Update: 11/27/15 - 12/8/16: Now Vinegar Syndrome brings The Undertaker fully up to speed with their new blu-ray/ DVD combo pack that doesn't just move the film into HD, but restores it to its long unreleased, original cut. And like I said, the two versions are extremely different from one another.
Spinell is the titular undertaker, who has a habit of increasing his business by killing local residents. He monologues to a few of his hanging corpses a humorous motive about how America's modern health craze (remember, this was the 80s) has people living longer, "business hasn't been good lately, what with all these vitamins that people are taking, and the surgeon general's warning about smoking, those silly driving without drinking laws... I guess I'll have to drum up some business." So he's sorta out to kill health nuts. But his nephew's college professor suggests a second motive: necrophilia. The nephew senses things are very wrong at home, so he asks his professor and her roommate to break into his funeral parlor. The cops are also trying to solve the case of a local serial killer who just killed the mayor's secretary... Oh, and a security guard at the town's movie theater has figured out that the killer is copying the horror film they play at night, and goes off on his own to investigate.
If that sounds like a jumbled, convoluted mess, that's because it sort of is. I think it's cleverly complicated in its original script, but the execution muddies it a little more so that this film feels like a couple different screenplays mashed into one. And that's just the first version of this film...
All reports of The Undertaker describe the film as never having been completed. But I've seen the old bootleg tapes (and now the new blu), and it feels pretty complete to me. It's got a beginning, middle and end, full-length running time, finished special effects, music, titles. It feels amateurish in some respects, low budget in all respects, and kind of a stilted, awkward but entertaining mess. But not incomplete. So, it was a surprise to see this new Code Red version.
Pieces, Nightmare At Shadow Woods or Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker, then you should appreciate this for sure.
|top: 2010 Code Red DVD, mid: 2016 VS DVD, bottom: 2016 VS blu.|
|my old bootleg, much worse than CR|
|VS blu-ray on top; VS DVD on the bottom.|
|the composite footage in the VS blu-ray|
Vinegar Syndrome's blu features the original mono track in a strong DTS-HD presentation. Surprisingly, even the scenes taken from the tape source seem to have the same high quality audio, or VS did a terrific job cleaning and matching it. Either way, I'm impressed. They've also created English subtitles for the film, which Code Red lacked.