The Corpse Grinders
Bone-crushing terror! Spine-tingling chills!
Year of Release: 1971
Running Time: 72 minutes (1:12)
Director: Ted V. Mikels
Sean Kenney ... Dr. Howard Glass
Monika Kelly ... Angie Robinson
Sanford Mitchell ... Landau
J. Byron Foster ... Maltby
Warren Ball ... Caleb
Ann Noble ... Cleo
Vincent Barbi ... Monk
Drucilla Hoy ... Tessie
Charles Fox ... Willie
Human bodies are fed into a bone crunching meat grinder, mashed into a bloody pulp, poured into cans and shipped out to market as Lotus Cat Food. Unsuspecting pet owners are being attacked and killed by felines driven into blood lust by their newly acquired taste for human flesh. The corpse-grinding cat food moguls have been running low on dead bodies and are on the lookout for fresh meat. Enter Angie, a nubile young nurse whose cat is acting up after eating out of Lotus cans. Angie comes to the factory looking for answers and is abruptly taken to the blood-soaked conveyor belt that feeds the insatiable grinder.
The Corpse Grinders... for cryin' out loud. If you can't trust the man that pays you to dig corpses up outta the ground, who can you trust? I'm tellin' ya, honor is dead in this country. I'm sure most of you probably don't need me to tell you why PETA loves this one so much, but it'd pain me greatly to deviate from my format. Besides, I'm sure at least some of you used to stare at the sun with your friends as a child to see who could do it the longest without turnin' away, an that you might actually need for me to explain due to the irreversible brain damage. Long have we, the human race, slaughtered animals for no better reason than the fact that the taste of cave moss makes us return that cave moss to the cave floor no more than three seconds after swallowing it. These animal activists, they think we should all get tough, suck it up, an go graze in the pasture with the cattle. So it's no wonder that when they pop this sucker in the Betamax player, they start interlacin' their fingers like Mr. Burns an develop this real smug look on their faces. How do YOU like it, they shout at the screens, as people are ground up into cat food. See, they say "you" cause they think they're different. Better'n us. Cause they're courteous enough to not harm living things... that're cute. It's not like we eat the cow's FACE anyway, I don't see the problem. These people give me a headache so I'ma have to move on. So anyhow, as the best documentary I've ever seen to detail the production process of McDonald's pink slime, while still predating Soylent Green by a full two years, this one's bound to be full of insightful, redeeming commentaries on what's wrong in our society, an why it aughta be more like this movie. I'm sorry, but some people just need to be run through a corpse grinder, that's all I'm sayin'.
First, apparently, burly men that look like they got Peter Jackson's head screwed onto Gunnar Hansen's body can work all night, diggin' up corpses an luggin' 'em back to the house, while subsisting on nothing more than Ramen noodle broth. For cripes' sake lady, get that man some meat, I think he's earned it. Second, a regular two gallon bucket has enough space to hold an entire human body's worth of slurry. I know guys smart enough to get into this kinda racket wouldn't just let the extra spill over onto the floor, so my figurin' must be correct. An third, after a hard day of readin' Cosmo at the office, secretaries like to unwind by strippin' down to their underpants, pourin' a beer into a glass (no ice though, that'd just be pretentious) an listenin' to AM radio. But what I took to heart after experiencing The Corpse Grinders is that there's absolutely no way I'm bein' buried when I die. If somebody's not tryin' to dig you up to turn you into Fancy Feast, they're carvin' you up to put in their beef stew. Or wearin' your body parts an dancin' around in the moonlight listenin' to Innagoddadavida. Or just outright sexing your corpse without your consent. Like in that one movie, Necromantik. But anyway, it was Phantasm that made me seriously consider cremation as the best option. At least in Phantasm, though, you get brought back to life. Maybe someday work your way up through the slave ranks, get a nice office with a desk, a pretty secretary. But it was definitely The Corpse Grinders that pushed me off the fence. Clearly, the only way to be safe is to get roasted into ashes an spread around where the weirdos can't get to you. That second part's important too, if you think there aren't people that'd stick their tallywhacker into an urn, you're goin' through life with some mighty thick rose colored glasses. So you see? These movies aren't just real entertaining, they also help us make important, real life decisions it might otherwise take years to make. So Mr. Mikels, you have my thanks.
