Presented in The Arkoff Film Library separately, this 50s cult film happens to be this reviewer's fave early AIP. A Charles B. Griffith/Mark Hanna sleeper about a "Lady of the Night" transported back to the past through hypnotic regression, the film boasts the presence of 50s siren Allison Hayes, an outstandingly fey Satan portrayed by Richard Devon, an Imp Familiar (Billy Barty), and much more! THE UNDEAD was co-billed with VOODOO WOMAN the same year.
Legend has it that Griffith and Hannah composed their script in iambic pentameter (blank verse). This high-falutin' grammatical term is best remembered by Californians by reciting the theme of mega successful Cal Worthington: "If you gotta car, go see Cal! If you wanna make a deal, go see Cal!" His wild commercials always include an animal engaging in antics with him.
In THE DEVIL ON SCREEN: FEATURE FILMS WORLD WIDE, 1913 THROUGH 2000 by Charles P. Mitchell (McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina & London, 2002) the author aptly describes Devon's appearance: "Devon plays the Devil as a hammy vaudevillian, with trimmed beard and Spock-like pointed ears. He wears a Tyrolean hat and carries a primitive three-pronged pitchfork." This writer met Devon a couple of times with his lovely daughter and the two could not have been kinder. Devon left the Los Angeles area in the last year or so and now resides with his daughter in San Francisco.
Lead actress, Brooklyn-born Pamela Duncan, a former West Hollywood, California resident now resides in New Jersey in a comfortable home for retired actors and actresses. She appears in a documentary entitled "Curtain Call" (2000). She also appeared in ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (Allied Artists, 1957). Along with so many other Corman actors & actresses, she had lengthy television experiences in Westerns.
THE UNDEAD was, interestingly enough, the only film role of Val Dufour who portrays hypnotist Quintus Ratcliff. He had many roles in soap operas that utilized his good looks and like his co-stars appeared in a few Westerns. This reviewer would consider him a poor man's John Garfield, exuding a masculine sexuality to turn on his admirers. The New Orleans-born actor passed away in 2000 in Manhattan of cancer.
Texas-born Richard Garland was married, as many of you might know, to Beverly Garland. Mr. Garland passed away in 1969, as he was for many years a problem alcoholic. His other genre credits include Allied Artists' ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957) and PANIC IN YEAR ZERO (1962) from American-International. His motion picture and television credits were for appearances in Westerns.
THE UNDEAD is more than a guilty pleasure as it may well be the best of Roger Corman's 50s output of low budget shockers. The film (which was shot under the title of "The Trance of Diana Love") was made to cash in on the best-selling book "The Search for Bridey Murphy" and America's obsession with reincarnation at the time. The bare minimum in sets and locations work as this plot weaves back and forth between the past and the present.
Filmed in five or six days, most of the action was shot in a supermarket filled with dry ice to give the effect of fog. And certainly the Witches' House in Beverly Hills -- a gingerbread fantasy structure -- is a must-see for every tourist visiting L.A. Just take Wilshire Boulevard going west, hang a right on Whittier Drive, and then drive a couple of blocks down Carmelita and - voila! Right on the corner is the unmistakable exterior for Meg Maude's home (Dorothy Newman) and hideaway for Pamela Duncan (Diana Love/Helene).
Interesting performances include Bruno Ve Sota as the innkeeper Scroop and Mel Welles as Smolkin, a gravedigger channeling a similar graveyard rat from Hamlet. Also Dick Miller turns in a fine cameo as a leper who sells his soul to the Devil. After signing Satan's book, the crude trident is tattooed on his hand and is always interesting to watch. Monster-maker and Mon-star Paul Blaisdell also appears as a corpse in the hearse driven by Mel Welles.
Fifties scream-queen Allison Hayes enjoys a meaty role in THE UNDEAD and plays evil and misunderstood in love equally well. Her character is really more interesting than in her more famous turn as the "50-Foot Woman." She and Beverly Garland were roommates during the filming of this picture and remained friends until her untimely death from blood poisoning in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla in 1977.
Her imp-familiar, Billy Barty had an amazing Hollywood career with such films as ROMAN SCANDALS (1933), ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933) and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) in the 30s to the more recent WILLOW (1988) and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987) plays his role way over the top in THE UNDEAD. He never understood how Corman did so well directing as Barty found him to be more of a businessman than an auteur!
The ever-haunting, magnificent Ronald Stein was responsible for this as well as innumerable genre scores. Included in this legion of titles one finds: DAY THE WORLD ENDED (1956), IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956), THE SHE-CREATURE (1956), NOT OF THIS EARTH (1957), ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957), INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN (1957), ATTACK OF THE 50-FT. WOMAN (1958), PREMATURE BURIAL (1962), THE TERROR (1963), THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963), DEMENTIA 13 (1963), SPIDER BABY (1964). Director/Writer Ted Newsom enlightens all with his vast knowledge of composer's career in his 100-minute tongue-in-cheek comedy feature & tribute to 60s and sci-fi in general tentatively titled THE NAKED MONSTER (2004).
Presented full frame, the print quality is simply wonderful but one scene is a bit dark and there seems to be a different speed though than an NTSC but this Arkoff Film Library classic is crystal clear and worth every cent of its $19.95 price. For a film of this age THE UNDEAD is perfectly represented here. Other titles they released include HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (complete with color sequences).
Included as extras are these AIP trailers: HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER, DAY THE WORLD ENDED, THE SPIDER, THE BRAIN EATERS VOODOO WOMAN, BLOOD OF DRACULA, HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER AND REFORM SCHOOL GIRL and WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. There are 8 chapter stops with subtitles in Dutch and German. An interesting Audio Interview conducted in the United Kingdom with the late Samuel Z. Arkoff, 50 minutes in duration, includes Arkoff's observations on filming in the United Kingdom and clearly he is enjoying himself. (Christopher Dietrich)
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