Director: Brad F. Grinter
USA - 1970
Nazi maggot movies are a timeless genre. Add a former Hollywood
glamour icon to the equation and you have the formula for a true classic.
Well, just short of a classic.
Veronica Lake plays Dr. Elaine Frederick: A
scientist who invents a revolutionary youth rejuvenation procedure; the
key ingredient: maggots. She’s also romantically-entangled with Karl
Shuman, and (cue ominous trumpet
fanfare) harbors a dark secret!
Karl Shuman: Former underground
munitions runner; used to work for Castro until he made the startling
discovery that Fidel was a communist (?). Karl now acts as a liaison
between Dr. Frederick and her prospective clients, the Nazis.
Ed Casey: Editor of a local newspaper looking to
expose the ghastly experiments rumored to take place at the Frederick
Kristine: One of Dr. Frederick’s nurses who also
secretly doubles as an employee of Ed Casey. When not spying on the good
doctor, Kristine works at a nearby hospital where she steals fresh corpses
to feed the experimental maggots.
Sharon: Another one of Dr. Frederick’s nurses,
she also secretly doubles as an alcoholic. Sharon falls in love with Jose,
but sadly, has a weak grasp on the obvious.
Benito Paris: Head of the Hispanic Nazis. Benito is
sent to the Frederick compound to scope out the operation before “the
boss” shows up. And I’m not talking about Bruce Springsteen.
Jose: One of Paris’ goons. Jose
turns out to be a rather sentimental Nazi, looking to eventually get out
of the taxing profession of terrorism and perhaps indulge in a little
travel. He quickly falls in love with one of his captives, Sharon.
Armando: Another Hispanic Nazi thug.
Max Bauer: An old Nazi (surprisingly, not Hispanic)
who is first to try out Dr. Frederick’s maggot miracle. The procedure
turns out to be a success, restoring Bauer to his former youthful vigor.
Max doesn’t get to enjoy his newfound vitality for long though, for he
is killed by Jose after trying to get fresh with Sharon (killing her
in the process). Just like a Nazi, eh?
Hitler: If I have to explain, you should probably
watch less MTV and more of the History Channel (or, as MST3K most aptly
puts it: “The All-Hitler Channel”).
even popping in the tape I had a bad feeling about Flesh Feast. And why, you ask? For the simple fact that it was
filmed in Florida – Larry Buchanan’s old stomping grounds. Granted, I
can’t generalize every Floridian filmmaker and compare them to the
infamous Buchanan but – wait a minute, this is my
site, dammit. I guess I can generalize who and whatever I darn well
please. So from here on in, if the director of any film I see happens to
be from Florida, I will immediately assume that he or she has the
directorial talent equivalent of Larry Buchanan. So there.
as it turns out, my ominous premonitions were unfounded. Though Flesh
Feast does have a Buchanan-esque feel to it – incompetent acting,
poor lighting, a grainy print quality reminiscent of a snuff film – I
honestly think that Grinter makes the best with what he has – and in
this case, that turns out to be very little indeed. The majority of the
proceedings is shot in Dr. Frederick’s living room and laboratory (i.e.
someone’s den furnished with a couple useless machines, some blinking
lights, a few beakers, and a table). To say the sets are less-than-stellar
would be an understatement. A majority of the actors, for lack of a better
word, suck, so it’s not any specific thespian that carries the film’s
momentum. (And in all actuality, I probably could have easily
came up with a synonym for the word “suck” – but if it ain’t
broke…) The story is nothing extraordinary either, though the finale’s
“twist” does provide a good chuckle (especially if, like Sharon, you
have absolutely no grasp for the obvious and don’t see it coming). Upon
further reflection, I can’t really put my finger on what I actually like
about Flesh Feast – but I
enjoy it, nonetheless. Maybe it has something to do with my frame of mind
when I screened the film. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I just saw Red Planet the night before and the calluses from said experience
shielded me from further cinematic pain. Or maybe it was just the bugs.
Look! Maggots! Ick!
the most fascinating aspect of watching Flesh
Feast is seeing Veronica Lake ham it up as maggot-crazy mad scientist.
Especially when considering her resume. Though I regularly attempt to
stifle my male chauvinist tendencies by not focusing on the aesthetic
qualities of actresses in the films I review (it’s quite tough, I’ll
have you know), I believe that commenting on Ms. Lake here is pertinent,
considering her former Hollywood title from the 1940’s. Anyway, after
that long, unnecessary justification, let me just say that the years were
kind to poor Veronica. I mean, she didn’t look particularly bad,
per se – she just looked, I don’t know, tired.
Really tired. Legend has it that
after many years of film success, Ms. Lake disappeared from the big screen
(and perhaps off the face of the Earth) for twenty some-odd years, only to
resurface in Flesh Feast, of
all things. A strange attempt at a comeback, to say the least. I don’t
know – nor is
it any of my business – what Veronica had been doing during her film
hiatus, but if that haggard appearance was any indication of time spent
out of the spotlight, then my heart goes out to her. In all fairness I
must report, however, that there was still a little “something”
present from Lake’s heyday – a small spark of the glamour she once
embodied. You have to look awfully hard at times – a quick flash in her
smile, a momentary sparkle in her eyes - but there was some definite
charisma just under the surface of the shell Lake had constructed over the
many years of self-exile. Be it ever so small, Veronica Lake did succeed
in bringing a portion of the star-power she once commanded to this film,
easily making her the best part of Flesh
great, now I’m depressed.
the opening scene, Ed Casey’s field informant is fatally stabbed
immediately after phoning in a report to the paper. Once told of the
death, Casey quickly comes to the revelation, “I thought he forgot to
hang up the phone…he couldn’t!”
Nazis. Enough said.
Frederick’s chauffeur, Hans, takes multi-tasking to a whole new level
when he pitches in to help carve up one of the stolen corpses with a
hacksaw. Just goes to show, helping is truly job one.
scene where Kristine is sneaking a dead body from the hospital, only to
inadvertently run into a fellow nurse who, naturally, has to stop and
question her on the strange woman with sunglasses Kristine is pushing in a
wheelchair. Light wackiness ensues in a sure precursor to the madcap Weekend at Bernie’s.
amazing special effects! Step aside, Rick Baker! The old man make-up
applied to Max Bauer is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s simply
amazing what can be done with a seemingly endless supply of talcum powder
and just a little wrinkled toilet paper!
of the nurses taking a nip before attending her rounds at the hospital. I
know I, for one, will now feel a little more at ease next time I go under
the surgical knife.
uncanny knack for the obvious.
She wanders into the lab, stands right
to a suspended mutilated corpse, but doesn’t notice said body until about half an
hour later. Genius.
the finale, after placing a variety of killer maggots to Hitler’s face,
Dr. Frederick steps back and maniacally laughs, “What’s the matter?
Don’t you like my little maggots?” You wouldn’t believe how many
women have said those exact
words to me!
-- Copyright © 2000 by J. Bannerman
|Check out my fellow Cabalists' respective
takes on Pretty Mad Scientists:
out a clip from this film, along with many others, here!