The Undertaker (1988) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
13 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
5/10
Extremely obscure horror film with legendary Joe Spinell.
HumanoidOfFlesh29 May 2004
"The Undertaker" is a lost and forgotten horror film with Joe Spinell.He plays crazy mortician with the penchant for necrophilia called Roscoe,who stalks and kills beautiful girls.His nephew tries to stop him.The film is clearly not as good as "Maniac",albeit there are some striking similarities between this one and Lustig's gruesome gorefest.The acting is truly awful with the exception of Spinell.The budget is extremely low and there is almost no gore.However there is plenty of nudity,so fans of low-budget slasher flicks won't be disappointed."The Undertaker" is also filled with many clips from "The Corpse Vanishes",which Roscoe watches everyday.Anyway, if you're a fan of Joe Spinell you may give this one a try.My rating:5 out of 10.
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Spinell's last movie
pwaryan24 March 2006
This is truly an example of bad horror at its worst, with bad writing and uneven editing. However as Joe Spinell's last film it is an interesting curiosity of a film and it has some good moments. Spinell is not at his best here and the acting overall isn't very good however Patrick Askin turns in a good performance as Spinell's nephew. The biggest problem with the film is the editing which results in some unintentionally comic moments in particular the big confrontation scene between Spinell and his nephew. The whole scene falls flat due to choppy editing. But for die-hard horror fans this film may be watched as an exercise in scary camp.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
He'll love you to death!
Hey_Sweden17 August 2016
The late, superior character actor Joe Spinell (of "Maniac" fame) had his last leading role in this obscure shocker, before dying at 52 of undetermined causes. Joe gives this bargain basement piece of excrement what little value it has, playing the part of "Uncle Roscoe", a mortician in a small New Jersey town. Dabbling in some necrophilia on the side, Roscoe resorts to murder to drum up business for his shabby funeral home. His nephew Nicky (Patrick Askin) develops suspicions about the old man, and relays them to his college professor, Pam Hayes (Rebeca Yaron).

Although fairly brief at an 83 minute running time, "The Undertaker" can be pretty tedious. It's mildly amusing at best, but considering the fact that it was never really completed, that's at least some sort of accomplishment. Still, as written by William James Kennedy (who also plays a supporting role), it relies on padding a LOT. Public domain titles like Roger Cormans' "The Terror" and especially the Bela Lugosi vehicle "The Corpse Vanishes" are showcased ad nauseum, the latter presumably because it helps to inspire Roscoe. There are also extended sequences of sexy young ladies exercising, and one excruciatingly overlong period of Mandy (Susan Bachli) exploring Roscoes' lair.

Overall, this comes off like somebody's bad home movie, and it's just as crudely edited as one could expect. There's some partial female nudity to keep some audience members in their seats, but the gore is quite mild. The music isn't that great but it still manages to be somewhat catchy. Most of the supporting characters and performances are pretty insipid, with Spinell being the only real professional in this bunch. (One might assume that he did this as a favor to someone). The ending is particularly bad.

Devotees of Spinell will want to see this for completions' sake, but they'd better keep those expectations REALLY low.

Five out of 10. (Spinell increases the rating by a point.)
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
This Is The CUT version!!!!
devilgutts1 December 2010
The Code Red version of the Undertaker is a stupid mess!!!They should be ashamed of putting this disc out!!The uncut version is available at FLESHWOUNDVIDEO.COM it is much better.Scenes are in the proper order,lots of gore and nudity as well.The Code Red version makes no sense at all especially the ending!? This is Joe Spinell's best movie,next to Maniac!I'm giving the uncut version 9 out of 10,sure the picture quality is not the best,also Spinell is clearly drunk in some scenes. But this just adds to the sleaziness of the movie. You think Code Red would have done a better job trying to find the uncut version.But they have put out a lot of crap movies, I heard they are calling it quits next year?? I hope its true,Code Red sucks!!
14 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Trashy eighties horror with Joe Spinell
The_Void27 February 2009
The Undertaker is not very well known to say the least; and I really can't say I'm surprised about that as the film is rather silly and lacklustre. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that this is one of the last films of cult star Joe Spinell, I highly doubt that anyone would remember it at all. As you would expect from a low budget trash film such as this; the plot is not particularly inventive and the writing is even worse. The film starts off with a rather amusing scene that features an attempted rape by a motorcyclist, and it really sums up what you're going to see nicely as the victim must rank as one of the slowest-witted of all time! The plot focuses on an undertaker named Roscoe. He's a sick man and has decided to take his job into his own hands and has begun killing people himself. He slices up his victims and keeps them as his 'friends' inside the funeral home he lives in. Naturally, it's not long before the police find out what's happening and begin to investigate.

