CORPSE GRINDERS (1971)
WRITER: Screenplay by Arch Hall & Joseph Cranston
Uncredited - Ted V. Mikels
DIRECTOR: Ted V. Mikels
Sean Kenney as Dr. Howard Glass
Monika Kelly as Angie Robinson
Sanford Mitchell as Landau
J. Byron Foster as Maltby
Warren Ball as Caleb
Ann Noble as Cleo
Ray Dannis as Mr. Babcock
SYNOPSIS: In need of some cheap supplies for their struggling cat food company, the owners come up with the brilliant idea to use real meat in their recipe. Real meat from dead human bodies harvested from the local graveyard. Things get complicated when the cats who eat the food gain a taste for human flesh and begin attacking people.
THE WHOLE BLOODY MESS: It was a dark and stormy movie that faded in to a scene of a downpour on a quaint little home, as a furry little feline frantically scratched at the doorway to get inside.
Inside the house are the cat's owners, just sitting around in what looks like the den where Herschel encountered the drug party from Blood Freak. Finally the owner gets off her duff and gets the door. The cat quite rightly pounces upon her for leaving him to get drowned in the rain, in what is the most unconvincing animal attack this side of Monty Pyton.
You can totally tell the poor cat just wants to get away, is pissed at being thrown at her, and wants out of the rain as it climbs up and over the woman's head
The screen freezes on her and her boyfriend staring at the blood on her neck from the cat scratches, and the movie flashes scenes of blood and gore with a few severed limbs tossed in for good measure. This is...
The movie moves on from the random feline violence to a foggy cemetary late at night, where we see Peter Jackson tending to a grave. He calls to his wife, hoping she has something for him to eat.
I really hope this guy is the caretaker, because otherwise he's some weirdo in the cemetary for no reason, and he brought along his wife, plus he's got a case of the munchies. That's a whole new level of odd if he doesn't work there and live nearby or on the grounds.
They have a typical couple fight about money, or as typical as one can get having an argument atop a fresh grave while eating jerky. Rather than drag that on any further, Caleb tells his wife to grab the tools and don't get involved in his affairs. Dude, if you don't want her involved in your affairs, don't bring her on your midnight grave diggings. Just sayin'.
Oh, and on top of all the weird so far, Cleo is carrying a baby around with her. So Caleb's little extracirricular activities are a family affair. But wait, it gets even better. It isn't even a real baby, but a doll. A very obvious doll. There is no way to mistake it for an actual, living person, unless you squint and hit your head with a stuffed beaver. Anyways, the 'kid' is going to have one warped idea of what camping is when it gets older.
As they walk off, a body laying on the ground is revealed, wrapped up in a blanket or whatever. Um, shouldn't we bury that too? Will someone be by to take care of him? Anytime soon? Or was he just dug up? Either way, it's not a good idea to just leave him out like that. Someone might notice him, or an animal might come along for a bite to eat.
Ok, the fake baby is really bugging the hell out of me the more I watch. Is it a real baby or fake in the context of the movie? Is it supposed to be real, or is the woman crazy and carrying around a surrogate for a real child? Are we just supposed to go along with this, and let our suspension of disbelief to the work? I'm sorry, but if they were too cheap to get a real kid, or get one to work the required hours, they should have just nixed it. There's no way the thing is important to the plot at that age. Whatever age a fake baby could be at. Any hope of me ever buying that thing as real defenestrated itself by the way its bloody mother is carrying the thing. First, it's just stuffed under her arm like she's carrying...well, a fake baby! Next we see her carrying the thing BY THE ARM. Awesome parenting there. Let's pretend it IS a real baby and start adding up points for wanton child abuse because no one gave a big enough shit to treat the prop with any sort of believability.
And it doesn't take long, since they get home and the mother BENDS THE KID IN HALF and shoves it onto a seat while roughly manhandling it. I'll place the call to child services, you guys make sure she doesn't eat the baby. Good gods. Production values? What are these production values of which you speak?
This...this can't be real. I am not watching this. I am not seeing what I am seeing. They can't actually expect me to believe this is a real baby, can they? They've almost given the thing closeups as the mother feeds the doll soup. Feeeeeds the dollllll soooooup. Let that sink in. It is so clear, so obvious, that the kid is a doll, it isn't even funny.
Ok, it's a little funny.
