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The Undertaker (1988) - Blu-ray Review

Movie Review

3 beers

It begins with a flat tire. A woman alone. She’s stranded on a lonesome highway. There’s a biker approaching and, after a lift into the woods, his demands are more than she’s prepared to give. He won’t be the end of her, though. What follows is a desperate run for freedom … straight into the arms of Uncle Roscoe (Joe Spinell, Maniac), a serial killer who has the best selection of bodies thanks to his profession as, you guessed it, an undertaker with serious problems.

Directed by Franco Steffanino and written by William James Kennedy (who gives this release a great interview in the supplemental section of this blu-ray), this horror film has never truly had an official theatrical release. It also, if rumors are to be believed, was never officially completed but, when the results are this wild, that fact is just a cute capstone on what is otherwise a very twisted tale of sex with corpses, overly long ogling of exercising ladies, and a low gore score.

Roscoe, being the lovable mortician that he is, has a thing for the dead. He goes way too far with his desire and crosses into necrophilia from time to time. I know, gross. Maybe this is due to his obsession with watching The Corpse Vanishes or maybe he’s just bored. Whatever it is, Roscoe has an axe to grind and he’s all about taking it out on the recent dead.

Low in budget and in rank (as maybe this movie is for Spinell completists only), The Undertaker has survived through the years by word of mouth and bootleg copies only. It’s scraping the bottom of the barrel, for sure, and looks all sorts of rough and unrefined. That’s all about to change, as this release is sure to bring a few more into Maniac’s domain of pleasure.  

That fact is certainly a tragedy because, quiet honestly, this is one hell of a horror gem that, while completely unpolished, manages its fair share of sparkles during its brief running time and solid character acting. It’s not always on it, though, and that leads to some dreadfully dull sequences. This low budget flick attempts to keep b-movie loyalists totally engaged while, at the same time, making them laugh with kooky lines and unintentionally choppy edits at the same time

It is; however, the solid performances from the ultra-cool Spinell, who died shortly after this film wrapped in November of 1988, and Patrick Askin as his nephew who teams up with both his professor (Rebeca Yaron) and her roommate (Susan Bachli) to bring Roscoe to justice. But can he get to them first? He is, after all, quite clever in the pursuit of his chosen targets. When they are family, it seems they are tastier to him.

The Undertaker welcomes you to this release – it’s blu-ray debut – thanks to a seriously EPIC handling from Vinegar Syndrome. The film now has a disclaimer, warning that there might be a significant drop in the quality of the 35mm print due to a missing 6 minutes of film and its VHS insertions, but it is the most complete release of this movie to legitimately hit the streets (especially in New York City) yet.

There can be only one (version), you know, and trust me when I suggest that this new 1080p release of The Undertaker is the one to own. Quit searching for the bootleg copies. Low in budget and raw as hell (with plenty of female nudity), the film is a smattering of all things grisly and horrible. And, yes, this includes the wonky editing that, at times, is downright hilarious in (what I hope is) an unintentional manner.  

The Undertaker and all his extracurricular activities are requesting an audience with you. Why keep it waiting?


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Film Details

The Undertaker (1988) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime: 89 mins
Director: Franco Steffanino
Writer: William James Kennedy
Cast: Joe Spinell, Rebecca Varon, Patrick Askin
Genre: Horror
Tagline: He'll Love You To Death.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Welcome to my palace."
Theatrical Distributor: 
Official Site: 
Release Date: 
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: November 25, 2016
Synopsis: For years Roscoe (Joe Spinell) has been the town undertaker. However, inside his funeral home, he’s been amassing a bloody collection of human souvenirs, which he uses in unspeakable acts of violence and perversion. When some townspeople begin to disappear under strange circumstances, Roscoe’s nephew starts to grow suspicious of the goings on at his uncle’s funeral parlor. As he gets closer to the truth, he inadvertently begins putting the lives of those around him at risk, as well as his own…


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The Undertaker (1988) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome
Available on Blu-ray - November 25, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

Vinegar Syndrome presents The Undertaker’s low budget thrills on 1080p (with 1.85:1 aspect ratios) thanks to their newly restored 2k transfers. The transfer was compiled from their 35mm original camera negatives and the results are maybe not as detailed as you might prefer. Get over it, though. This low budget flick is finally presented as it was originally intended. Black levels are good, shadows are murky, and colors – especially reds – are great. The sound is presented in a English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track which is adequate for this no-budget feature.



Commentary track with director / writer / actor William Kennedy

Special Features:

Complete with a 6-page booklet with an essay by Michael Gingold, The Undertaker gives fans an interview about the making of the movie, outtakes, a 17-image photo gallery, and an archival promo video.

William James Kennedy Intro

William James Kennedy Interview (21 min)

Rough Cut Outtakes (10 min)

Archival Promo Video (5 min)

Still Gallery


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The Undertaker (1988) - Blu-ray Review