Joe Spinell is best known for his role in 1980's Maniac; but anyone hoping for anything like as good as that is liable to be sorely disappointed. This film does feature a handful of murders; but none of them are particularly violent or bloody and mostly we just get to see the killer and his dead victim after the event. I don't know if this was an attempt at 'less is more' or (more likely) the budget constraints meant no gore could be afforded; but either way it's disappointing. As the film is very hard to track down, the copy that I saw was less than great and looks like someone spread Vaseline all over the film stock; but even so it's obvious that the film has a trashy look about it anyway. This does lend itself well to the plot, which is also trashy, but still the film is not very nice to look at. The Undertaker runs for ninety minutes, and even though that's an average running time for films like this; it still feels overlong. The ending is serviceable, but not really worth the wait. Overall, I can't say that this film is worth tracking down, even for hardcore Spinell fans.
10 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
The Undertaker
Scarecrow-882 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly".

Deadingly dull slasher movie with Joe Spinell as a deranged coroner who likes to murder certain girls who fit a profile which attract his psycho-sexual sensibilities. On goes the white gloves and suit, Spinell, always the heavy breather, sweating away, knife drawn to gut the ladies he greets from behind, became typecast as a lunatic, never to escape the role he made famous in "Maniac". I imagine "The Undertaker" will be of definite interest to Spinell fans as he talks to dead people and lurks in the darkness, peeping on future victims. In between stalk and slash scenes, the pace languishes, not to mention Spinell looks to be in really bad health, slurring his lines as if either drunk or sick. Spinell's "Uncle" Roscoe sets his sights on his nephew Nicky's(Patrick Askin) anthropology teacher who teaches of necrophilia to her students..Nicky uncovers secrets regarding his uncle and wishes to tell somebody. When Nicky sees that Mrs. Hayes(Rebeca Yaron) understands a thing or two about Roscoe's "extra curricular activities", he unwittingly puts her in danger of being another female target. For those hoping Spinell would go off the depend, he does in grand fashion, eyes bulging with madness, all intense giggles, mouth salivating as his squirming victims struggle as life slips away, often gurgling on their own blood after a nasty throat slicing. There were a few other directors who attempted to ape Lustig's success with Spinell, but were simply not able to because Tom Savini was a vital part of why "Maniac" left a lasting impact. "The Undertaker" is a badly assembled mess, shot on the cheap in a few rooms and a couple of houses, with only Spinel's name recognition salvaging it. The sound and picture quality are dire. The final screenshot/fade-to-black is a pathetic attempt to model the fantastic close of "Maniac". Spinell wields a mean machete which impales and severs victims. Yaron's Mrs. Hayes and her best friend/roommate Mandy(Susan Bachli)both have sex/nudity scenes which might be of interest to slasher fans hoping for gratuitous elements besides some modest ultra-violent bits here and there. There's one impossibly long/tedious sequence where Mandy investigates Roscoe's lair which loses any suspense the director might've intended because he drags it on forever and ever.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Trying to Recapture Maniac
Michael_Elliott28 October 2016
The Undertaker (1988)

* 1/2 (out of 4)

Roscoe (Joe Spinell) runs a funeral home but there aren't too many people dying so he's losing out on money. This gives him the idea of killing people so that his work will be full and this will bring in money. Soon the police are trying to track down who is mutilating all the people.

THE UNDERTAKER is somewhat of a mystery movie. It never got an official release in America when it was made and for many years it was only available via a bootleg. There were rumors that the film was never completed but that's certainly not true since there are opening and closing credits as well as a music score and so on. I think it might have been possible that the production ran out of money and this might explain why certain scenes end without reason or why other bits and pieces seem to not be complete.

