Running time: 62 mins
Director: Ted V. Mikels
Starring: Sean Kenney, Monika Kelly, Sanford Mitchell
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Ok, so word to the wise…be very, very weary of any commercial that advertises a “new” ingredient for their established pet food because you never know for sure what (or more specifically who) your beloved pooch might be eating.
That’s the premise in a nutshell for Ted V. Mikel’s 1971 horror The Corpse Grinders. The problem with these human eating household pets is eventually they get the taste for it and soon enough are no longer waiting around for their chow to pass away via natural causes and when a spate of animal attacks on their owners gets the attention of Dr. Howard Glass (Kenney) and Nurse Angie Robinson (Monika Kelly) they decide investigation is in order to get to the bottom of ‘Good Kitties Gone Bad’.
In Ted Mikel you have an exploitation director like no other. Even at the time of making The Corpse Grinders he had almost a decade of film making under his belt. It’s worth noting that this year marks the fiftieth year since he directed Strike Me Deadly. What you get with Mikel isn’t necessarily a budget, most of his movies are shot for nothing, but you get experience and a professional eye that increases the value, through the aesthetics, of any film he is attached to. Visually The Corpse Grinders is a showy film. It’s been dubbed, rather wrongly, as a “video nasty” – an expression I have serious issue with as anything starring Andi McDowell I’d consider nasty but each to their own. It’s showy quality isn’t like that or recent entries Grotesque or Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, it’s rather tame via modern standards but it’s showiness is the stylistic that Mikel adds to the movie in order to create something that looks different to the calibre of horror you were treated to during this time. The short, flashes of violence, brutality, and gore during sequences of consequential significance are beautiful. Perfectly timed, shot and placed. They’re a device that modern-day Hollywood has embraced in order to sell the audience a degree of psychological realism coupled with an, often bloody, reality and something that Robert Rodriguez’s mirrored exceptionally well in From Dusk Till Dawn. It’s a level of subtly and nuance that has been largely lost in American cinema, certainly lost in
Hollywood horror cinema but one that Mikel exercises so
wonderfully that you curse technological advances for altering how we make
Aside from Mikel’s work on the piece The Corpse Grinders is highly enjoyable but lacking in any great depth or triumph. Kenney and Kelly give wooden performances that almost distract you from what the director is trying to do with the movie. Sanford Mitchell and Warren Ball (Landau and Caleb) are excellent as the two factory owners. There’s a tragedy to Ball as he plays the character out of his depth and somewhat remorseful yet he never tries to correct his ways making him all the more fascinating to watch. Their double act moments are like a morbid Laurel and Hardy that are both hilarious and tense to watch and it’s testament to their skill that they bring the best scenes out of our miscast leads. J. Byron Foster is also excellent as Maltby but to try and force anything else out of the film would be for word count alone as there’s little else to say.
The Corpse Grinders is, for all of its faults, an integral piece of exploitation cinema. It’s one worth watching because of the titles it echoes and what stemmed from it. It has earned its place of importance in the Exploitation Hall of Fame (not a real hall) but don’t be wasting too much time on it reading anything into it.