STUDIO: Columbia Tristar Home Video
MSRP: $14.94
RUNNING TIME: 88 Minutes

The Pitch

"It’s Police Academy in a mortuary! No? Okay, it’s actually necrophiliac porn in a mortuary."

The Humans

Paul Bartel (Gremlins 2, The Usual Suspects) as the film’s resident corpse-dating mortuary owner, Mary Woronov (Dick Tracy, The Devil’s Rejects), Christopher Atkins (The Tequila Express), Perry Lang (1941, The Big Red One), and a special cameo by a repulsed Cesar Romero (the Joker in the Adam West Batman, and a couple other roles).

The Nutshell

Sam and Max Grimm (bearing no resemblance to the Freelance Police, unfortunately) are the sole survivors of their Uncle Willard, founder of Grimm Mortuary and Academy. In his will, Uncle Willard bequeathed the $2 million business to his nephews with one proviso: that they graduate from the Mortuary Academy.

Upon enrolling at the academy, the boys encounter the current proprietor, Dr. Truscott (not, as I thought for the first half of the movie, Dr. Triscuit). Truscott has it in for the boys, because, if they don’t graduate, the will stipulates that the ownership of the mortuary and the academy will pass to the current proprietor, Truscott himself. That devious bastard. So, he conspires with his personal assistant (who also happens to the be the academy’s only instructor) to flunk the boys.

Unfortunately for Truscott, the instructor has a few jealousy issues that come to a head when Truscott begins devoting too much of his time to a certain corpse, and I’m not talking shop. Together, Dr. Truscott’s assistant and the students conspire to make a lot of money, fall in love, achieve personal successes, or whatever. Only in a mortuary could such dreams be realized.

The final exam at the unnecessarily strict Grimm Academy was
to provide open-casket services for victims of the Hiroshima bombing.

The Package

This disc is as bare bones as can be. It’s presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen with a Dolby 2.0 sound. There are some transfer issues in the latter fourth of the film, with some artifacting and scan lines appearing.

As for its look, Mortuary Academy has a decent style for a small feature, and the sets and props (especially the copious corpses) are convincing. There’s a bit of a problem with the editing, which results in the audience getting no clear idea of the geography of the Mortuary.

The Lowdown

A lot of the comedy in Mortuary Academy comes from the subplot of Dr. Truscott’s obsession with one of the corpses recently deposited at the Grimm Mortuary. Truscott’s necrophilia is a gag that runs the whole movie long, from his simulated deviance with his assistant to Cesar Romero’s unfortunate encounter with a decomposing "Mrs. Truscott" at
the end. It’s a testament to Paul Bartel that the gag doesn’t get tired; the actor injects his character with the gamut of reactions usually felt by those with victim complexes: he blames society for not understanding, he gets nervous in polite company, he withdraws into his perversion, all while maintaining his "American gentry" persona.

Proof positive that there is a heaven. Word’s out on hell.

As protagonists, Chris Atkins and Perry Lang leave quite a bit to be desired. They’re neither sympathetic enough to make the shreds of drama effective, nor are they given enough of the good lines to anchor the comedy. The oddball students at the academy end up carrying most of the comedic weight, distributed evenly between the homicidal maniac, the mad scientist, the black stereotype, and the foreign stereotype.

Mortuary Academy earns its measure of success by being unabashedly dirty, but not relentlessly so. It lulls you along with its banal little romance subplots and then has something like an implied gangbang of a corpse. Its edgy humor has been somewhat dulled by time (the film was released in ’88), but it’s still as good as most gross-out comedies these days, and at least it’s internally coherent.

4 out of 10