Friday, April 15, 2016

The Flesh Eaters - They'll Rip Your Flesh Apart!

By Steve D. Stones

The early 1960s began to push the envelope for over-the-top graphic violence in movies. The films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, such as Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) gave audiences a close-up look of flesh and organs being torn off human bodies. The Flesh Eaters (1964) also pushed the envelope for gore and violence on the screen.

A washed up, alcoholic Hollywood actress and her secretary are determined to make it to Province Town, a place across the Atlantic ocean close to the New York coast. They hire a pilot, played by Byron Sanders, to fly a chartered plane across the ocean. Sanders warns the two women that a dangerous storm is on the horizon. They offer to triple his salary, and off the three go across the Atlantic.

A failed engine forces the trio to crash land on a remote island in the ocean. Here they meet a crazed Nazi marine biologist named Dr. Bartel, played by actor Martin Kosleck. Kosleck seems to be type-cast here because he had a habit of being cast as a Nazi scientist in a number of other films from the 40s and 50s.

Dr. Bartel is conducting experiments on tiny carnivorous sea creatures that eat the flesh off the bones of other marine life. A human skeleton and several fish skeletons wash up on the shores of the island.
Being an evil scientist, Bartel offers a glass with the creatures in it to a shipwrecked beatnik, played by Ray Tudor. Tudor drinks the glass, thinking it is scotch, and immediately his stomach bursts open in one of the most graphic, appalling scenes of the film.

Eventually the carnivorous creatures in Bartel's lab grow into one large creature that looks like the cross between an octopus and a Sunday dinner roast. Sanders injects the giant creature with the blood of the remaining survivors. This somehow kills the beast.

Scenes showing the carnivorous creatures eating into the flesh of their victims were achieved by scratching small sections of the film negative. This is a crude optical effect, but it seems to work quite well.  Some of the strangest sequences are flash back scenes of Nazi experiment labs showing nude women being lowered into a pool of the creatures. Their skeletons are pulled from the pool with their hair still intact. These scenes were cut from television prints of the film.

Movie patrons were offered packs of "instant blood" to protect them from the flesh eaters. The film would make a great double-feature with I Eat Your Skin, also from 1964, since both films use the same theme of survivors who crash land on a remote island. Happy viewing!

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