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The Flesh Eaters (1964)
6th Dec 05
A pilot and his two passengers (including film star Mrs Winters) take shelter on an island during a storm, unaware that a German scientist is conducting experiments with flesh-eating microbes.
Made way back in 1962, The Flesh Eaters is one of those films that has almost started to slip under the radar of late, yet thankfully Dark Sky Films have rescued this little treat from obscurity and have released a brand new DVD, along with never-before-seen deleted Nazi experimentation scenes. Deleted Nazi experimentation scenes you say? Well that’s one way to grab the attention of an exploitation fan.
Actually, the deleted scenes aren’t that much cop, just cheap shots of people jumping into a swimming pool with a swastika flag in the background, but the film itself is low-priced, yet glittering (albeit in black and white) gem. With a small cast, a beach location, two women who are happy to reveal lots of cleavage and some impressive low-budget effects, The Flesh Eaters will please all fans of ‘old-school’ b-grade horror-flicks.
No low-budget horror in the 60s was without the ‘scary introduction’ prelude, of which The Flesh Eaters is no exception. Opening with a fairly well off couple on a yachting trip, the (quite frankly gorgeous) bikini girl soon finds herself swimming topless in the sea. But all is not good in the water as first boyfriend Freddie disappears, before the girl is dragged underwater by a pool of black sludge (or perhaps that was her blood - I don’t know blood and chocolate sauce all look the same in black and white).
Prelude and credits over, we get to meet our heroes of the film, chiefly a charter pilot called Murdoch, and two women who hire his services to fly to Provincetown. Despite his reservations, (there’s a storm a’comin’), Murdoch finally agrees to fly the women, alcoholic Hollywood actress Mrs Winters and her assistant Ms Letterman at an inflated fee.
Unfortunately they never make Provincetown as the storm hits hard and Murdoch is forced to land his sea plane near an island, where they meet German professor Bartel who emerges from the sea in full wetsuit diving gear – ”I’m sorry if I haf frightened you. Sis eqwipment must make me look like one of zos creatures from a horror film…”. Luckily Prof Bartel has a base camp nearby, and after discovering a skeleton on the beach, the four people rush to take shelter as Murdoch states that they are all “in for a good pounding tonight”.
They manage to survive the night, but when they wake the next day the plane has disappeared. Now, stranded on the island, things take an even further turn for the worse when a strange shiny phosphorescence appears at the shore – the microscopic flesh eaters, hungry for food…
And so the stage is set for a classic 60s horror film of science, monsters and microscopic flesh eaters. Alongside it’s pretty preposterous plot, what makes The Flesh Eaters so enjoyable is it’s often witty script with lots of lines of cool dialogue. When even minor characters such as the captain who delivers Bartel’s food gets a great throwaway line such as ”You’ve got about as much heart as a Hammerhead shark” you know you’ve got a movie to enjoy.
All the main roles are performed with gusto, and although none of them are particularly convincing, all of them bring a suitable ‘ironic’ flavour to proceedings. It must have been a temptation for Martin Kosleck to ham up the part of the German Professor, but thankfully he just about manages to hold the character in check without ever descending into parody. Byron Sanders is typically ‘heroic’ as Murdoch, with a dash of Bruce Campbell, whilst both Barbara Wilkin as Ms Letterman and Rita Morley as Laura Winters bring a certain sexiness and Hollywood-brashness to their roles respectively.
Standout comedy performance must however go to Ray Tudor as Omar, the raft-sailing hippy (the raft is called Rosebud by the way) with a gramophone player who drifts into harm’s way only to end up equally stranded on the island surrounded by glistening microbe flesh eaters. With his ever-optimistic view of the world and faith in love as a weapon, it’s a shame he has to die so early. Oh well, I suppose working on a horror film is just like any other job at times - last one in, first one out.
Okay, so not everything is perfect. There’s an awfully staged rock rescue as Murdoch manages to dynamically leap about twelve inches across some rocks, and the end creature effects are a little hokey to say the least, but in all honesty, this just adds to the enjoyment of a film like this. This is the sort of deserted island that can throw up surprises, so just don’t question it when Murdoch and Ms Letterman happen to find a 10,00 volt solar battery on the beach whilst strolling. Just go with it.
Of course it all ends with a big face off against a huge super monster that has been inadvertently created by meddling scientists, but when you’ve got a last-stage battle that includes frying pans being thrown into the sea and purpose-built gigantic hypodermic needle filled with blood (because the flesh eaters are allergic to blood – obviously!) you’ve just gotta smile and go along with the ride. Go go Gunga Din.
Bonus features Deleted Nazi experiments sequence (4.06).
These are flashback scenes that have been ‘re-inserted’ into clips showing whereabouts in the film they would have appeared. They feature naked women (all rude bits cunningly concealed) being pushed into a swimming pool of flesh eaters and skeletons being pulled out. The final test is of a male corpse being pushed into the pool, but the flesh eaters don’t eat dead meat.
There are also outtakes of the Nazi Experimentation sequence – no sound here, but you do get a fleeting glimpse of nipples and bums.
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