FLESH EATERS, THE (director: Jack Curtis; screenwriter: Arnold Drake; cinematographer: Carson Davidson; editor: Radley Metzger; music: Julian Stein; cast: Martin Kosleck (Prof. Peter Bartell), Byron Sanders (Grant Murdoch), Barbara Wilkin (Jan Letterman), Rita Morley (Laura Winters), Ray Tudor (Omar), Rita Floyd (Radio Operator), Christopher Drake (Matt), Darby Nelson (Jim), Barbara Wilson (Ann, bikini clad victim), Ira Lewis (Freddy Miller, victim of attack by shiny creatures); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Jack Curtis/Terry Curtis/Arnold Drake; Dark Sky Films; 1964)
“A lovable but bad mad scientist B-film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An entertaining exploitative low-budget b/w drive-in early splatter horror flick directed by Jack Curtis (some even suggest it was the first splatter film). It’s sprinkled with sarcastic dialogue by writer Arnold Drake. It looms as a lovable but bad mad scientist B-film, that appears to be a humorless precursor to Gilligan’s Island.
The opening scene has Ann and Fred frolicking in their boat in the New England sea playing ‘he stole her bikini top’ game as she jumps in the water with him in pursuit, and while in the water both get devoured by flesh eating shiny creatures.
The next scene is in the harbor in NYC where Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin), the personal assistant of famous movie actress Laura Winters (Rita Morley), hires the gruff speaking square-jawed pilot Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders) to fly them to Provincetown, in order to get the star there in time for a stage appearance despite an oncoming hurricane in the forecast. Jan gets the sourpuss pilot to take the risk by saying: “I’ll give you three times your regular price.” Grant replies: “That’s just about the market price for one slightly used life. It’s a deal!” With that, they shove the drunken actress into the seaplane. While trying to outrace the storm, they run into motor trouble as the carburetor freezes and they crash-land on a deserted island. On the beach they meet someone even more obnoxious than the three of them, a creepy German accented marine biologist named Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) doing research on the island, who gives them shelter in his tent. In the morning they discover the seaplane drifted out to sea, which is blamed on a drunken Laura who is spotted at the beach holding onto the rope used to keep the plane moored and unable to remember a thing. They also discover the island is loaded with fish skeletons intact while the flesh is completely eaten, and further learn that numerous shiny slugs are responsible for this as they are able to scorch the flesh they touch.
They soon learn that the nutty Bartell created these monsters, as he’s carrying out the same experiments he learned from the wartime unethical Nazi experiments that he witnessed and failed to report to the US government when he worked for them after the war. Bartell now plans to develop these slugs as a new weapon and sell his discovery to the government that gives him the highest bid, whether it is the Soviets or Americans makes no difference to him. The mad scientist’s attempt to electrocute the slugs as supposedly a way of destroying them, only brings them back to life and results in creating a couple that grow into menacing giants. When the alcoholic Laura sobers up and finds out what Bartell’s up to, she intercedes to opportunistically make a deal with the wacko. But he stabs her and buries her in a dune, and when she somehow comes back to life is fatally shot by Bartell. An obnoxious bean-eating beatnik known as Omar (Ray Tudor), who has shipwrecked on the island and arrives by raft spouting ‘love is the only weapon,’ is also murdered by Bartell as he’s given a cocktail with the shiny slugs to drink and then devoured by the flesh eaters. The sinister scientist then pulls out a Luger on Jan and Grant, now romantically linked, hoping to keep the visitors on the island as guinea pigs.
How the pilot and secretary deal with Bartell, their new blissful romance, the numerous shiny slugs and the two monsters created, becomes the story line for a gory special effects film that jettisons its serious tone in the end to become absurdly cartoonish. Some might even find such a bad B-film enjoyable as lightweight entertainment, but I didn’t.
REVIEWED ON 3/18/2009 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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