Zombos Says: Good (but just barely)
Back in 1964, The Evil of Frankenstein, 2000 Maniacs, and Black Sabbath flickered across theater screens, as well as other notable horror movies. Then there's The Flesh Eaters; a B-Movie that, while not very good, is not all that bad. Written by Arnold Drake and directed by Jack Curtis , it combines pulp-dialog with a minuscule budget confining action to a small tent, a Long Island beach, and a few over the top characters.
With its neo-Nazi marine biologist, Professor Bartell, played with malicious glee by Martin Kosleck (I doubt he could play any other type of role), an All-American pilot named Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders) who keeps taking his shirt off, Omar the beatnik (Ray Tudor), and glowing parasitic flesh-eating nasties stripping flesh from bone faster than you can yell “that's gonna hurt!” the movie is a fast and fairly fun 87 minutes. It's also touted as being the first gore movie by some reviewers, though that's debatable.
It opens with two frolicsome young people going for a dip, only the dip goes for them and they wind up picked clean down to the bone. Cut to the big city and Laura Winters (Rita Morley), movie starlet and lush, who, along with her comely assistant Jan (Barbara Wilson), needs a quick flight to Provincetown for one of her few acting gigs.
Enter Grant Murdoch with his square jaw, v-shaped torso, and cocky attitude. He piles the dames into his sea-plane and off they go, right into a bad storm, with a frozen gas line, too. He needs to land the plane fast and any island will do. He picks the one with the anti-social marine biologist and his parasitic pets. Murdoch moors the tipsy Ms. Winters on the beach first, then moors the plane. Bartel pops out of the water wearing his wet suit and frightens the melodramatic actress. Then she finds finds one frolicsome young person's skeleton on the beach, reigniting her melodramatics. Murdoch becomes suspicious of Bartell after the professor blames it on sharks.
They need to secure the tent against the coming storm. A few stock footage shots of crashing ocean waves later, Murdoch and Jan go for the luggage as the storm lightens up. Murdoch, in-between putting the moves on the curvaceous Jan, notices Bartel going the long way for supplies that were supposed to be just in back of the tent.
Winters, who desperately needs her ‘glass bottle’ luggage, designed by the Jack Daniel's company, slips into something a little more low-cut. Bartel starts putting the moves on her with a flat real-men-are-neo-nazi-marine-biologists line. She calls him a tin god. At this point, the dialog becomes either what did he say? bad or man, that's so bad it's funny bad.
She runs away from him and heads to the plane to slosh more liquor. More pulp-dialog kicks in again as she goes into a maudlin soliloquy Hamlet would be ashamed of. Finishing the booze she dozes on the beach. Bartel, meanwhile, continues his gloating when he comes across a lot of glowing fish skeletons. He also unties the mooring lines to the plane.
The next morning, Murdoch and Jan find Winters and the fish skeletons, prompting Murdoch to blame the actress for untying the plane in a drunken stupor, and telling Bartel "face facts, professor, we stumbled onto a living horror!" Winters, taking her dramatic cue, runs away in shame and grabs her luggage floating in the water. Murdoch races to stop her. She freezes on top of some rocks jutting out into that parasitic smörgåsbord and can't jump back over to him. Mr. All-American jumps over to her. He picks her up and attempts to jump back over the water-filled gap in the rocks—with her added weight. Bartel comes running over with a knife to slice off the chunk of Murdoch's leg skin which is now smoking and bloody and hurting like hell after he slips into the hungry devils . An unexpected gore effect and effective.
Gilligan—I mean Omar—the kooky beatnik now shows up on his rickety raft.
Is it me or do also think he looks like Tony Timpone from Fangoria magazine?
He sailes right into the flesh-eating parasite-filled water. They go after his beatnik sandals as Murdoch yells at him to "shut that big mouth of yours before you become a skeleton!" He makes it to the beach sans sandals. "Boy, that's one lovin' appetite, man," he remarks. Bartell becomes annoyed by Omar's jive talk.
Don’t we all.
Later, Murdoch and Jan come across a huge solar battery. Murdoch questions Bartel on its use and he tells them it's to power his equipment. Bartel suggests shocking the parasites with it and demonstrates the effect electricity has on them. He knows the effect is only temporary, but with the parasites stunned, he plans to leave the island. Alone.
Huge positive and negative cables are quickly run down to the water in preparation for electrifying the entire ocean with the 10,000 volt battery. While others are running cable to the beach, Bartel gives Omar a parasitic-cocktail. Omar's indigestion soon bubbles out of his gut in a bloody scene, ending his beatnik days for good.
As Bartel rigs up a fake death for Omar to fool the others, Winters discovers the shocked parasites in the tent are very much alive, and growing into something nasty. She knows Bartel knows, but now he knows she knows.
He kills her and buries her in the sand, but she still has one more performance in her.
A sailor approaches the island in a small boat only to get a splash of parasites in his face. Scratch one sailor. Another good gore effect, but randomly inserted into the story.
Murdoch and Jan confront Bartel. He pulls out a German Luger.
It’s at this point in the movie I realized Murdoch doesn't grow facial hair and Jan stays fresh as a daisy.
Bartel, now gloating over his success as an evil Neo-Nazi marine biologist, monologs about the Nazi experiments he researched on behalf of the U.S. government. (Included on the DVD is the cut flashback sequence illustrating those evil experiments with unclothed, nubile young woman, of course.)
Murdoch takes his shirt off again—not sure why—and Jan is sent back to the tent to get the lead containers the professor needs to store parasite samples. She see's the unexpected effect electricity has on the parasites as they: "have mutated into a monster beyond belief. A slimy, bloated thing!" but is too late in warning them not to shock the entire ocean.
In proper horror movie fashion, while impending doom approaches, they fight among themselves. Meanwhile, a way is discovered to kill the creature; Bartel gives some cockamamie pseudo-scientific "nucleus sensitive to hemoglobin" explanation. They create a weapon to deal with the creature soon to appear.
Then they go back to fighting among themselves.
In the kooky climax, Bartel gets his comeuppance, and Murdoch and Jan square off against the much bigger, terrifying-tentacled-ocean-monster. Be prepared to be amazed as you watch Murdoch standing in front of the creature's mouth. Its eye is about three stories above him. How he plunges his little weapon into it must be seen to appreciate fully.
You wouldn't believe me if I told you, anyway.
American Movie Classics has been airing this on occasion, and I've watched it every time so far, even videotaping it. Now what I need is the DVD! I very much enjoy the film and have a feeling that it has inspired other filmmakers, for some scenes remind me of everything from "Jaws" to "Deep Rising".
Naturally, I can comment only on the edited-for-AMC version, but I doubt I'd change my mind once I see the rest of it~although I think I could do without the Nazi experiment bit.
Posted by: MystMoonstruck | October 11, 2008 at 05:41 AM
Yes, it's super weird. Martin Kosleck really puts a capital W in it with his snotty, I'm a super evil genius, act, and that makes it lots of fun. A great film to party with. The ending is classic, wow, he's bigger than I thought, I better get lucky or I'm toast. Omar's comic relief is fun, too.
Posted by: IL | February 28, 2008 at 03:27 PM
Such a creepy film, I love it.
Posted by: sir jorge | February 27, 2008 at 11:04 PM