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Sunday, February 10, 2013

THE FLESH EATERS (1962) -- movie review by Squashpants


Tonight's movie is


Our title this outing is an independent studio production of a scary and wonderful drive-in movie. It is basically a monster movie but it is also sort of a soap opera crossed with Gilligan's Island.

It starts out with an aging alcoholic actress and her private secretary hiring a plane piloted by the hunky Byron Sanders. Grant Murdoch needs the money, and he is willing to fly into a hurricane for the money that Miss Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin) is promising him if he takes the job. So the three of them pile into his little seaplane and off they go.

They only get so far (in reality to Long Island, but for us it's a small island off the New York coast) and have to land and wait out the imminent weather. They are startled by the emergence of a frogman, who turns out to be Professor Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) who is doing some kind of research on the island and seems okay with sharing his small tent with the three extra people.

Two things happen next to further the story along: 1) Laura Winters, our dipsomaniac thespian, apparently in a blackout, lets the seaplane drift out to sea; 2) the hurricane passes and they find the titular flesh eating microorganisms glowing on a pile of fish skeletons.

Now, we know that Bartell knows what these things are. And we soon find out that he is the source of the things. In the light of the next day, they see large collections of the eaters hugging a jetty connected to the island. Naturally, Laura goes out on the jetty then freaks out, and Grant has to rescue her. In the process, he get some of the flesh eaters on him. And we get to see the ingenious special effect when his pant leg is stripped off so they can try to treat him.

Said to be scratches made with a pin in the film emulsion, they look more like something more involved, and are quite effective. Bartell makes a point of taking a sample of the things in a cigarette pack. To show how aggressive they are, the things eat their way through to attack the professor's flesh.

Then, enters Omar, a beatnik on a raft who floats into the surf and nearly gets eaten by the flesh eaters. He is 1) rather Gilligan-like, and 2) oblivious to most of what goes on around him, and his beat patter is a real gone, Man. Bartell suggests that they do a survey of the shoreline of the small island to see where there might be less of the damn bugs.

So Grant and Jan go one way, and Omar and Bartell go another. The latter two end up back at the tent, where Bartell serves up a cocktail laced with flesh eaters to the unsuspecting bohemian. Seeing the bugs eat through his stomach and his stomach bleed out is pretty creepy and gory for a movie made in 1964.

In the meantime, the other couple have found a huge cube. lined with solar energy disks. that apparently belongs to the professor. They stop and Grant tells Jan the story of his life, and they begin to fall in love. All of a sudden they hear Bartell shouting from the shoreline, and they rush to him to see Omar, or what is left of him, floating out to sea and screaming bloody murder as he apparently is being killed by the flesh eaters. Of course he is already dead, and the screaming is from a tape recording made by the professor while Omar was dying(!).

When everybody gets back to the tent, the professor says he has an idea. He takes a sample of the eaters and using the electricity from the solar cell cube, he electrocutes them and that seems to kill them. They then decide to introduce electricity into the surf and kill off a portion of the bugs and escape. The only problem is, the bugs aren't dead, just stunned, and they form a colony that looks like a oogly-boogly monster, which is discovered by Jan.

By now they have figured out that Bartell is a stinker and that he has brought the things to the island. So Bartell now is holding them at gunpoint while they put together the wiring necessary to electrocute the things offshore. Bartell obliges Grant with the story of how the flesh eaters came to be. A Nazi military research project, the flesh eaters were to be a weapon. But the end of the war brought the project to an end but not the flesh eaters that had been made. He has intercepted the migration of the things and plans to sell them to the highest bidder.

The flesh eater monster has followed Jan back to the shore and everybody is trying to figure out how to kill the thing, and suddenly Laura (remember her?) stumbles from her would-be grave, having been stabbed and left to die earlier by Bartell, and ends up expiring on top of the monster. Miracle of miracles, her blood is fatal to the thing.

Jan and Grant are unable to talk Bartell out of electrifying the surf even when they have seen what happens when one does that to the flesh eaters. He does it, and there is quiet. In the interim, Grant and Bartell struggle and the latter ends up stumbling into the surf which still has some active eaters. He dies a horrible death with some wonderfully gnarly effects.

No sooner is Bartell dead than the Mother of All Flesh Eater Monsters erupts from the surf. Huge, as big as a small blimp--you shake your head at the audacity of the producers. But they are ready, and with blood donated earlier by Bartell and the two of them, Grant takes his over-sized hypodermic and wades out to the creature. An accommodating tentacle lifts him up and he plunges the hypodermic into the things "eye". Bye bye Flesh Eater Gargantuan. Happy ending.

A few points about the production:

- As has been noted in other reviews, the production team for THE FLESH EATERS were used to making pornographic movies. There is a bit of a feel of this in the tone of the film, and the editor is none other than Radley Metzger, a well known name in the trade

- This was probably an Adults Only distrib because in the uncut version of this is a scene with some nudity, supposedly made and edited in by the distributor. It involves human experiments at the Nazi research facility and plays over Bartell's exposition about the origin of the bugs. The nudity is not overly graphic but there are naked ladies

- The black and white photography is very nicely done

- Special effects are very ambitious and are middling effective

- I was surprised by the inclusion of a solar cell apparatus "The grandaddy of all solar batteries"

- Byron Sanders (Grant Murdock) had such a nice corpus that he sat for Salvador Dali on several projects

- Rita Morley (star of several TV soaps) exhibits her rather gelatinous cleavage to great effect in several scenes

- Martin Kosleck, a character actor who played Nazis consistently through the 40s, is terrific as the conniving Professor Bartell. In the scene where he is calling out to Jan and Grant to see Omar floating away, he waves his arms and gestures in a way that screams "gay", and as it turns out, Mr. Kosleck (no disrespect to the gentleman) was apparently bisexual and had an affair with one of the male cast members, one I have not mentioned in this review.

I really liked this movie, but for obvious reasons, this one never turned up on any of the local broadcast TV stations when I was a teenager. If it had, it would have been a very good night for me, in more ways that one.

I give this title a Movies for Weirdos rating of 3 1/2 stars out of 4.

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