The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

The_Undertaker_and_His_Pals_(1966)‘My friends call me Ann, but you can call me Miss Poultry.’

A series of apparently motiveless mutilation murders are investigated by a down-at-heel private eye. The case seems to be linked to a funeral home, a trio of masked bikers, and a cheap, scuzzy diner that only ever has one dish on the menu at a time…

Bizarre knockabout comedy about human dismemberment and cannibalism that tries for a shocking, black comedic tone, but ends up mired in crude and unfunny slapstick. Elements are borrowed from ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ (1963), which had starred Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone and this is an unfortunate comparison, given the level of wit and performances on display here.

Mixing gory and tasteless murders with a ‘custard pie in the face’ sensibility is a tricky tightrope act that first-time director T.W.L. Swicegood doesn’t come close to pulling off. The only plus point is the presence of Ray Dannis in the title role, peddling a nice line in smarm and over-inflated funeral charges. He also turned up later in Ted V. Mikels’ ‘The Corpse Grinders’ (1971), which was on a very similar theme. Swicegood had done some scriptwriting previously, but this was his only time in the director’s chair.

Apparently, the film does have a small cult following, probably based on a ‘what the hell where they thinking?’ vibe, but the finished results are a bit of a painful experience. It appears that the film was actually banned in several states, but exactly why is open to debate. The running time is a mercifully short 66 minutes, even with a long and rather stupid scene involving the heroine being chased by the bikers. Allegedly, the short length is because a lot of real-life footage of surgical operations was cut from the version available today. That’s certainly possible as one of the villain’s alleged motivation is to experiment on the victims and we do get a couple of inserts like that in one scene. But it’s hard to believe that minutes upon minutes of such footage was originally part of the film and brought it up to somewhere near 90 minutes. There is no ‘uncut’ version still in existence, so the truth will probably never be known.


It was time for The Three Stooges to try out some new material…

Nominal star Rad Fulton (as smug private investigator Harry Glass) switched back to using his real name shortly after this film and, as James Westmoreland, cropped up in some guest slots on a few U.S. network TV in shows such as ‘The Wild Wild West’ and ‘T.J. Hooker’. He also played the cop hero in the poorly regarded slasher film ‘Don’t Answer the Phone!’ (1980), which upset critics on release, and still has somewhat of an unpleasant reputation.

Supporting actress Sally Frei has a few interesting credits, including playing a robot in ‘Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine’ (1965) and as one of the ‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet’ (1966). A few TV spots followed in the early 1970s and then she crops up in a significant supporting role in the Jon Voight-Jane Fonda Oscar winner ‘Coming Home’ (1978)! The start of a glittering new career? No, not really. She never appeared in anything else again.


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