Peter Jackson tallies up some bills to he can collect money, and someday start a film company, while the movie jumps elsewhere, filled with a lot of oogly people.
The janitor, who makes the fake baby look like a genius, almost runs afoul of his boss Landau when he comes close to entering the back room they have been forbidden to go into. The movie is almost as random as Waxwork 2 thus far.
Landau heads into his office where his partner in crime Luckman...I mean Maltby is waiting. The pair of them get interupted by Little Orphan Annie whose all growed up and hobbling around on crutches because she has only one leg. And she's deaf to boot. This place really believes in affirmative action, based on all the special needs employees they've hired.
I also question whether or not Landau and Tess actually use sign language to communicate, or if they just made up random hand gestures. Guess which way my suspicions lie?
Tess's crutch acting is about as believable as anything else I've seen in this movie so far, which is to say 'not at all'.
While Landau and Luckman discuss the poor monetary situation of Lotus Cat Food, the movie finds another locale to exploit with a hasitlly created Doctor's office where a nurse is trying to feed her cat from a Lotus can.
The office is so cheap looking, it is all white walls with nothing decorating them. Again, fine production values!
The doctor comes in and something alcoholic out of the medicine cabinet, which is a rather great play on words, and laments losing another patient. Or at least I think so, the soundtrack kept inserting loud cat howls. That thing must really hate Lotus Cat Food. Do the people making this movie think cats just make loud noises all the time?
Doctor Glass and the nurse start making out, which just upsets her cat even more based on the sounds it makes, until Angie gets called away. Glass, who has so far been stoic and calm, even when talking about losing a patient says she better, or he'll lose his self-control. Please do, it would be a nice change of pace from whatever you're doing so far.
And just like that, Scruffles shoots off the floor and *ahem* attacks the doctor. Which so far in this movie means that the actor holds the poor animal against them as the thing tries to squirm and get the hell away from the insanity. The cats are the smart ones, people, they want out! The cat keeps squirming, and you actually can see Doctor Glass truly fighting...but to keep the cat ON him. Hilarious.
I love that when Angie returns, she says the doctor was scratched, but the only thing the cat did was push and paw at his jacket as it tried to escape. Also, they do their best to keep the side of the face that got scratched away from the camera, so they don't have to do makeup for it.
Meanwhile, back in the cemetary of justice, Cleo is cradling her babydoll, while her husband does some more creative landscaping. They carry the pile of bodies down to the gate where Landau and Luckman are waiting. Peter Jackson calculates how much they owe him for his trouble based on how much each one weighs, figuring the effort to lug them out of the ground and carry them around. Pretty clever, dude.
Pete's itching for his money, but Landau isn't ready to pay him just yet. The longer he waits, the more money he gets all at once. Yeah, that's great until you need to pay the power company. He's ready to go to the cops if they don't pay up soon, what with all the dirt he's dug up for...er, on them. As they pull out of the cemetary, some Tom Selleck looking dude steps out of the bushes and watches.
Back at Lotus, the partners in crime load the first body onto the conveyor belt, a young woman who...you know what? If it wasn't for the fact that I'm already buying into this movie grinding up human bodies for cat food, I'd question them leaving on her underwear to be ground up with her. My first thought is, "I don't want a bra strap in my cat food!" but really, once your cat food contains ground up human remains, what's the diff?
We leave the People-Doh Fun Factory splurging out its goo, to the van outside being loaded up with cat food as Tom Selleck continues to watch. Who knew Magnum P.I. was so intent on busting up a cat food murder syndicate?
Next we jump to a mortuary where Landau is chatting up some staff and dropping off pork-flavoured fluid that he's got them using instead of formaldehyde.
Yes, pork flavoured enbalming fluid. Why...do I even need to start raising the myriad of questions that arise from this premise? How do you talk a mortician into that? Just how do you possibly sell that idea? Would it even work as an enbalming agent? What possible reason could you give that the outside world, any sane individual, would accept to cover up your real reasons to make people pork flavoured? How the heck do you even come up with the idea to porkify people after their dead, so they've been nicely marinated in flavour juices when you later dig up those self same bodies to mince up to sell as cat food? And most importantly, WHAT THE HELL!
That's insane, plain and simple. Also, they are bringing in way too many people in on their evil scheme to keep it a secret.