The movie begins with an agitated pussy, locked outside in the rain an gettin' real insistent that somebody get off their ass an let it in the house. Somebody finally does, but when the woman opens the door the furball goes all Cat Scratch Fever on her until the credits roll while the Get Smart theme song plays behind it. Elsewhere, we've got a big hairy clod (Caleb) that looks like he got thrown outta the Hell's Angels for bein' too rank an belligerent, out in the cemetery diggin' up corpses so he'll have somethin' to beat up. An it's no wonder the poor guy's surly all the time, not only does his cracked egg of a wife (Cleo) come to work with him everyday, but she carries around this Cabbage Patch doll an talks to it like it's her baby. All the living doll movies out there, an this poor woman who might actually like to have one must go without. That's cold. On the plus side, Caleb's his own boss, so he can call lunch anytime he wants to. So he an Cleo head home so she can pour him some colored water for dinner that kinda resembles stomach bile. Unfortunately, because she thinks the doll's alive, it gets it's own portion an... well lets just say, if Yoda were here, he'd be askin Caleb how he get so big eating food of this kind. Caleb's a little miffed on account of all the exhumin' he's been doin' without bein' paid, but we'll come back to that. Meanwhile, we've got a couple businessmen (Landau an Maltby) brow beatin' their janitor (Willy) for lookin' too much like an Auschwitz survivor. Their other employee is a one-legged deaf/mute (Tessie) that looks like she's wearin' one of them red clown afros, an after the bosses send 'em home for the day they start bickerin' about whether either of their flunkies knows anything an how come Landau keeps gettin' the bulk of the profits when it's abundantly clear that Maltby is in dire need of a facelift. Elsewhere, a doctor (Howard) an his nurse (Angie) start gettin' real familiar till she gets buzzed over the intercom to quit causin' conflicts of interest an to get her butt over to the maternity ward an start moppin' up all the placentas. As she turns to leave, her cat (Cause that's sanitary in what should be a sterile environment) finishes its Fancy Feast an goes for the doc's jugular. To be fair, every time it eats here, they get its order wrong, so you can see how it might be a little ticked off. While this is happening, Landau an Maltby show up at Caleb's place to pick up his inventory, only they don't have his money, again, an Caleb straight up tells 'em that if they wanna retain his services, they'd best bring him some money the next time, an that he'll squeal to the cops about their operation if they don't make with the compensation.
So Landau an Maltby load up their pedo van with their bounty an head outta there, but as they go, what looks to be the love child of Ricardo Montalban an Robert Z'Dar moves into view an he's got this "I know who you are an I saw what you did" look on his face. Back at the production plant, Landau an Maltby unload their acquisitions onto a conveyor belt that leads into this big, angry, toothy, mangly lookin' human chipper. Maltby's a little distracted by the hooters on the first corpse an Landau has to swat his nose with a newspaper an remind him just how sick an unethical he is, before he slides the bodies down into the foot processor. Not that it stops at the feet. This is all real educational too, it's like the pink slime episode of How it's Made. Just think of it as Soylent Pink. Problem is, Landau can't seem to keep up with demand. Apparently this town is burstin' at the seams with yuppies that feed their cats nothin' but the best an give 'em only bottled spring water from Tibet or somethin', so Landau hires this creepy lookin' guy to round him up some more materials, if you follow me. So while Landau makes his rounds, pickin' up bodies from his various corrupt suppliers, another woman is bein' mauled by her feline familiar when it realizes it can't use the can opener without assistance. Hillybilly Jim hears her screamin' from outside, but by the time he's able to get up off his soiled mattress it's too late. So for some reason, this old woman's body ends up at Howard an Angie's office, an after he explains to Jim there's not much he can do to save her on account of her bein' dead for an hour an a half, he starts gettin' interested when Jim tells 'im about the catastrophe that befell her. It was a real cataclysm. But at least she's in a better place an not stuck in a catatonic state. Howard's intrigued. How this can be the case, when he's got Angie's gigantic melons to keep him occupied, I'm not sure. But he asks Jim to bring what's left of the cat so he can have a look, which is just fine by Jim cause he'd like to give that cat another runnin' leg drop anyhow. Elsewhere, Landau an Maltby are outta materials again. But Landau gets this look on his face like he's just cracked the Davinci code an sends Tessie to get Willy for 'im. Seems like a real temporary fix to me, cause Willy ain't got more'n about 27 pounds of meat on his frame, but Landau runs 'im through the human blender anyway. Meanwhile, Angie's noticed that the cat that tore out the old lady's jugular vein an sucked the blood outta her like it was a crazy straw was eatin' the same food as her own feline familiar an starts doin' the math. She's blonde so it takes a little while, but she's still found a break in the case.
