Film: The Undead

This article is about the film. For actual undead, go here.

Two psychiatrists and a hooker walk into an office. Set up to a bad joke or set up of a bad Roger Corman movie?

You don't have to choose!

An ethically challenged "psychical researcher" by the name of Quintis has hired a Brooklyn streetwalker named Diana for $500. But in this movie, she'll be turning the trick of time travel. See, Quintis believes he can put Diana into a hypnotic trance and send her back into her past lives. His colleague, a somewhat homely bald man, is skeptical. Turns out that Quintis is kind of an evil genius. He succeeds in putting Diana into that trance and he succeeds in sending her back in time to a past life as "Helene," who is wrongfully accused of being a witch and thus faces execution in the morning. Score one for Quintis.

What follows is a somewhat mangled string of plots, counter-plots, knights, witches, "enchanted" gravediggers, imps, taverns, more time travel and princes of darkness. Yes, Satan is an important player in Mr. Corman's little production. As Quintis explains a few times, never very clearly, Diana/Helene is left with a choice: because Diana helped Helene escape prison before her execution as a witch, Helene can either live out her life in Dark Age Europe with her mediocre love interest, and in doing so snuff out the existence of her future lives from the time paradox, or go back and allow herself to get beheaded at dawn on schedule, thus ensuring all future iterations of Diana will exist and flourish.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.


This film contains examples Oo:

  • Anachronism Stew: Among other things, Smolken's hearse is at Victorian-era style in an ambiguously medieval setting, and Livia's dress has a zipper.
  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: In addition to "PENDRA-gon," "Nepal" is apparently pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, so it sounds like... something else.
  • Aerith and Bob: Starring Pendragon, Scroop, Livia, Gobbo, Quintis, and...Meg.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Inverted with Meg and Livia
  • Can't Take Anything With You: Quintis shows up in the past without a stitch on. Possibly the inspiration for The Terminator.
    • But he somehow does still have his wristwatch in the past.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Smolken.
  • Cool Old Lady: Meg Maud, who is probably the most competent character in the whole picture.
  • Creepy Good: Meg.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Even though Satan and most medieval Christian folklore is demonstrably real, reincarnation is a major part of the film's premise.
  • The Dead Can Dance: "(monotone) We are family... I've got Satan's corpses in me..."
  • Deal with the Devil: And get a free tattoo in the bargain!
    • Livia almost tricks Pendragon into selling his soul to free Helene (again, although she was already free at the time); Quintis talks him down by suggesting that he rent his soul to Satan, instead. The Devil doesn't bite.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Helene's Heroic Sacrifice inspires Diana to rethink her life.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Some while back, Meg actually managed to outwit the devil, losing her beauty but keeping her supernatural insight along with her soul.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Implied but ultimately subverted. Quintis is perfectly willing to throw Diana's life away, but Prof. Olinger steps in to make sure she's safe.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Quintis makes it clear to his old professor that if he won't help him with his experiment, he'll carry on alone— even if it means Diana's death. Olinger, though disgusted and incredulous, goes along with him to make sure Diana gets through the session alive.
  • Fanservice: Allison Hayes as Livia, the evil witch. Va-va-voom.
  • For the Evulz: Satan wants Helene to stay, simply because he would love to see the timeline go nuts over the temporal paradox.
  • Good Witch Versus Bad Witch: Meg Maud Versus Livia.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Most of the dialog in the past is blank verse, and the meter varies between characters.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Helene decides not to tamper with history for her own benefit, and accepts her wrongful execution.
  • Herr Doktor: Professor Ulbrecht Olinger may not have the accent, but he definitely has the name.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: The imp is played by Billy Barty.
    • Roger Corman regular Dick Miller is one of the poor souls who comes to sell his soul to Satan.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Satan tempts Quintis to wait and watch Helene's execution, only to explain that he was only able to time travel when both Helene and Diana were alive, meaning that he's now Trapped in the Past.
  • Hot Witch: Livia. According to Meg, she was one of these for awhile, but she lost her youth and beauty when she tricked her soul back from Satan.
  • The Imp
  • Idiot Hero: Pendragon is a good knight. He is not a smart one.
  • Irony: Diana, a prostitute, shares her name with the virgin goddess of the hunt.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite the body count presumably being vastly different in the original history, history works out as long as Helene dies on time. (See Fridge Logic above.)
  • It's Pronounced Tro-PAY: The characters insist on calling Pendragon "Pen-druh-gon", to Servo's annoyance.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Pendragon.
  • Large Ham: Many cases, of course, but Quintis is the best example when he tries to convince Helene to STAY!!!! in the past.
  • Lawful Stupid: Oh, dear God, Pendragon.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Quintis wants to alter time for the hell of it. So does Satan.
    • Quintis goes back and forth on this. When he first alters the timeline by sending Diana back he panics when he realizes what happened, and goes back himself specifically to fix it. When he realizes the situation is more complicated he concludes that it should actually be Helene's decision. By the the moment of truth however, he tries to talk her into staying just to see what will happen.
  • Male Gaze: Livia is introduced for a second time by a slow pan up her body.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Quintis. Again, possibly the inspiration for the Terminator films.
  • Not So Different: Implied by Satan to Quintis at the end.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Smolkin has a bizarre manner and claims to be mad, but his actions are entirely rational bordering on Only Sane Man. This allows his casual palling around with both sides even though he's in the good camp. Pendragon calls him on this.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: Apparently when you send someone's spirit back in time, your body and soul can ride piggy-back on it.
    • Fridge Brilliance / Truth in Television: It's actually a brilliant concept of time travel that was also the basis for Quantum Leap.
    • Quintis must piggyback Helene's soul to travel back, which might explain why he arrives in the nude as himself.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Smolkin the gravedigger.
  • Prop Recycling: The bats that Livia and her imp change into are recycled props from Corman's It Conquered the World.
  • Reincarnation: Exploiting a fad of interest in the topic at the time the film was made. See also The She-Creature.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Smolkin, who sings most of his dialog.
  • Sadistic Choice: If Helene submits to execution, her cycle of reincarnations live on. If she runs, Helene lives the rest of her life, but all her future lives will never come to be.
  • San Dimas Time:
    Quintis: Please, Professor, we must hurry. (Looks at watch) The time here probably matches the time then, which means that it's close to midnight, the time before the Witch's Sabbath.
  • Satan: A particularly silly looking one.
  • Satire/Parody/Pastiche: Smolken's morbid variations on old Playground Songs.
  • Smug Snake: Quintis, oh so much.
  • Summation Gathering: When the entire main cast gathers in the cemetary near the end for Quintis to exposit about Helene's condition.
  • Tempting Fate: Scroup, the tavernkeeper. "No one can say that Scroup is one to lose his head!"note 
  • The Vamp: Livia, who constantly tries to seduce Pendragon into either loving her or into selling his soul.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Livia and her imp can do this with the aid of a Match Cut and a sparkler.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: "And our brave knight stabs an unarmed woman! Way to go, PENDRA-gon."
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: "Noweth?"