With that massive bit of WTF passing by like a trainwreck, the movie settles down to relative normality at a woman's apartment, where she's trying to sleep while her hungry, Lotus-fed cat prowls the room looking for fresh meat. With all the cans scattered about either empty or closed, it jumps up on the bed and chows down on its owner.
Her wild mountain man hobo neighbour runs up the stairs to save her, but he arrives too late. Off camera, he grabs 'the cat' and flings it against the wall. I assume this, based on the awful, awful noise they dubbed in. I really don't want to know what they did to collect these sounds.
Herman the Hermit takes her to Doctor Glass, and gives his first hand accounting of what happened, despite not being in the room, or the apartment, or even on the same floor, and thus would be unable to state that the cat just went crazy.
They figure the cat must be dead from the beating it received at Herman's hands. Doc Glass is asked if he'll go and risk his life to find out for sure, but he decides that he should send Herman instead. Yeah, I'd send the beared wonder that no one would miss on the off chance the crazy furball is still alive too.
The movie literally jumps from "Let's go get that cat!" to a very graphic disection. At least we're not wasting any time.
Doc is checking out a sample from the cat's stomach, when he's interupted by another doctor with the results of another sample. Where did that come from, and how did he analyse it that fast? We just saw Glass cutting the kitty open. Of course, since the cat was eating its owner, it isn't surprising that it has human flesh in its stomach, so that proves nothing.
Back at Lotus, Annie signs to her boss that they're out of ingredients. Or maybe that she wants her paycheck. Who knows? Anyways, they send everyone home, and we learn that the cat food business is still tight on money, which makes no sense. They're not paying any of their conspirators, they keep deferring payment after payment, and we've been told that cat food is flying off the shelves to the point that people can't find it. So where is the money going? There are hints that Landau is hoarding it all, but it's never outright said. And if that's the case, why would he do everything in his power to stop himself from making more money?
They call in the rather special janitor, and Landau proposes using him in the next batch, which his partner is against. Chopping up the dead is one thing, but murder is too far. Ahh, a graverobber with a conscience.
Landau comes to the realisation with their murder that the world is full of ingredients, so there's no need for Caleb anymore, which is good, and will save them money, because uh... Actually, they haven't paid him at all yet.
Let's pause for our favourite mini feature, the logic check. Ok, dead bodies are one thing. You could argue that no one will really notice, since they're six feet under, and out of sight, out of mind. Murder on the other hand, tends to be a lot more noticable. Plus, isn't that killing off potential buyers?
Doc Glass and Angie search out the dead woman's apartment, and find cans of Lotus scattered about. They start piecing things together, but wow is that a leap of logic, or what? The most popular brand of cat food that everyone's buying? That's like finding a box of Cocoa Puffs in Jeffrey Dahmer's house and assuming it drives everyone coocoo for them.
They don't quite know why it's making homicidal little rage kittens, but Doc finds some information in a handy encyclopedia in his office; cats are already on the border of being wild animals, and tigers in particular can become frequent man eaters once they've tasted human flesh. So the housecats must be reacting the same to the cans of Soylent Tuna.
You know, with everything else in the movie, I can just about buy that explanation. Once you go human, you never go back.
The doctor wants to just let the police handle it, but the nurse says they don't really know anything, and this is clearly a clinical problem, and that's their field. Excuse me? Their field is...what? Their field is clinical? Clinical what, exactly? Cat food experts? Clinical anthropologists? Clinical catographers? They might as well say their field is executional, it makes as much sense.
The clinical detectives try to track down the company, and start with the Food Adulteration Agency, which pretty much reacts the way most people would by thinking they're nutty. They do get their hands on an address though, so it wasn't a total waste.
While the FAA (Not that one, the movie's made up one) laugh at the doctor, the head's secretary goes home and guess what she has? A cat and some Lotus cat food. Let the attack, and gratuitous prancing around in underwear, commence!
As the secretary disrobes, the clinically insane find a dotty old woman at the address they found. She's the wife of the man who filed the paperwork for Lotus. She hasn't seen him in months, and doesn't seem too bothered by this. Oh, and Magnum is back, going through the Doc's car.
The secretary's cat finally calls upon its inner Red Lantern and attacks. It was only licking the top of a can, so unless they're not sealed very well, I don't know why. It had no other trigger. It was already near its owner. It just licked the can, went to the secretary, and just randomly pounced. This was premeditated cat rage, people!
