The Undertaker and His Pals
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Director: T.L.P. Swicegood
Stars: Ray Dannis, Warrene Ott, James Westmoreland
An undertaker and his two friends, who are restaurant owners, drum up business by going out on the town and killing people; the restaurant owners use parts of the bodies for their menu, and the undertaker gets paid by the families to bury the remainder.
Part of Mill Creek’s “Pure Terror 50 Movie” DVD set, I expected The Undertaker and His Pals to be a generic ’60s horror film that happened to have a goofy title. What I got instead was a fun and amusing piece of camp that made me think “This is Blood Diner just 20 years before anyone happened to make Blood Diner. I wouldn’t categorize it as a comedy but it does have a certain kind of dark humor for a film that draws a lot of inspiration from H.G. Lewis’ Blood Feast.
The Undertaker and His Pals starts off with a trio of bikers murdering a pretty woman at home alone and then cutting her legs off to take as a souvenir. Standard fare for the genre and nothing that grabbed my immediate interest. Then we see the funeral for this poor girl and, holy crap did this movie suddenly become something I wanted to watch.
This undertaker, whose name is simply “The Undertaker” not unlike the wrestler, is one of the most heartless trolls I’ve ever seen – making him such delightful fun. During the funeral for this poor girl, he goes up to the grieving parents and presents his bill for $1250. The bereaved father argues that the undertaker advertised a rate of $144.98 but the undertaker points out that there were additional costs such as a coffin, and flowers and sewing some legs onto the girl. “I had to attach plastic legs to her. Would you rather I’d just left her without legs and put her in a junior-sized coffin? Yes, that would have been much more economical.” Later, when someone preemptively opts out of these “additional extras” they receive a funeral where the body is just haphazardly stuffed into a shipping crate.
Grief is supposed to be a time of deep respect for the dead and the bereaved. This undertaker just looks at death and says “fuck you, pay me.”
The Worst Diner in the World
The Undertaker’s pals consist of the two gentlemen running a nameless diner in the middle of town. They don’t get much business because it’s the shittiest that’s ever been. A private detective, Harry Glass, and his secretary/sex-buddy “Ms. Poultry” go to this diner and order some leg of lamb. It tastes and looks nothing like it’s supposed to so they walk out. Actually that meat IS leg of lamb, it’s from the severed legs of Sally Lamb, the poor victim from the beginning of the film.
Yes the two guys running this diner are serving people. Sometimes it’s serendipitous and they can name their dishes after the person, as with the leg of lamb or when they murder the unfortunately named “Ms. Poultry.” Tastelessly enough, when they murder a black delivery boy they make the tired joke of being able to serve dark meat. The Undertaker and His Pals is the rare cannibal movie that admits that human beings probably taste like crap.
Also, it should be noted that the guys running this diner are idiots. As evidenced by the following scene.
Waiter: So, what’ll it be?
Customer: Well, let’s see… I think I’ll have the fried chicken.
Waiter: Sorry. We’re all out of fried chicken.
Customer: Well then get me a hot dog.
Waiter: Don’t have any.
Customer: Well what have you got?
Waiter: We still have some leg of lamb. Or how about the specialty of the day?
Customer: Alright. Gimme the chicken breast.
Waiter: Uh… how would you like that order? Light meat or dark?
Customer: Breasts of chickens usually have light meat, don’t they?
Waiter: Hey! You got a point there!
Customer: What is this? Candid camera or something?
The dimwitted diner owners and the undertaker are in this racket together. The three of them go out, disguised as bikers, and kill a young girl, splitting their body in half. One half for the diner, the other half to hastily arrange for a funeral scam. Naturally their schemes are going to end in tragedy because they are all idiots – but it doesn’t end in tragedy at the hands of the police. Sure there is a private detective and a police officer snooping around and solving this mystery, but these three guys, the undertaker and his pals, all die from a result of their own stupidity. Two of them turn on the other and drop him in acid. The diner chef happens to get into a fatal motorcycle accident. The undertaker survives walking off the edge of a building only to accidentally get stabbed in the face inside his own funeral home.
The Undertaker and His Pals is a fun little movie. It’ s only an hour long because all of the more intense gore footage (which was actual autopsy footage) were cut out for the film’s initial release and an “original cut” has never surfaced. I’m fine with that however because turning this fun little dark comedy into an H.G. Lewis style gore flick would spoil a lot of the pleasure. The Undertaker and His Pals is definitely an enjoyable piece of 60s kitsch worth keeping around.