The Film (3.5/5)
Joe Spinell as an actor got his start appearing in films like The Godfather and Rocky. This was before his turn as Frank Zito in 1980's Maniac directed by William Lustig. Spinell was a lifelong fan of horror cinema, and longed to play the lead in such a film, and the role in Maniac would see to it that he would be cast in many such films for the remainder of his career.
The Undertaker is a film that was shot in 1988, but never completed. A copy with the title "Death Merchant" was among the possessions in Spinell's apartment when he died in 1989. The film in it's incomplete form circulated in various bootlegs when in 2010 Code Red released a DVD of the film from a tape source. It is now 6 years later and Vinegar Syndrome have released the film in a Blu-ray from a 35mm source with some taped inserts mostly during the film's conclusion.
The film is pretty straightforward. Spinell plays an undertaker named Roscoe. Roscoe spends his days working in the local mortuary and his nights killing, and having sex with the bodies. The townspeople including students (literally in the subject of necrophilia) begin to suspect something is up, and begin to trace the crimes back to the undertaker.
OK, so even with the work that Vinegar Syndrome has obviously put into this one. The film is still largely incomplete. So one has to really grade this one on a different scale. I will admit it is a truly bizarre effort, and I had a lot of fun with it. Spinell is great with the limited screen time he is given. The rest of the cast is decent, but fitting to the material on display here. The direction is solid, but again because the film is incomplete, footage is occasionally repeated, and so one can't get a full picture of what could have been. Still the film is a lot of fun, and certainly recommended both for fans of Spinell, and genre fans as a whole.
Vinegar Syndrome presents the Undertaker with a solid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the film's OAR. Everything in the 35mm footage looks nearly pristine, colors pop, blacks are deep, and grain is very natural. The VHS footage is very rough looking that is to be expected, but everything as a whole looks quite fine.
The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA mono track in English. The track is quite serviceable with dialogue, and score coming across crisp and clear for the most part. There are a few moments where things aren't quite balanced, but overall everything sounds fine.
Vinegar Syndrome puts together a stellar package for their release of The Undertaker. We get a commentary track between the film's director William James Kennedy and Brandon Upson. This is followed up by a 20 minute making of, 5 minute promo clip, 9 minutes of VHS outtakes,a still gallery, trailer, and liner notes by former Fango writer Michael Gingold.
For a film that is incomplete, The Undertaker is a bizarre fun experience. The Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome looks and sounds fantastic aside from VHS footage. It is also loaded up with great extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.