Monday, 10 March 2014

The Corpse Grinders (1971)

One of the greatest exploitation movie titles ever, and a film that over the years has frequently found its way onto Top Ten Worst Lists, Ted V Mikels’ iconic grindhouse picture has finally found its way onto UK DVD courtesy of 88 Films.
For those of you who think you may have seen it but aren’t quite sure, here’s a reminder. THE CORPSE GRINDERS is the one about the Lotus Cat Food Company (“For cats that love people”) that’s putting ground up human meat into its tins and thus turning house cats into man eaters. It’s the one where there’s a gravedigger with a pink coat and a wife who wears a ginger fright wig and mumbles to a toy doll she clutches with all the anxiety of a neurotic five year old. It’s the one where the secretary of the cat food company has one leg and can’t hear or speak. It’s the one where cat attacks are created by the director throwing moggies at the actors who then hold on to them for dear life to simulate feline aggression. It’s the one where the grinding machine itself is basically a large cardboard box with an old fashioned lawnmower blade fitted at the front and a couple of papier-mache levers at the back. 
Have I convinced you to watch this yet? I hope so, because while THE CORPSE GRINDERS is bad, it is never dull, and any connoisseur of terrible cinema who hasn’t watched this has a treat in store. Watch hero Dr Howard Glass' gaily coloured acrylic sweater change from scene to scene! Sometimes it’s a white fluffy angora one in a no doubt completely coincidental but nevertheless poignant tribute to Ed Wood! Watch the camera wobble around until it finds what it’s supposed to be pointing at! Gasp as important dialogue happens offscreen while the screen itself is occupied with watching a nurse getting undressed and then dressed again! 
It’s just possible that THE CORPSE GRINDERS is the most honest grindhouse movie ever made. The title alone would have been enough to have anyone but the hardiest (and indeed the foolhardiest) cinema-goer leaving well alone, and then it goes on to deliver on its promise of dead bodies being ground up and turned into cat food. It’s incompetent at times, and daft all the time, but it’s never, ever boring. There’s even one shot towards the end that actually looks quite professional (and somewhat reminiscent of an EC comics panel) and the scenes with the grinder are lit in Bava-style pinks and greens, probably because that was the colour of the lampshade in the cellar at the time.
88 Films’ presentation of THE CORPSE GRINDERS is a bit of a scratchy old transfer but it’s eminently watchable. In fact the only reason I think this could look better is because I’ve seen such pristine versions of similar tatty old gory entertainments like BLOOD FEAST. There’s a commentary track by Ted V Mikels himself, a making of, and the usual trashy trailer park reel. I’ll admit I was dreading reviewing this one as I didn’t think it could possibly hold up to its reputation, but it does. THE CORPSE GRINDERS is terrifically entertaining rubbish. Now I can’t wait to watch THE DOLL SQUAD.

88 Films are releasing Ted V Mikels' THE CORPSE GRINDERS on DVD on 17th March 2014

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