The clinical doofuses arrive at Landau, Luckman, and Lotus posing as a couple going on vacation, and need a case of Lotus' food for their pet. Landau feels something is wrong, and is smart enough to give them a case from the days before they started making cat food out of people.
Once the dynamic duo leave, Landau and his partner have it out, and the movie goes into infodump mode. The missing man, Carlton Babcock, whose address the Doc got from the FAA, and was the main funding behind Lotus. Eventually he became disatisfied with the results he was getting from Landau and friends, so he decided to pull their funding. Lucjman grabs a noose dangling right behind Babcock's head and throws it around his neck. Despite earlier comments that he hit Babcock, not strangled him.
So to dispose the body, what with a strangled man being bad for business and all, they decide to make Babcock the first batch of new ingredient into the cat food. And now you know the rest of the story.
Peter Caleb is still digging up fresh ingredients, and takes his latest find up to the house to store it. Yeah, that's a great idea. Let's keep the cadavers in the kitchen.
Landau gets busy grinding bodies, while a thug they hired does his best to keep the drunken bum population in town at a minimum. All while leaving their gravedigging partner high and dry, as he keeps digging up bodies and stacking them in the kitchen like cord wood. Another bit of child endangerment, that.
We already have way too many questions, but here's a few more. They obviously haven't been by in awhile to collect bodies, so why is Caleb still digging? I wouldn't bother getting more until they placed an order, as it were. They've gotta be stinking by now. And I doubt the pork flavouring helps any.
We know there's several bodies there already, so Caleb either waited several days and despite no signs of his friends decided to go on a digging binge, or he's been digging up one or more a night. At this point he should be thinking that's enough and he'll save his back until Landau comes for a pickup. Instead, he just stacks them up in his house. EW. There is so much wrong here, I can't even think about it.
Doc Glass gets back to the FDA for their findings, and even they say the samples are clean, since this was the pre-corpse grinding cans. Sure, they've told us that the food is disappearing from shelves, but surely SOMEONE has a can laying around unopened they can grab? What about Angie the nurse? She buys it all the time. Where's all her samples?
They're still certain Lotus is at the heart of the cat attacks, so Howard and Angie head back to the factory under the cover of darkness, all while Magnum is still lurking and watching doing nothing. They're about to discover what's behind the door, when Landau and Luckman interupt them.
The medical morons try their vacation story with a twist, but it doesn't fly. It doesn't even taxi up to the runway.
Landau heads off to the graveyard to see Caleb, and he's pretty grumpy that Landau is witholding funding for Lord of the Rings 4. While bringing yet another body into the kitchen. Anyone want to explain why he's bothering, when there's no expectation of pickup?
Caleb wants his cash up front from now on, and he blurts out the one line you never blurt out in a movie when you're face to face with a killer; "I want exactly what's coming to me!"
He pulls out a gun to try and force Landau to pay him before he'll load up any more bodies. Surprisingly, Landau actually pays him off. Caleb puts the gun down, and while he's distracted counting the cash, Landau pulls out a gun of his own, and adds one more body to the kitchen floor.
Caleb's wife arrives just in time to see all this, and she runs off, DROPPING THE KID TO THE GROUND. In fact, Landau even steps on the kid as he rounds the corner chasing Cleo. The microphones clearly pick up this fake little cry those sorts of dolls make when you squeeze them. This movie has just utterly given up any pretense of quality, hasn't it?
She keeps running deeper and deeper into the cemetary, clutching desperately at a wreath of flowers. Yes, she holds on with a death grip to that, but drops her kid to the cement to be stepped on. Sigh.
Landau finally catches up with her and does what child services wishes they could do and finishes her off. They do a neat trick of cutting quick between her face and Landau's They've had other moments like this, doing almost future flashes of events to come, like before someone dies, there's flashes of them being turned into ground chuck or ground sarah. It's kinda clever, and an interesting storytelling gimmick. I'll give the movie that.
Angie heads back to Lotus on her own, wearing completely different clothes than last we saw her, and she is totally oblivious to a very obvious lurking Luckman who grabs her from behind, until his hand is very much in front of her face and almost covering her mouth.
Glass finds a note Angie left, and it's bright out so it should be day. But then we jump back to Landau lugging bodies and it's night, so it's been a very long time, and the continuity is just all over the place in this movie. Clothes swap around and back between scenes, it's night, no it's day, it's a red sky...there is a total lack of flow to any of this.
