Mortuary Academy (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Paul Bartel has written and directed three offbeat comedies which have enough IMDb votes to be rated, and they are not bad at all by the standards of low-budget independent film:
  1. (6.46) - Eating Raoul (1982)
  2. (5.64) - Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989)
  3. (5.02) - Cannonball (1976)

He has also directed two other films with ratings above 5.5, these two written by others::

  1. (6.36) - Private Parts (1972)
  2. (5.80) - Death Race 2000 (1975)

Eating Raoul is considered a cult classic, and if Bartel had written nothing else, it would have been enough to confer on him the status of "minor B-movie legend," and that position is firmly cemented by the others listed above. Bartel's "sort by ratings" page at IMDb actually turns up four writing credits, not three. There are the three above which he directed himself, and this film, Mortuary Academy, which was his lowest-rated writing effort and the only one directed by somebody else (then-rookie Michael Schroeder).

It's just not a good movie, far below Bartel's usual caliber. It's a comedy in which everyone is trying desperately to be zany instead of letting the material work for them. Although, considering the material, I can see why they were pushing.

The story centers on two brothers named Grimm (the brothers Grimm - nudge, nudge) who find themselves heirs to a mortuary and an academy to train morticians. Their late uncle's will makes the unusual inheritance contingent on their having passed the program at the academy. They boys find this rather challenging since the corrupt man currently running the academy (played by Paul Bartel himself) has no intention of letting the boys take over, and he can prevent it merely by failing them. When exam time arrives, the other students get questions like, "What do you call the place with tombstones where dead people are buried?", while our heroes have to answer long, impossibly technical trick questions. That's pretty much the highlight of the comedy, and is certainly the high point of the movie's tastefulness.

I did smile during one scene when gangs from two different mortuaries had a rumble over body parts at the scene of a grisly accident, but the rest of the jokes seem to center on necrophilia. For example, the head of the academy falls in love with the corpse of a cheerleader, so the zany students hot-wire her genitals to trap the professor inside, and thus blackmail him into giving them a passing grade. Actually, now that I type that up, it sounds like a twisted enough concept to be darkly funny in the proper hands, but it just didn't work here. The film ends up being a mixture of the usual juvenile Police Academy humor and Bartel's more daring conceptual stuff, and the filmmakers never do find a way to combine those effectively. It is possible that the premise might have worked if the actors had taken it seriously and played it straight, letting the bizarre material work, but many of the film's problems derive from a broad performing style, in which every character is allowed to deliver lines in the "look at me, I'm making funny exaggerated faces" style of Vince McMahon in a wrestling skit, or Caesar Romero playing the Joker on Batman. Bartel himself was especially hammy, and one of the minor characters was actually played by Caesar Romero in full Joker mode ...

... and he was one of the more subtle characters.

Some of the film's other actors include B-movie veterans Christopher Atkins, Anthony James, Vance Colvig, and Tracey Walter. Some of the more unusual casting included Wolfman Jack (pictured below left with Perry Lang), and the guy who played Marmalard in Animal House (below right, with Lang again), who was still playing Marmalard, right down to the clothing. I think he saved his wardrobe from Animal House.

Oh, well, Mortuary Academy does include some intriguing curiosities here and there but, let's face it, you don't want to watch this movie unless you think you might enjoy a movie about corpse-fuckin', as played in the broad, sophomoric style of Gilligan's Island.


  • Bare-bones
  • No meaningful features
  • No widescreen



Cheryl Starbuck exposed her breasts as the corpse in a necrophilia scene.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a D, an unfunny juvenile comedy in which the actors try way too hard to act zany. It might have been redeemed by some guilty pleasures, but there is minimal T&A.

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