dead wife back to life.

Now I don’t know if Stuart Gordon was inspired by The Body Shop but the main, glaringly obvious thematic difference between the two movies is that Dr. Brandon (played by Patterson) had no altruistic goal in mind.  In fact, when I said he wanted to resurrect his wife, I meant to say he wanted to create a really hot woman from the parts of other women and bang her a whole lot.  I’m not kidding!  How else could a creepazoid like that get a woman?  Well he did inherit his dead, rich actress wife’s will but I digress.

According to the poster above, The Body Shop was filmed entirely in North Carolina but why does the doctor’s house look like a castle you’d find on the European country side?  Was his house that big?  Pretty crazy.  Within the house is where the doctor does his experiments assisted by a typical, cliche laboratory hunchback who just wants the doctor to fix his body.  The doctor of course has other goals in mind; that is to assemble the parts of female corpses to create the ultimate super woman.

The story gets a little strange at this point though.  You see the doctor apparently has the capability to seduce and/or hypnotize women into going back to his lab, where he proceeds to cut off a leg, arm or whatever is necessary.  But, if he’s such a charmer, why does he NEED to assemble a woman in the first place?  He picks up one victim from a local bar where undiscovered country heroes Bill Hicks and the Rainbows are performing.

I suppose his seducing women just to use them to build his “super woman” adds to his being a completely loathsome character with no redeeming qualities.  And, to be sure, the scenes are hella gorey!  It’s obvious how the effects were created; whether it be a carefully hidden limb or a “severed” head sticking out from somewhere but the fact is the effects look real and gross.  The doctor cuts off limbs, cuts open torsos, cuts out eyes and does a whole bunch of unsavory things with his creepy set of surgical tools.

Eventually he builds a woman and she definitely is quite hot.  He attempts to teach her stuff the way a parent would teach a little kid.  But, as these things typically do, the plot goes awry and, well, I’m not going to spoil it for you.  The Body Shop has its obvious flaws with the least of them being its miniscule budget.  There are moments that don’t make that much sense and an ending that’s a tiny bit confusing but as a whole, it’s worth the 80 minutes you’ll spend watching it.

Color Me Blood Red (1965)



I don’t want to ruffle any feathers and cause any brain aneurisms at the thought that your entire world might be turned around by this ground breaking statement but Herschell Gordon Lewis is a lousy director.  Don’t get me wrong; I love his stuff and I’ve seen all his movies but they’re not any good.  Gordon has more or less said that he’s not aiming for any artistic merit but just to entertain.  And that’s the problem!  Unless he’s filling the screen with gore, violence, perversion or just nogoodniks doing nogoodniky things, he really sucks!

Case in point: Color Me Blood Red.  I saw this one a while ago and remembered it being way more entertaining but, upon second viewing, I was surprised by how boring this movie is.  80 minutes that seem interminable.  And I don’t want to turn potential viewers away from the films of H.G. Lewis by such a negative assessment so I’ll at least attempt to explain what Color Me Blood Red is all about and why I think it failed at doing what it was supposed to do.

After leaving the world of nudie cuties (which he’d later return to), Lewis with producer David F. Friedman set for the uncharted territory of wanton gore and splatter.  As evidenced by Blood Feast which caused a traffic jam upon its inaugural showing at a drive-in, it worked and Lewis/Friedman had a new gimmick to exploit.  And yes, Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs, Color Me Blood Red, The Gruesome Twosome, The Wizard of Gore and The Gore Gore Girls are all very gross, bloody and gory; just as bad – possibly worse – than a lot of popular R rated slasher films.

The problem is that stuff has to happen between the gore sequences.  Lewis not only is lousy at his direction, which consists of home video quality photography that often sits on nothing in particular but also can’t build up suspense worth a damn.  I won’t bash the horrendous sound since he probably could only afford one boom mic.  This leaves only two things to enjoy; the hokey acting and the gore.  The gore movies especially are unique since, instead of horny teenagers who bang within 10 minutes of the opening credits, you get to see an immense level of gore juxtaposed with 1950s-early 60s “golly, gee whiz!” dialogue and action.  Color Me Blood Red just has way too much of the latter.

Color Me Blood Red is sort of an update of Roger Cormon’s artistically superior A Bucket of Blood.  In that film an artist killed people and covered them in clay, producing works of “art” for pretentious, know-it-all critics.  In Color Me Blood Red, the artist Adam (Don Joseph) uses human blood to give his canvas extra color.  Guess how he gets it.  Aside from the hilariously sickening scene of him passing out from using too much of his own blood, he begins to kill people and use theirs.

Unsurprisingly the local critics really love his work; violent, sick and daring!  Soon the body count picks up until a group of local kids gets wind to what he’s doing when they discover a rotting corpse on his beach side property.  Seems like a hoot, right?  It would be if there was more killing!  He stabs his annoying fiance, runs through someone with a harpoon on a motorboat and uses a woman’s lower intestine to color his canvas but there are just too many scenes of beach party bingo nonsense and goofy kids literally doing nothing.  They splash each other, crack corny jokes and frolic about but remain remarkably un-killed!  BOOORRRRIIIING!!!  And these are the annoying kids that I wanted to see get killed!  And he doesn’t kill a single one of them!  Arrrrghghgh!!!