So Howard an Angie head over to the FDA office an ask the guy to do a biopsy on their can of Purina Cat Chow. I forget what the segue was, but while the three of them discuss this businessman that went missing not too long ago, the FDA guy sends his secretary home for the day an gives her this look like he doesn't want her too tired cause he's got some business he needs her to attend to later on. Thing is, this guy that disappeared had put in for a business license then never completed the process. But even more importantly than that, the secretary has gone home an stripped down to her underpants, which makes it a lot easier for her cat to order up a serving of succulent breast meat. Then Howard an Angie pass Ricardo Z'Dar on their way to the missing businessman's house, so they can ask his extremely desperate, yet perky wife some questions. Nevermind that people're dyin' right an left from all the gangrene infected cat wounds over at the hospital cause there's nobody workin' the E.R. So having acquired this new information, Dr. Skulky an Nurse Boulders head over to the cat food cannery an pretend like they can't find any Pukeanuba on the shelves an ask for a case. Unfortunately, Landau's one step ahead an gives them a case of regular food, so when they check the can for bits of pinky finger, it comes up negative. By this point, Caleb's back in his office, haulin' more stiffs up outta the ground an into his storage pantry, but he's gettin' real impatient with Landau, an the next time he shows up to pick up, Caleb's gonna leave 'im in one of these here open holes if he doesn't get paid. Landau is shocked. SHOCKED that Caleb doubts his business ethics, an assures him that he'll be out to get the goods soon enough, an that he'll be handsomely rewarded for all his toilin'. But first he an Harry gotta drive around town an scoop up all the rummies that're too shit faced to fight back an prep 'em for The Mangler. Hopefully they've got a liquor license, cause if Doc Oilslick (The man's hair looks painted on for fucks sake) an Nurse Hooters get a can of these hobos tested, their blood/alcohol levels are gonna get Landau an Maltby raided by the ATF. The following day, when Howard gets called away to do some actual doctor stuff, Angie gets this brilliant idea that she should go back to the cannery alone an try one last time to get some more clues. Or maybe to just get one, cause it's pretty clear this is ill-advised. While this's goin' on, Landau is out honoring his word to Caleb an payin' off his debts. Just kidding, the second Caleb sees the money he forgets to keep an eye on Landau, who pulls out his own gun an gives Caleb the pink slip. Unfortunately, Cleo sees the whole thing an now Landau has to chase her looney ass all through the cemetery, dodgin' foxholes till he finally gets close enough that even he couldn't possibly miss, an rolls her into an open grave. Meanwhile, Angie's arrived at the cannery. Only Maltby's still there an if you think the last set of boobies got him excited, Angie's got some real show stoppers. Will cut it here to preserve the conclusion, as always.
