The Bad Movie Report

The Flesh Eaters

This is another of those movies that have a youthful significance for me - not because I saw it while young, but because I didn't see it. Those of a similar age and bent might recall the cover of Famous Monsters magazine featuring this film. A screaming man, one hand clutching his face in agony, assailed by what we must assume to be the titular creatures, which seem to resemble some animated grape vine. Well, it was scary at the time...

I never got to see The Flesh Eaters. I don't recall it appearing at the Rialto, and it certainly Good Lord! *choke!*never played TV... there was a bit too much black paint masquerading as blood for that (though I recall seeing an uncut Brain That Wouldn't Die. Go figure.). In college, my good bad-movie-bud Dave Bennett told me of a scene that absolutely traumatized his young brain upon seeing it. So as an adult, I discovered mail-order and found a place offering it on video...and discovered it wasn't half-bad, either.

Down-on-his-luck hero Grant Murdock (Byron Sanders) accepts the dangerous job of flying alcoholic film star Lora Winters (Rita Morley) and her secretary Jan (Barbara Wilkin) through a hurricane. A combination of engine trouble and hurricane cause them to seek shelter on a desert island (it's really Long Island, but who's counting?). There they meet marine biologist Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck), who, it turns out, is nearing the stage in his research where he'll need some human guinea pigs (insert evil laughter here).

Omar - before....Also arriving on the island is proto-flower-power-spouting beatnik Omar (Ray Tudor), whose constant prattling insures that he will be the first to die, and we will applaud his demise. You see, Bartell's research involves a Nazi secret weapon that never got used - tiny marine predators ...and Omar, after.that can strip a skeleton clean in seconds. Bartell feeds Omar a glassful of the things disguised as a cocktail, with predictably gruesome results. Bartell then lashes Omar's corpse to the mast of a rickety raft - the only way off the island - and uses his tape-recorded screams to make it appear Omar abandoned the rest and is paying the price. (It was this scene - dead Omar with a hole in his belly that you can see through - that so freaked my friend. Comically crude today, but for 1964, pretty cool.)

Bartell discovers that a massive electric shock can stun the flesh eaters, and it is his plan to use this opportunity to collect them and sell them to the highest bidder. What he doesn't know is, once Bad Guy Hi-jinx!the electrified flesh eaters revive, they will start forming into a monstrous super-colony. Fortunately, through a verrrrrrrrry contrived happenstance, we discover that the Supercolony Beastie is highly allergic to - hemoglobin! (how the hell can something eat only living flesh and not encounter blood?) Rigging a giant hypo loaded with their own blood, our heroes await the Bad Guy Comeuppance!arrival of Super Beastie. Bartell, being the bad guy, tries some bad guy hi-jinx and gets his flesh eaten for his trouble, finally putting a bullet through his own brain to stop the agony. And granite-chinned Grant stabs SuperBeastie through the eye and injects the blood (the film flashing into color just for that occasion), and the world is saved, I guess. The end.

Martin Kosleck captures the wily pinhole.The Flesh Eaters is neither better nor worse than any other independent shocker of the time. The budget was apparently painfully low - witness the fact that the Flesh Eaters are represented by holes punched in the film, or by that other great standby, dry ice dropped in water. The Great Rule of Low Budget Films is invoked here: Talk Is Cheap, Action Costs Money, as there is a great deal of talk. But then, as I mentioned earlier, there is also a fair amount of blood tossed around for an early 60's film, and even a little skin. There's a flashback to Nazi Evil Nazis!  But modest...Germany (with a suspiciously modern-looking oscilloscope) where, as usual, the Nazis are using naked women for their experiments, marching them past some bars which are terribly suspicious in their strategic placement. Some sources state that the flick was made by sex film vets as early as 1961 - the fact that the editor was none other than Radley (Lickerish Quartet) Metzger seems to confirm this. And whatever else I may have expected from this movie, I most certainly did not expect a giant rubber monster at the end.

"You're stupid!"  "No, YOU'RE stupid!"  "No,  YOU'RE - "The cast is decent, given the constraints of the script. Grant is one of those rock-jawed protagonists so popular in the genre of the time, who barks all his lines because he is constantly right and everybody else is constantly wrong (witness similarly stone-hewn hollering heroes in This Island Earth and The Killer Shrews, just to name a couple). Lora the alcoholic bears the burden of most of the film's odious comic relief, until Omar comes along and cranks up the annoy-ometer a few more notches. Jan is there for Grant to protect and to look good in shorts and a tube top.

Martin Kosleck - "Me So Evil."So Bartell gets his own paragraph. Martin Kosleck had a long career, usually playing Nazis (and Goebbels at least once, a role in which he must have shone). His experience shows, as Bartell maintains a sort of low-level evil throughout, without ever venturing into the realm of full-blown histrionics or "Look at me! I'm EVIL!". Even in his early scenes, you know something is afoot, but Kosleck never overplays the role, giving it a restraint that renders him enjoyably creepy, if not particularly memorable.

Sterilized with fear yet?The advertising copy for The Flesh Eaters reads, "The only people who will not be She wasn't sterilized with fear.  STERILIZED with FEAR are those among you who are already DEAD!" Well, I was not sterilized, but I was entertained. If , like me, you're a fan of this sort of 50's - 60's disposable claptrap, The Flesh Eaters is worth the time and trouble to locate. If not, but you still get the chance to see it, do, and consider: did Sherwood Schwarz rip off this movie for the concept of Gilligan's Island? Inquiring minds want to know.




Entertaining low-budget claptrap.

- February 8, 1998