Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 25th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1988
Directors: William Kennedy, Steve Bono, Frank Aviana, Richard E. Brooks
Writer: William Kennedy
Cast: Joe Spinell, Rebeca Yaron, Patrick Askin, Susan Bachli, Martha Somoeman
BluRay released: November 25th, 2016
Approximate running times: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $34.98
Synopsis: Looking to drum up some business for his mortuary. A psychopath mortician stalks and kills victims.
Content wise, The Undertaker returns Joe Spinell to familiar territory, Maniac and The Last Horror Show. With the common link being in the role of the protagonist a psychopath killer. And performance wise he brings an intensity to his role in The Undertaker that is on par with those other two aforementioned films. Unfortunately, when it comes to the rest of the cast they never rise to his level and their performances are best a described a pedestrian.
When it comes to gore related moments this one area where this film delivers and then some. Another strength of the kill scenes is that they are all inventive and well executed. With each of the kill scenes featuring the protagonist grabbing an object of conveyance as the murder weapon.
Since this film’s initial release much has been made about this film being a maligned project. And though this film did face its fair share of production related issues, most notably four directors. Fortunately, the end result is very effective Slasher film that far exceeds its limitations.
The Undertaker comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new 2k transfer has been crated from the film’s 35mm camera negative. When compared to this Code Red’s DVD release (that transfer was video tape source) this new transfer is superior in every way. Grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression. Colors have never looked more vibrant and though black levels remain strong for the majority of the transfer. There are a few moments that take place in a basement that the black levels are not as strong.
It should be noted that to make this release the most complete version of the film released to date. This release had to use video sourced elements for about seven minutes of footage that is missing from the 35mm camera negative. Here are the time codes for the lesser sourced elements 23 minutes 14 seconds to 23 minutes 44 seconds, 1 hour 16 minutes 21 seconds to 1 hour 16 minutes 30 seconds, 1 hour 20 minutes 24 seconds to 1 hour 21 minutes 1 second and 1 hour 21 minutes 42 seconds to 1 hour 25 minutes 53 seconds.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have been included with this release. The audio like the video is a great improvement over this film’s previous DVD release. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when its needs too.
Extras for this release include, a production still gallery, director’s introduction (15 seconds), Archival Promo Video (5 minutes 5 seconds), Rough Cut Outtakes (9 minutes 30 seconds), Making The Undertaker an interview with director / screenwriter / actor William Kennedy (20 minutes 40 seconds) and an audio commentary with William Kennedy.
Topics discussed during the interview with William Kennedy include, his Richard Lynch was his first choice for the role that eventually went to Joe Spinell, the first time he met Joe Spinell and how he ended up getting the lead role in The Undertaker, wanting to make a film in one centralized location, why this film had multiple directors, on set memories and other production related topics.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with William Kennedy include, the film’s production history, the screenplay, locations featured in the film, the cast and information about them. Most of the commentary features him discussing what is onscreen and given background information about these moments. It should be noted that this audio commentary was made from a master that was sourced from the film’s original camera negative. That version is only 82 minutes in length and this is why there are moments where the audio track goes silent for the moments that were sourced from a video tape master.
Rounding out the extras is an eight-page booklet with an essay about the film that was written by Michael Gingold and reversible cover art. Also, included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release.
This limited-edition release also comes with an outer sleeve that is red with bloody finger prints and coffin shape opening on its front. Overall The Undertaker gets a spectacular release from Vinegar Syndrome, highly recommended.
Note: This Blu-Ray / DVD combo release is a limited-edition release of 3,000 copies.