Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

As an aficionado of horror films, I have seen many movies come out of this genre. I have sampled the many sub-genres, tasted of the best, and choked down some of the absolute worst. But, in all that time from when I started watching horror to earlier today, I had never seen this film. T.L.P. Swicegood's film we're talking about today is sort of a twist on the Sweeney Todd formula. If you don't know, the story of Sweeney Todd is that he murdered people and then these people were made into food. Meat pies, to be precise. Tim Burton did a film based on the story, which was in turn actually based on a musical that was made based on the original story. He also might've been a real serial killer, but that is something that still gets debated.

I don't care what historians say, I refuse to believe Johnny Depp is real.

Since the original story, The String of Pearls, the concept of a man killing people and turning them into food that is fed to others has been hanging out around the fringes of popular fiction. It's an idea that has been covered in movies, television shows, comics, and even video games. Let's just say that if you're in a zombie apocalypse and some nice brothers from a dairy farm offer you help? Shoot them, they're going to try cooking one of your friends.

It's going to be hard to walk away from this one. You know, because they cut off his legs.
This particular spin on the tale is a bit more on the humourous side of the whole cannibalism and murder business. It takes place in the 1960s and features a small gang of bikers who murder people so that these people can be made into food. There are other motivations to this, but we'll get that soon. Without further ado, let's get into it, shall we? The film opens as we see three leather clad bikers riding in circles in the middle of an intersection late at night, clearly up to no good. They stop, one disembarks from his motorcycle and he enters phone booth where he looks for a very particular name. Sally Lamb. They go to her apartment, break into it, and murder the poor woman. After killing her, they cut off her legs and we can clearly see where this is going.

Crap, I thought they were going to make haggis. Boy, was I off.
If that obvious pun isn't enough of a clue to the tone of this film, during her murder we also see the photos around the room literally gasping in reaction to what is happening, almost as if this were a grindhouse film made for the wizarding world. I wonder if that's a thing? Wizard grindhouse films...hmm...let's move on before I get too lost thinking that one over. From there we see a mortician meeting with her family after preparing her body. As he pulls back the curtains, a song with the lyrics "there's never been a devil like me" begins to play, which he quickly switches to traditional organs music. I have to say...that made me snicker. He shows the father the bill for the preparations to the body and funeral arrangements, which goes pretty badly. Clearly, we can see what's going on here.

Sally's actually one of the mannequin women from Maniac!
The mother dresses them both down over talking about money at a time like this and they leave. Now, clearly, the real thing going on here is that the mortician (or undertaker) is working with some guys and they're helping one another out. Food for them, business for him. It makes a lot of sense, even if it is rather fucked up. Back to the story at hand, we move from the obvious villain to the obvious hero, Detective Harry Glass. He sits in his office with his secretary flirting with him and him trying to shrug off her pleas for him to settle down with her. They go out to lunch at a local diner and we see the biker killers sans their gear. They're somewhat less imposing.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong and you find bow-ties and exposed chest hair horrifying.
After being catty with the cooks about the quality of their food, guess who's next on the menu? Why, the secretary, who is conveniently named Ann Poultry. I've heard of tongue in cheek but this movie is tongue through cheek. As expected, they show up at her place and she ends up meeting a grim fate. The police ask Harry if he knows anything, but he doesn't as the only person Ann hated was him for not marrying her. Then he's approached by the Undertaker about funeral arrangements for her, as she has no family to pay for them and he's the closest person to her. He agrees to pay but wants the cheapest deal, which doesn't sit well with our motorcycle riding mortician.

He better watch out because the Tombstone Piledriver ain't nothing to laugh at.
Not surprising anyone, we see the new special is chicken breast, which I guess means someone is eating Ann's tits? The weird behaviour of the two guys is noted by the delivery guy from the local market as he points out that they never buy any meat from them, to which the cook replies that he gets his meat fresh from elsewhere. Well, he's not really lying. But the location he procures the from becomes known to the delivery guy, who I have to mention is black because of something that happens soon. Trust me, it pertains to something that happens. Anyway, now that he's seen their secret they have to put him down and someone comes in to order the chicken, to which we get the moment where he's asked if he wants white meat...or dark, as the waiter looks back at the delivery guy's body.

An accurate portrayal of my face when this happened, via one of the enchanted photos from Sally's home.
They killed a black man and made him into fried chicken. Do not sit there and tell me they didn't know what they were doing there, this was the 1960s. They knew exactly what joke they were making and it really is face-palm worthy. But I don't know if I should fault them too badly, as there really wasn't any joke there that wouldn't end up being bad. Actually, screw that, it was terribly racist and it really hurts an otherwise harmless and silly horror film. Bad movie! Bad! You cut that shit out right now!

