The Undead (film)
Theatrical release poster by Albert Kallis
|Directed by||Roger Corman|
|Produced by||Roger Corman|
|Written by||Charles B. Griffith|
|Music by||Ronald Stein|
|Edited by||Frank Sullivan|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
The Undead is a 1957 horror film directed by Roger Corman starring Pamela Duncan, Allison Hayes, Richard Garland and Val Dufour. The authors' original working title was The Trance of Diana Love. The film follows the story of a prostitute, Diana Love (Duncan), who is put into a hypnotic trance by psychic Quintis (Dufour), thus causing her to regress to a previous life. Hayes later starred in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). The film was released by American International Pictures as a double feature with Voodoo Woman.
A psychic researcher, Quintus, sends the mind of a prostitute, Diana, back in time to learn about her past-life experiences. In the Middle Ages, she shares the body of her past self, Helene, who is to die at dawn under suspicion of being a witch. At Diana's urging, Helene escapes prison, earning the attention of Livia (the witch for whose crimes Helene has been blamed) and of Satan himself. Via the psychic link between Diana and Helene, Quintus physically goes back in time to convince Helene to avoid her death, so he can witness the results of history changing. However, if Helene evades execution, her future selves, including Diana, will never come into existence, so she accepts her fated death. When Helene dies, her link with Diana disappears, leaving Quintus physically stranded in the past, much to Satan's amusement.
- Pamela Duncan as Diana Love/Helene
- Richard Garland as Pendragon
- Allison Hayes as Livia
- Val Dufour as Quintus Ratcliff
- Mel Welles as Smolkin
- Dorothy Neumann as Meg-Maud
- Billy Barty as The Imp
- Bruno VeSota as Scroop
- Aaron Saxon as Gobbo
- Richard Devon as Satan
- Dick Miller as The Leper
The Undead was inspired by an interest in reincarnation during the 1950s (as was the film The She-Creature). Notably the book The Search for Bridey Murphy by Morey Bernstein was made into a film in 1956. Charles Griffith recalls:
It was originally called “The Trance of Diana Love”. Roger said to me, “Do me a Bridey Murphy picture.” And I told him that by the time Paramount finishes theirs, ours will fail. At the time, everybody was saying that they were making a bad picture. He just said that we’d get ours done ahead of theirs and clean up. So I did “The Trance of Diana Love” and it got shot funny, especially at the end, where you see the empty clothes before the revelation. It was in iambic pentameter and I had to rewrite it after it was ready to shoot because somebody told Roger that they didn’t understand it. Roger would give it to anybody to read or anybody out on the street. He’d send girls out with scripts.
Griffth later elaborated:
I separated all the different things with sequences with the devil, which were really elaborate, and the dialogue in the past was all in iambic pentameter. Roger got very excited by that. He handed the script around for everybody to read, but nobody understood the dialogue, so he told me to translate it into English. The script was ruined, but The Undead [the final title] was a fun picture to shoot, because it was done in ten days at the Sunset Stage, which was a supermarket on Sunset Boulevard. We filled it with palm trees and fog, and it was the first time Roger had used any of that stuff. He didn't like to rent anything. You could see the zipper on the witch's dress and all the gimmicks were very obvious and phony—Roger deliberately played to skid row, a degenerate audience.
Pamela Duncan says Roger Corman called her up "out of the blue" and offered her the lead. "I don't know what made him think of me except that he must have seen me in something; I worked a lot and I was on TV a lot."
By the time The Undead was being made, the popularity of reincarnation was starting to dwindle. Therefore, Corman decided that they needed to change it up a little and added the time travel elements of Quintis, and a title change.
The bats that the imp and witch continually change into were left over from another Corman movie, It Conquered the World.
The Los Angeles Times called it "a rather imaginative yarn... for this type picture the acting is quite good... Corman has turned out a good product." Variety called this a minor league programmer, finding it technically proficient.
The Undead was later featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its eighth season where they comment on everything from small sets, tossing cats, bad dialog, and the horrors of having seen other Corman movies.
- Alan Frank, The Films of Alan Frank: Shooting My Way Out of Trouble, Bath Press, 1998 p 52
- Synopsis at AMG
- Plot Summary for The Undead at IMDB
- Aaron W. Graham, 'Little Shop of Genres: An interview with Charles B. Griffith', Senses of Cinema, 15 April, 2005 accessed 25 June 2012
- Backstory 3.
- Weaver, Tom (2010). A Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde: Interviews with 62 Filmmakers. McFarland. p. 179.
- Drama: Preminger Places 'Saint Joan' First in New Deal; Hypnosis Rage Goes On Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 May 1956: B9.
- Joe Dante on The Undead at Trailers From Hell
- Roger Corman & Jim Jerome, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never lost a Dime, Muller, 1990 p 44
- TWO EERIE PICTURES COUPLED ON PROGRAM G M W. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 May 1957: B2.
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