Luckman drags Angie to the back room, and she comes face to face with piles of body parts. In a bit of a blooper that actually made the final cut, she slips, grabs for purchase, and pulls down a fake arm onto her head. Her screams are probably a little bit real at this point. Business must be booming. They've gathered up so many bums, they can't grind them fast enough.
Nurse Robinson eventually wakes up and starts screaming, and Luckman tries to calm her down by saying he doesn't want to hurt her.
Yeah, anyone else see the problem here? "I don't want to hurt you," and, "tied down on a conveyor belt that feeds a machine that grinds up meat," are two WAY mutually exclusive ideas.
Landau returns and decides he's sick of his partner's whining so caps his ass then dumps him into the grinder, giving Angie a chance to roll off the conveyor.
And that's when the doctor arrives and foolishly calls out to Angie, getting a bullet in the chest as a response.
Now, this cat food is driving the kitties crazy, and they keep showing about a dozen cats milling about the door to the back room. They probably want the food they know is behind the door. We've seen several people walk through this throng of felines, but they don't attack. Why not? They're raaaage kittens! They demand flesh! Make them get it!
But no, they just sit there and mew, even while the Tom Sellecky guy finally decides to join the movie and say hi to the cast.
Magnum somehow dodges three bullets from Landau, and plugs him back with two, killing him pretty much dead. That wraps things up at Lotus, I guess.
He helps the doctor out, and explains that he's a special investigator looking for Babcock. Holy crap, he IS a PI! This guy who has done nothing during the entire movie saves the day. Yeah, that's top notch storytelling.
And the movie finally, mercifully ends with a shot of the hungry hungry kittens climbing over Landau's body. I think they're supposed to be eating him, but they just look bored.
Just when I think it's over, the movie shoves one last indignity in my face when after the credits it runs the trailer. For the movie I just watched. The trailer for what I just watched after it's over. That is definitely a sign for...
Video: Pretty bad, but it's a 1970s grindhouse film, so it's kinda supposed to be grainy and scratchy. A little cleanup might have been nice, but you kind of want all that crap. My bigger complaint is the lack of any real clue on lighting. Dark scenes, and a lot of crazy lightning choices, because they had a lot of gels to slap on their lights, and wanted to just have fun with them. Fun that gave us scenes that are lit with a red light on one side, and a green light on the other, making it look like the Christmas movie from Hell.
Audio: Again, 1970s grindhouse audio. Nothing special, often hard to hear. But it is what you would expect from that type of movie.
Special Features: Hey! This movie actually has some! There's a commentary by Ted V. Mikels himself, that is little more than him narrating the movie, but there are a few interesting tidbits mixed in there, and even answered a few unclear points in the movie. There's also a making of feature that's short, and pretty average for a behind the scenes clip.
Best Line: "The world is full of ingredients!" Sums the movie up, and the manic look of glee on Landau's face when he says it is perfect.
First Kill: 23 minutes in, the character actually named Annie getting chomped on by Scruffles.
Best Kill: Most of the bodies are pre-executionaled when we see them, but we do get Babcock noosed and ground up, and makes him a little special in all this. I'm tempted to say the baby, but we don't know if it was supposed to be real or fake, or if it actually would be dead from being trod upon.
Blood Type: Not a lot of actual blood. A few splatters of ketchup here and there. And some dead bodies and body parts, but otherwise nothing to write home about.
Sex Appeal: There's quite a few women wandering around in their undergarments. And a few who aren't wandering.
Movie Rating: There is almost nothing good to say about this movie. Poorly shot, poorly acted, badly lit, insane story of nonsense, bad audio. There is literally no redeeming value here. One out of five cans of rage inducing cat food.
Entertainment Rating: Well, there is entertainment to be had here, and that's about it. Sadly, I was hoping for a little bit of Soylent Green meets Night of the Lepus, and sadly it is more the former, and less the later. The cat attacks are VERY few and VERY far between, and so awful. If there had been more cat violence, that would've been something, even if they were laughable. There is still a lot to poke fun at, but sadly the movie was not what it could have been. If you're a cat fan, I'd say avoid this all together, as there is some very obvious scenes of cats being hurt in the days before such things were monitored, and made me cringe. I can only give this three out of five baby dolls.