on 26 November 2012
I don't recall this film getting a UK theatrical release at the time. If it did, it didn't show up in my local area. Likewise I've never caught it on TV either. Since about 1964, I have owned a Super 8 silent cut-down version, which told a completely different tale than the original film! The image on the Super 8 box is identical to the DVD sleeve, which was taken in turn, I suspect, from the film's publicity material, which again bears no resemblance to the Super 8 cut-down, or the contents of the DVD. But, I'm forgetting this is a Roger Corman film. And I love Roger Corman films.
John Frankenheimer once stated that: "Roger Corman never made a decent film." Jack Nicholson would disagree. Roger Corman was a genius at making something out of practically nothing. "The Undead" is a perfect example. Even Leonard Matlin calls it "One of Corman's best early films." I can visualise cinema managers in the late 1950s watching this at a Trade Show and dismissing it out of hand as uncomprehensible, perhaps the reason I never saw it locally as an eager 16 year old.
Now I can watch it whenever I want on this excellent "Zarkoff Collection" DVD. I'd got most of the other titles in this series, but "The Undead" proved hard to track down. All the discs in this series include trailers, and an excellent audio interview at the NFT with Samuel Z. Arkoff, albeit it's the same interview on each DVD. A set of postcards could also be found in some sealed cases, but not all, as I've found.
I would recommend "The Undead" to any student of film as a diversion from all that "nuance", "hidden meaning", and "expressionism" jabber, and sit down with a beverage of choice and revel for 75 minutes in a black and white mish-mash of cinematic nonsensical fun from a master of exploitation.
on 11 November 2003
While I've gone on record as saying THE UNDEAD is one of Corman's best films, that's only because it's such an oddly terrible film that I figure it must be good. It's certainly the only one of his films that I can watch and not understand what the heck is going on.
Attempting to capitalize on the Bridey Murphy reincarnation story of the mid-50s, THE UNDEAD tells the story of two scientists who hypnotize a hooker (Pamela Duncan) and send her regressing to a past life in which she's a medieval witch about to be executed. Only she's not REALLY a witch, but Allison Hayes is, and Allison is after the hooker's boyfriend. Although why she should be after him is anybody's guess; his hair is so slick, oily and greasy that he appears to have been bobbing for dipsticks. But that's neither here nor there.
The two scientists constantly squabble with each other; one claims to have learned the art of past life regression while studying in the deserts of Tibet(!), while the other just seems to think the whole thing's a bad idea. They work in the American Institute of Psychical Research, and no, I didn't make that up. Their office is decorated in Early American Shabby, with various Salvation Army-type knickknacks spread about the shelves, and a large leering bust of Benjamin Franklin. I don't know why it's important to mention all this, but it is. In any case, the hooker is about to die in her past life, which seems to be okay, inasmuch as she lived hundreds of years ago, but NO, the scientist from the Tibetan desert somehow sends himself back into the hooker's past to try and save her.
The supporting characters in the film are all much more interesting than the rest of the cast (Miss Hayes aside); Billy Barty plays a dwarf who lurks under tables and up in trees; Mel Welles is Smolkin, the gravedigger, who has been robbed of his sanity (by being made to watch this film, probably) and wanders around making up nursery rhymes about dead rats, festering corpses, and poor hygiene habits; and Richard Devon is a very swishy Satan, who dresses like Robin Hood but acts more like Maid Marian.
Now, let's turn to Allison Hayes, simply the most awesome woman to ever appear in any horror film. She's got a set of headlights that would make a DeSoto blush. While she's best known for ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN, her turn as a witch in THE UNDEAD is sure to make you forget about Elizabeth Montgomery, Kim Novak, or even Melissa Joan Hart.
This DVD's print and transfer are excellent (although, sadly, not letterboxed), and the movie is alot of fun, in a kooky sort of way. I think it's the best of the ten Arkoff films in the series, and I recommend it highly. As with all of the discs, you'll find the trailers for all the films included, plus postcard-sized repros of the original posters and a 50-min. audio interview with Mr. Arkoff.
on 18 February 2015
Amazing cult classic, a definite watch for fans of old movies.
A street walker (Pamela Duncan) is hypnotised by a doctor (Richard Garland) and relives a previous life where she was to be executed as a witch but when she changes the course of her history the doctor has to go back into her timeline and fix things.
Allison Hayes is beautiful and evil as Lydia, and there's the added bonus if Dick Miller ☺