Poor taste is prominent in the Terry Southern-Christopher Isherwood script, based on Evelyn Waugh’s scathing 1948 satire of the mortuary business in California.
Most of the subtlety of Waugh’s approach is lost in an episodic screenplay bearing only a wavering story line and given often to sight gags.
Story centers around the pomp and ceremony attendant upon the daily operation of a posh mortuary and a climaxing idea (not in the book) by a sanctimonious owner of a Southern California cemetery of orbiting cadavers into space so he can convert to a senior citizens’ paradise for additional profit.
Robert Morse as the poet who falls in love with the lady cosmetician (later promoted to embalmer) while making arrangements for his uncle’s interment, plays it light and airy, like a soul apart. Anjanette Comer, whose life is dedicated to her work and Whispering Glades Memorial Park gives almost ethereal portraiture to her embalmer character.
Jonathan Winters appears in a dual role, shining both as the owner of Whispering Glades and his twin brother, who operates the nearby pet graveyard and is patron of a 13-year-old scientific whiz who invents a rocket capable of projecting bodies into orbit.