Alrighty, well, given the budget restraints and its age, I'd say this one is underrated. Underrated, in the sense that the IMDB troglodytes have given it a 2.8/10. As low budget horror movies from the early '70s go, it's not too bad, but it does drag a bit. The concept, at least, is somewhat interesting. Grave robbing, of course, is nothing new. But that's not really important, it's what they do with those bodies once you've plundered them that makes the plot interesting. Now, grinding bodies up into Fancy Feast is pretty dang clever, and original. And I must say, I don't know that this movie really should be rated even as low as I'll rate it, by individuals who don't mind movies that're over 40 years old. '70s movies were still just a little talky for my tastes. Then again, great acting can fix that, if you can afford it. Jaws is fairly talky, but that talky is what gives it a great deal of its score. That's what great actors and good writing can do for you, if you can afford them. The Corpse Grinders, well, the budget was under $50,000, and many of the actors knew going in that they would only be paid if the movie made money. That went for the director and the rest of the crew as well. And to his credit, Ted Mikels told everyone this going in, so they knew beforehand that there was a chance they would not ever be paid. But 1971 was a different time. And even though it may not be the best movie ever made, in 1971, on the drive-in circuit, The Corpse Grinders raked in a little over $190,000 in its first WEEK. I really envy those who were able to experience these movies in their original heyday, in a theater setting. Drive-in or otherwise. Suffice it to say, everyone got paid. It's a pretty fun movie that's got a lot of heart. It's clear that everyone working on it was giving the production 100%. That counts for something, even beyond the fact that it's going to make your movie better to begin with. Whether that'll be enough to save it from a failing grade... well you'll have to stay tuned. However, I would seriously encourage people who are particularly fond of horror movies from the 1970s to consider adding around 5% - 8% to my score. Things which bother me are not likely to be so bothersome to them.
Alrighty, lets run this beast through the pink slime compressor an see what comes out the other side. As I mentioned briefly, the plot is fairly original, an definitely amusing. Silly, sure. There is a short sequence in the movie where Sean Kenney is reading through the big book of feline psychology, discussing how cats like tigers are referred to as "man eaters" an that once they get their first taste of man flesh, they take a liking to it. Whether that's even true or not, who knows. Doesn't seem too far fetched. The idea that that sort of thing could carry over to domestic cats... farther fetched. But I can suspend my disbelief farther than is required by this plot, so, it's pretty good. Net positive for the plot. The acting, considering the budgetary constraints, you'd have to acknowledge is better than one would expect from a movie where some of the actors were paid in hundreds of dollars. And I personally don't have much to complain about in the way of acting. Not the greatest, but really, I'm not complaining. Don't blink though, or you might miss the list of resumes. Sean Kenney (The Bloody Slaying of Sarah Ridelander, The Cult), Vincent Barbi (Bloody Orgy of the She-Devils, The Astro Zombies, The Blob), Ray Dannis (The Severed Arm), Sherri Vernon (Blood Orgy of the She-Devils), Richard Gilden (The Unknown Terror). Probably breaks even on the acting, as far as its score goes. But again, with that budget, consider that a win.
The special effects are pretty decent. There aren't all that many though, mostly just bloody necklaces provided by the feline aggressors. The pink slime emanating from The Corpse Grinder is a neat effect, not sure what exactly they were forcing through it, but it seems believable enough to me. I don't think anyone could argue that the sequences where the cats are trying to kill their owners are laughable, although I think the editor did a good job cutting away before the scenes became completely ridiculous. Still, there's really no good way to make that look believable, so that will definitely hurt the score. The shooting locations range from fair to good. The hospital scenes are cliched and ordinary, although the cemetery looks great. Caleb's house looks great as well, it's one of those little tiny buildings where you know they went out on location and found some hovel they could film in that does more for a scene than building a set ever could. The room containing the grinder isn't bad either. Obviously just a basement, but I liked it. So positive points for the shooting locations, irrelevant as some people may consider them. Lastly, the soundtrack. Can't say I really even noticed it, unless it was just becoming silly. Like the scene where Sean Kenney an Monika Kelly are flirting before she gets called away by the front desk. Soundtrack by jug band. What the fuck was that about. Anyway, I've gotta be honest here, I can't allow this movie to pass. I think maybe with more money it could have, or maybe if Monika Kelly had popped her top, but under the circumstances, afraid not. It's fun, but it's not real good. Gallant effort though, Mr. Mikels.