Mortuary (1983)

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 Somehow Mortuary fell through the cracks. Released in 1983, which we all know was right smack in the middle of the heyday of the slasher; this lost classic disappeared and is hardly mentioned anymore.

Mortuary centers on Christie (Mary Beth McDonough from The Waltons), who saw her father murdered but has blocked out the actual event. This has led her to sleepwalking and seeing things which might not be there. All of this craziness occurs much to the frustration of her mother Eve (Lynda Day George) who has been seeking her own form of closure with the local mortician Hank Andrews (Christopher George) who holds fancy séances for some of the local gals. One day Christie’s gorgeous boyfriend Greg (David Wallace from Humongous) stumbles across one of these meetings while helping his friend Josh (Denis Mandel) steal some tires from Hank’s warehouse. Josh doesn’t make it out alive, and Greg tries to get someone to look into his disappearance, but being a thief doesn’t really get you any cred with the police, so you can see how far that goes. Christie’s dangerous sleepwalking habit and Josh’s disappearance are connected to the local crazy who wears black & white face makeup (making him look oddly like the Scream mask) and stabs folks with an embalming tool. Totally creepy.

 

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A lush film, Mortuary gets the most from the Pacific Ocean locale and slasher’s greatest couple, Christopher & Lynda Day George, as well as featuring an early and incredible performance from a young Bill Paxton. There are some genuinely creepy moments to be had, especially involving the death of one blonde bombshell. No matter how many times I see this movie, that scene always elicits goose bumps!

I was surprised to see that the director Howard Avedis started his short lived career with the odd 1972 sexploitation flick The Stepmother (featuring the beautiful Claudia Jennings in a small role) and ended it with the David Naughton thriller Kidnapped in 1986. During that small period of time Avedis made eleven films, writing, directing and producing almost all of them. I don’t know why he dropped out, but he left an interesting resume filled with enjoyable B films. This was Avedis’ first pairing with the late and prolific cinematographer Gary Graver, who was a protégé of Orson Wells and who dabbled in everything from art to porn. Avedis and Graver also collaborated on the awesome They’re Playing with Fire starring Sybil Danning.vlcsnap-28421

 

McDonough was fresh off of the Waltons, which ended in 1981, and seemed determined to branch out into more adult roles. She’s good here (a definite step up from her wooden performance in the 1981 made for TV horror movie Midnight Offerings) and has that kind of girl next door appeal that any good final girl should possess. It would be almost impossible to not figure out who the killer is, but the guessing game isn’t the important part of Mortuary. It’s good, gooey fun that throws in everything from embalming nude chicks to a scene in a roller skating rink to the infamous and oft-used strategic placement of dead bodies (ala Happy Birthday to Me). It’s got it all, is great fun and deserves a little more praise than it seems to get.

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15 Responses to “ Mortuary (1983) ”

  1. MORTUARY didn’t fall through my cracks. I learned the word trochar from Christopher George! Twenty years later SIX FEET UNDER came along and was all

  2. You’re cracks are awesome!

  3. Thanks Amanda, for some Mortuary love!! Did my thread on TBC inspire you to rewatch it??

  4. Mortuary rocks, and Mary McDonough is hot in this one. Someone said there was a double used for her brief nude scene when shes on top of her boyfriend

  5. Yet another one I have yet to see. I’ve read lots about this one but can never seem to run across a copy. Is this out on DVD?

  6. It seems interesting.Is it avaiable on DVD?

  7. It has not had an official DVD release sadly. It is available on one of those cheapie mega-packs that you buy in Wal-Mart and such.

  8. Even now, some 20 odd years later after I first saw it on video, I still cannot watch this film in the dark. It was broad daylight when I saw it the first time, and it’s still strictly daytime viewing. Lest I wanna start seeing dark, hooded figures everywhere again!

    By the way, the Italian DVD can be found quite easily on ebay. It is certainly a step up from my VHS copies, and looks better than any DVD-R I could make myself. I think it is technically out of print, but I only bought my copy last year, so hunting it down shouldn’t be a big problem.

  9. I also enjoyed this one and it needs a proper DVD release. I bought the import Italian release which looks like the source was a worn VHS dupe with tracking problems.

  10. I now own 4 original VHS of this one, thats how much I love it. and all of them were $3 or less.

  11. I got this as a DVD-R from a friend as I’d been looking it for a while. It had an…um, “interesting” storyline and it ended up being a good film. And anything with Linda Day and Christopher George is worth picking up! It should get a proper DVD release, though…

  12. can anyone with a good heart upload this shit like on you tube or something

  13. Is there an update yet on the DVD release of Mortuary from Libertaion Entertainment (I read that they were releasing it, in another article thread on Retroslashers.com).

  14. It’s nice to know that someone else besides myself loves and appreciates this extremely underrated horror gem. I actually saw it in the theater back in college (1983) on opening night and instantly fell in love with it. Christopher George is really slumming it as far as his acting, however, he’s the only one besides William Shatner that can not only get away with it, but make an entire career out of it. For a while it seemed like nobody was noting that Bill Paxton(!) is in it (some sites don’t even credit him properly), and I, for one, would love to see him finally discuss his invlolvement in it. Somebody HAS to own the rites to this film, and I can only pray that it finally gets a proper DVD release. The VHS copies (though not wide-screen) are actually superior to ANY of the bootlegged DVD/DVR discs floating around. I own two copies and would personally rate their viewing quality at a “6″ or a “7.” A shame. Again, this needs to be properly released with a making-of/behind the scenes “look back,” as well as an audio commentary with Howard Avedis! One final comment: I still own a mint-condition folded one-sheet of the original poster which I will cherish forever. Also, Amanda noted that Avedis also did “The Stepmother” (which I also love, but for completely different reasons). Am I the only one that noticed Avedis “signature” hints in that film as well: a hearse (granted “Mortuary’s” was actually a black station wagon), a warehouse, and an M16 hiddened inside a casket? Oh, what was to come!

  15. Oooops! Sorry for the WRONG film reference as stated above. Of course, I meant “The Teacher!” Seriously, ANYONE that had ANYTHING to do with the production of “Mortuary” PLEASE post with your own personal comments, memories, experiences, comments, etc.! Amanda’s site is the only thing we all have until the proper DVD release. Hello? “Mr. Paxton?”… Are you listening/reading?…

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