THE UNDERTAKER (1988) Reviews and overview

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‘He’ll love you to death’

The Undertaker is a 1988 American horror film directed by Franco Steffanino from a screenplay by William James Kennedy. It stars Joe Spinell (The Last Horror Film; Maniac; Starcrash), in his penultimate film role before his untimely death, plus Rebeca Yaron, Patrick Askin, Susan Bachli, Martha Somoeman, Charles Kay-Hune, and scripter William James Kennedy.

The film was never officially released and only emerged via bootlegs releases on VHS, heavily re-edited and re-titled Death Merchant or Corpse Vanishes 2. Finally a better quality version of the film debuted on DVD in 2010 via Code Red.

In 2017, Vinegar Syndrome released a limited to 3,000 units Blu-ray/DVD edition that is currently only available via their website, and comes packaged in a blood soaked coffin cut-out o-card. This is the never officially released original 35mm version of The Undertaker, as it was originally made and finished in 1988.


Joe Spinell plays Roscoe, a crackpot working in a mortuary with a morbid passion for the ladies, irrespective of whether they have rigor mortis or not.

Business is slacking and Roscoe decides to help matters along by taking to the streets and bumping off lovely ladies, solving the problems of both business and pleasure.

Meanwhile, his nephew, Nicky, is at a lecture about necrophilia (university was a bit different in the 1980s) and begins to suspect his creepy uncle. He and his professor get together to try to solve the corpse bothering mystery once and for all.

Although the grimy settings and plot, such as it is, are in the same ballpark as Spinell’s imperious Maniac, the films are sadly not in the same league. Only Spinell is worthy of note, his co-stars, director and writer all but disappearing off the map before and after the film’s release. Certainly, he is the only reason to ever consider watching the film, holding your attention whenever he appears onscreen.

Though suffering from a low budget, there is still little excuse for the curious amount of padding the film is stuffed with; meaninglessly long conversations that have no bearing on the plot, frantic cuts to and from scenes that aren’t related to each other, it certainly keeps you on your toes.


As a curiosity it’s worth a look and Spinell fans will need it whatever but for fans of sleazy, greasy serial killers, his earlier Maniac is the place to start with perhaps a trip to the self-referential Last Horror Film to follow.

Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA


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Other reviews:

“The Undertaker is an odd but interesting footnote in horror history. It boils down to little more than a series of loosely strung together murder set pieces, with no shortage of nudity and a bit of cheap gore along the way, but it’s special to see the late Spinell on screen again.” Broke Horror Fan