THE FLESH EATERS
Here it is, in glorious black and white.
The first “gore” movie.
Yes, before Hershell Gordon Lewis, before SAW, before
CSI, a movie oozed into drive-ins and grindhouses that made the gals grab their guys in the back seats and shocked the socks off the raincoat-set in stained seats.
Moreover, it was –and is — one hell of a ride.
This, friends, is THE FLESH EATERS.
Okay, it’s 1964. You’re at your local drive-in with the crunch of popcorn and the sweet sting of a cold Coke on your snack tray.
There’s this tinny speaker fastened to your window, cranking out mono. And up there on a huge screen the third picture of the All Night Terror Show begins.
There’s this good-looking babe in a bikini. Could be right out of one of those Beach movies with Annette and Frankie. A New York radio station is playing. A guy comes on deck with a couple of cold ones. Guy and gal are goofing around and whoops! There goes the gal’s bikini top! We get a good look at naked back, then in the interest of modesty, gal jumps in the water. Guy follows her, disappears — but then doesn’t come back up.
“Freddie — Freddie?” says gal.
And then it comes. That fifties monster music, a shiver of ominous electronics.
A shadow of black stuff wells around gal. She pulls up a hand — and it’s covered with blood.
She screams and gets pulled under.
Bubbles and creepy steam rise up from the water as the theme music barges in, goosing up the horror and the title of this cinematic gem keys in:
THE FLESH EATERS
Oh. So that’s what got ‘em. Flesh Eaters.
But what, pray tell, are flesh eaters? Let’s have a taste of Wikipedia-generated plot.
A wealthy, over-the-hill actress named Laura Winters (Rita Morely) hires pilot Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders) to fly her and her assistant Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin) to Provincetown, but a storm forces them to land on a small island. They soon meet Prof. Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) a marine biologist with a German accent who is living in seclusion on the isle.
After a series of strange skeletons wash ashore (human, then fish) it turns out the water has become inhabited by some sort of glowing microbe which apparently devours flesh rapaciously.
Oooooh, and it gets better!
And that Prof. Bartell! Why, isn’t he the guy you saw as the Nazi in lots of films — plus HOGAN’S HEROES?
What’s surprising about THE FLESH EATERS is that something so obviously budget could have such a wealth of style, character — and sheer exploitative thrill. It’s not just the shocking violence and gore in a movie that otherwise looks like an episode of some late 50s tv detective show. The suspense and surprises build in a stunning manner, all the way to a grim and satisfying ending.
And no wonder. The director and cinematographer, Jack Curtis, clearly knew what he was doing. The editor Radley Metzger went onto a stellar career as a stylish “quality” porn director (Opening of Misty Beethoveen). But perhaps what makes this film so wonderful is that the script was written by a comic book writer Arnold Drake, who also drew the storyboard. Thus, what we have here, is nothing less than a long TALES FROM THE CRYPT story.
Quality trash, happy to melt innocent minds.
From URINAL GUM.