As far as the film goes, honestly, it's pretty hard to judge the film because it just feels like it's incomplete. However, no one involved with the production has spoken up so it's hard to know what's really going on with it. As I said there are many scenes that just stop without reason or cuts off and goes to something else without much of a reason why. There are also countless scenes where people just walk or talk for no real reason other than to expand the running time. I will say that the special effects are decent for the obvious low-budget they were working on. A lot of the effects happen off screen but we get the bloody aftermath.

The main reason to watch the film or stay away from it is for Joe Spinell. The character actor appeared in films like THE GODFATHER, ROCKY and TAXI DRIVER but he will always be remembered for his role in MANIAC. That 1980 slasher was a masterpiece and several producers tried to recapture that film with Spinell. You had THE LAST HORROR FILM and then MR. ROBBIE: MANIAC 2. It's clear that they wanted this to be like MANIAC as we get some very familiar scenes and especially with Spinell talking to his victims and crying because of his pain. The performance is okay but there are some rather obvious moments where Spinell is drunk and having issues with his lines. Some might just wish not to see Spinell in this shape and especially when you considered he died a couple months after this was done filming.

So, it's really going to be up to Spinell fans on whether or not they want to see this film. It's strange that it isn't better known but there are just way too many issues for it to be a complete success.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Necrophilia 101: who'd have thought it?
BA_Harrison22 July 2020
Talk about having a bad day: in the opening scene for The Undertaker, a woman gets a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, but hasn't got a spare; a biker stops and offers to take her to a gas station, but instead tries to rape her; she runs away and flags down a car, asking the driver to take her to town, only her 'saviour' is none other than 'maniac' Joe Spinell as deranged mortician Roscoe. Next time we see the woman, she's on Roscoe's slab, throat cut, having her dead boobs fondled. How's about that then, guys and gals?

This exploitative intro perfectly sets the tone for the whole film, which delivers loads of female nudity (all the young women get their tops off at some point), some reasonably gory kills, and a sublimely scuzzy performance from Spinell as yet another greaseball lunatic, all shot in glorious sleaze-o-rama (voyeuristic POV shots, heavy breathing, grainy photography and lots of sweat).

Out to expose the psycho mortician is his nephew Nick (Patrick Askin), who goes to his college anthropology teacher Pam Hayes (Rebecca Varon) for help, asking her to come to the funeral home so that he can show her evidence of his uncle's crimes. Nick is unable to find Roscoe's polaroid collection of his victims, and so Pam remains unconvinced. But when Roscoe gets wind of their snooping, he adds them to his kill list - is that enough to convince you, Ms. Hayes?

While the psycho-killer plot is nothing to write home about, this one scores points for the following: Pam's lecture on necrophilia (luckily, no slide show), the naked chick tied to a tree and sliced open by a whimpering Roscoe, Roscoe pressing a girl's face onto her hot frying pan, Pam's shower scene, the revelation that Roscoe ejaculates over his victim's intestines, Pam's bff Mandy (Susan Bachli) naked in bed, a juicy 'knife in the eye' kill, a receipt spike through the neck, Mandy (in her underwear) being decapitated, a 'machete in the head' gag, the downbeat 'no-one gets out alive' attitude, and for giving Spinell his own catchphrase: 'You moron!'.

6.5/10, which I'll round up to 7 despite the very dumb closing shot in which one of Roscoe's victims, whose body has been hanging in the mortuary cellar for days, turns out to be still alive.

N.B. There are two versions of this film available: the Code Red cut is missing the gore and is padded out with footage from public domain movies; the Vinegar Syndrome release has got all of the gore and none of the padding (this is the version I saw).
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Scuzzy slasher schlock with Joe Spinell in his last lead role
Woodyanders16 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Deranged mortician Uncle Roscoe (the singular Joe Spinell in peak creepy, slimy, and sweaty form) murders folks in a sleepy small town as a means of keeping his business afloat and stores their mangled bodies as gruesome souvenirs in the basement of his funeral home.