You better be glad you have Night of the Living Dead on here too to balance things out!
Harry meets a new girl, named Friday, who intends to be his new secretary and love interest. But he makes the bad decision to send her to a certain place to eat. Harry literally just gave her money to go get herself killed. Sure enough, she gets there and tries to order food, saying that she needs something because being without food is causing her pain. This gets the cooks attention as, apparently, he aspires to be a surgeon. They chloroform her, take her into the kitchen, and then he cuts the unconscious still-alive Friday open and starts poking around inside of her. I am a little unsure about this scene too, as those are clearly very real organs being shifted around.

Either this is a dead animal we're seeing the inside of or this actress really went above and beyond.
She wakes up though and soon dies from the shock of having her exposed organs manhandled in a kitchen. Not wanting to waste the meat, they do the obvious thing: they grind her up for hamburger patties. If you don't get why that's obvious, I'll point out that she actually tried ordering a burger before that. Yep, the circle of life. You eat the burger, you become the burger, you get eaten by someone else who will probably become prime rib. I wonder if they sing that Chili's baby-back ribs song when cooking human ribs?

"BAR-BE-CUE SAWWWWWWWWSSSSSS!"
Things aren't all good for them though, as the Undertaker isn't happy about them leaving nothing for him with this victim. They go out and kill another lady and actually get seen, even though in disguise, meaning the stakes are now higher for our titular killers. Things go downhill for them as the Undertaker loses his motorcycle license plate at the crime scene and it's now known he's one of the killers. He and the cook turn on the waiter, lowering him into a vat of acid, and Harry gets acquainted with Friday's twin sister, Thursday. He learns the cook and waiter are friends with the Undertaker and he goes to check out the place where he finds the skeleton of the waiter.

If this gets out to the skeleton community then we'll have to face yet another skeleton war and all the horrors therein.
He takes Thursday home with him to keep safe, stopping along the way to call in the whole "skeleton in a vat of acid" thing. Reaching home, Thursday seems to be ready for love but she becomes disappointed when he falls asleep and her needs are left unfulfilled. Cheer up, lady, at least you're not on the menu. But perhaps I spoke too soon ,as the bikers followed them and now know where Harry lives. As they leave the next day, we see that Harry runs out of gas...which I guess might mean the bikers siphoned it? I'm not sure, it's not really discussed too in depth and he shrugs it off rather easily. He catches a ride to go get gas and leaves her there alone. I'm sure hse'll be fine, it's not like there are crazy bikers out to murder them or anything.

Harry is an asshole.
Lucky for her, she evades them long enough for Harry and his ride to show and run over one of the bikers, the cook. The Undertaker escapes though, only to show up later as Thursday settles into her new job as Harry's secretary, a job with a mortality rate that keeps rising more than Harry. He leaves her alone, again, and then our killer shows up to slowly pursue Thursday as she runs up the stairs. And I do mean slowly, as he creeps along like he's going to try out to be the 1960s version of Jason Voorhees. After recycling the same footage of her running up the stairs a few times, she reaches the roof, he comes after her, lunges at her near the edge, then goes off said edge as she dodges him. She then rather nonchalantly goes back down stairs and we see that he actually caught himself, as he climbs back up and goes to wait in hiding for his chance to strike. While hiding behind a curtain, we see Harry talking to his cop friend who, just before leaving, actually accidentally stabs the Undertaker in the head. I am completely serious. He falls over dead and we get a rather entertaining exit as we see each cast member that died popping up out of coffins, boxes, and whatever else.

Including the Undertaker winking at us.
Despite the terrible fried chicken joke, this actually was a rather enjoyable film. It's hokey and silly as all hell, but that's quite obviously something they were going for. This movie is so blatantly self-aware is how it pokes fun at everything that I am shocked more people don't talk about it. It really is a clever send-up of the grindhouse and slasher films it's poking fun at and is definitely a lot more entertaining than a lot of the bigger budget spoof films of today. It definitely has some much more memorable moments in it than they do. I know I won't be forgetting that gut scene anytime soon.

At least she seems to be enjoy the taste of herself.
I would consider this movie deserving of some serious re-evaluation, as it kinda got shat on back in the day. I even remarked to my old man, who actually requested that I review this, that I'd rather see an attempt to remake this as a clever modern horror comedy than have to sit through the plethora of undesired remakes we get saddled with instead. Somebody should give this movie to Edgar Wright and tell him to run with it. Just keep Eli Roth away from it, please. I want clever humour, not stupidity piled on top of stupidity. So, until this forgotten so-bad-it's-good gem gets a Blu-Ray release, I'll be here sighing because that'll never happen because we've got to make room for Blu-Ray releases of the next 6 Sharknado films. Ugh. Later days, bleeders.

And remember to always wear your helmets. Safety first, even if you are a murderous sociopath.

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