As part of the Vinegar Syndrome Black Friday secret releases, VS dropped the surprise release of "The Undertaker" one of the last films starring the cult legend that is Joe Spinell.
What is particularly interesting is that bootlegs and a Code Red DVD have been floating around, but this is the closest to a complete original cut of the movie, that seems to have never been released in this version. So is this a lost masterpiece of exploitation? Not quite, but it is still very interesting nevertheless and a must-own for fans of Spinell.
The films starts in the style of many other 80s efforts, with a woman stuck on the road with her car broken down, immediately this feels like comfortable terrain. A scene shortly afterwards has a teacher who looks the same age as her students trying to teach an anthropology lesson about "NECROPHI
LIA" she scrawls across the chalk board. So this seems to fit into "bad movie" terrain for sure, so popcorn at the ready for a fun slasher movie.
What comes after a slow and steady build up are some rather graphic moments of violence that are incredibly well done and quite startling.
However the cracks of an unfinished project do start to show, with plot strands and loose ends never really being tied up, especially once the investigation is introduced. What results is a film that is not quite gory enough to be a true gore classic, not quite bad enough to be a party movie, and not quite atmospheric enough to be a cult midnight movie. The end result is a curious and intermittently fascinating oddity of a film. One that I definitely enjoyed and was glad to watch, but will not revisit as often as others.
The biggest draw however is of course Joe Spinell. Although at times he sounds like Usual Suspects-era Benicio del Toro in his drawling voice; and he is clearly unwell/drunk or both in some scenes; he does have a lot of fun in this movie, a brilliant breaking of the fourth wall being a particularly unforgettable moment. Fans of Spinell need to see this movie for those moments alone.
The VS package comes filled with a very good commentary track and interview; a rather pointless director's introduction (they either say too much or too little-this one says too little) and even has a booklet! Top this off with a limited edition coffin sleeve and you have got a production that tops the standards of the Criterion Collection (especially since they started using fold out pamphlets). So well done VS, you've made me very happy with the words "lost Joe Spinell has been found".