Director Frank Steffanino, who's actually a pseudonym for no less than four different people (!), and screenwriter William Kennedy really go out of their way to scrupulously cover the sleazy exploitation cinema bases: We've got a pleasing plethora of leering gratuitous female nudity, an unsparingly sordid tone, cheesy gore, and a warped subtext about necrophilia for that extra icky kick. With the notable exception of Spinell, the rest of the lame no-name cast all give laughably atrocious performances, with Martha Somoeman in particular copping the grand thespic booby prize with her supremely irritating portrayal of shrewish old bat Hazel. The plodding pace, meandering narrative, and ludicrous surprise shock ending further enhance this film's considerable cruddy charm. A total trashy hoot.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Wacky!
BandSAboutMovies23 October 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Joe Spinell's last movie, this film was never released to theatres or to video and the only known copy belonged to the actor best known for his role in Maniac. This was a bootleg for years until Code Red put out a version in 2010 that was padded with public domain footage to increase its length. Vinegar Syndrome re-released it in 2016 without that footage.

Uncle Roscoe (Spinell) attends community college during the day and kills women at night, saving their body parts in his basement, Spinell is, of course, the best part of this movie, acting completely unhinged and making what should be a typical film into anything but just by the ability of his performance.

His nephew Nicky joins Pam, who is one of his professors and her roommate Mandy to figure out what Roscoe is up to. But soon, the hunters become the hunted and pay the price.

Even Spinell at the end of his life, struggling through making this movie, is better than anything most actors will do on their best day. Seeing him cry and try to talk to a corpse is at once heartbreaking and hilarious.

Director Frank Avianca is actually a pseudonym for the following four people: Screenwriter William James Kennedy, cinematographer Richard E. Brooks (the cinematographer for Dark August, Teenage Mother and Creating Rem Lazar) and producers Steve Bono and Frank Avianca (writer and producer of Blood Song) all of whom had a hand in directing this film.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
If the undertaker doesn't kill you, the boredom or slow pacing most certainly will!
Coventry13 July 2017
Like I'm sure it's the case for every single other reviewer around here, my sole reason for watching "The Undertaker" was because it stars the great (and late) Joe Spinell in a role very similar to the one he played in the legendary gore classic "Maniac" (1980). Joe Spinell may have appeared in several acclaimed A-listed cinematic landmarks, like "The Godfather", "Rocky" or Taxi Driver", but he'll always be most remembered for his role as the perverted, mother-obsessed psychopath Frank Zito. Presumably he was desperate to add another notorious horror role to his repertoire, as he allegedly lobbied intensively to be cast in the titular role, but it didn't quite work out as he hoped. By now "The Undertaker" is a forgotten horror movie from the 80s, and rightfully so because it's really boring, slow-paced and badly acted. Apart from being the local undertaker, Roscoe is also a deranged and megalomaniac killer who keeps the embalmed bodies of his victims hanging around in the basement like there's some kind of everlasting tea party going on! Roscoe and his murder patterns aren't exactly discrete or carefully planned, so there are many people that grow suspicious and attempt to stop him (subsequently his own nephew, a high-school teacher, a sleazy cinema owner and a couple of police officers) but they stupidly get themselves caught or killed as well. It's truly incomprehensible that "The Undertaker" is such a disappointment, as it basically contains all the necessary ingredients for success: a simple but effective plot, a very high body count, some gore, gratuitous nudity and a creep in the lead role! However, the whole film gets ruined due to slow-pacing, too many pointless boring scenes and an endless amount of inaudibly muttered dialogues/monologues. Not recommended, unless you feel the uncontrollable urge to track down and watch literally every 80s horror slasher ever made (which I'd understand if that's the case, by the way).
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Z-grade shot on video horror
Leofwine_draca28 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
THE UNDERTAKER is a Z-grade shot-on-video horror film of the late 1980s, with all of the cheesiness that that scenario brings. The ever-sleazy Joe Spinell once again plays a maladjusted character in the MANIAC mould, this time working his way through a number of badly-acting supporting cast members. The film is light on the bloodshed, although it has a sleazy theme of necrophilia, but it's heavy on the tillation with endless scenes of women working out and showering. The amateur nature of the production is apparent in the bad special effects and the resort to padding with endless scenes from THE TERROR and THE CORPSE VANISHES fleshing out the running time. It's not very good.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Better and worse than it should be.
HenriPark25 January 2020
Similar to CRAWLSPACE (Schmoeller, '86) in that you spend too much time watching a great actor, here Joe Spinell, trapped in the amateur hour that is the other actors. Simultaneously better and worse than it should be.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed