Everyone has their staples for Halloween watching, like John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But be forewarned, gentle reader, because your master of Scarimonies (God, I sound like the Crypt Keeper), Dukey Flyswatter, will suggest some gems and themes that may have flown drastically under your radar, like a schizophrenic Vampire Bat. Week three we focus on drive-in gems and Just plain weirdness.
The Undertaker And His Pals (1966)
Director: TLP Swicegood. Stars: Warrene Ott.James, Westmoreland,Marty, Friedman.Ray Dannis.
In the grainiest and most washed out color film stock imaginable, a rather Rubinesque dishwater blonde in a nightie is saying goodnight to a photo of her sailor boyfriend. She then settles down for a beer in the over-lit chintzy set. Meanwhile, three masked, leather-clad motorcycle riders on a mission are tearing up the road. The opening scenes continue cutting back and forth until the blonde gets a knock at the door. Upon opening the door, the three motorcyclists rush in and knife her in the gut. Immediately and surprisingly, the photo of her boyfriend now has a shocked but comical expression of horror. Said damsel now gets her leg chopped off, and the photo of the sailor looks like he’s going to throw up. It’s a crass and silly opening that caught the audience way off guard, sending them into peals of laughter. Now we know what to expect.
In an early homage to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ “Blood Feast,” this zany, chauvinistic comedy goes for the gross-outs and cheap jokes rather than attempting to provide any chills. But because of the unpredictabilty, you can’t quite guess where the where the plot is going (save for a string of murders with silly punch lines) so it remains engrossing.
Somewhere in “Every Town U.S.A.” a series of mutilation murders are taking place and Detective Harry Glass and his gal Friday, who is actually named Friday, look for clues together in their own thick-headed way. The group of motorcyclists at the head of this rock-bottom drive-in opus consists of An Undertaker. who gives out Trading Stamps (Anyone remember those?) and charges a goodly amount for cosmetically restoring the butchered women. Two owners of a questionable diner take the spare parts to make the special of the day. Sally Lamb becomes leg of lamb, and a skewered Miss Poultry becomes breast of chicken, and so on and so forth. At one point gal Friday is knocked out, and one of the diner lunk heads, who wanted to be a surgeon, opens her up to fondle her guts and we, the audience, get to see (for the first time) actual open heart surgery footage on the twenty foot screen. For early gore hounds, it was glorious.
The Undertaker And His Pals was largely unseen on its first go-round, but made the rounds of drive-ins everywhere when low budget impresario T.V. Mikels got out hold of it along an older film named “The Embalmer” to share the bill with his legendary Body Snatcher/killer cat movie, “The Corpse Grinders.” An old girlfriend of mine and I still chuckle about seeing the triple bill in our weed-addled teens. If it strikes your fancy, this corny mix of gags and gore is in public domain and shows up in various PD horror DVD packs. Iis also on YouTube in the full uncut 66 minute version.