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Corpse Grinders, The (1971)

Directed by Ted V. Mikels
Image Entertainment DVD

THE FILM
Some men work on automobiles. Others perform delicate surgery. Others still, practice law. However, only one man can claim ownership of The Corpse Grinders. His name is Ted V. Mikels. He does not fool around.

Ted V. Mikels was put on this Earth to make motion pictures. As is the case with any obsessed human being, his collective works are rife with faults. Or so most people would say. Unless you’re a polygamist, live in a castle and can lay claim to over twenty films in forty years, you wouldn’t know. Ted knows. That’s how he’s living.

The Corpse Grinders is the giddy centerpiece of a four year homemade-horror phase in the life of Mikels. It’s also a defining moment in off-the-cuff, vintage drive-in comfort. Originally released as part of the most novel triple bill of all time (“The Three Dimensions Of Shock” along with The Undertaker And His Pals and The Embalmer), The Corpse Grinders flaunts its creator’s stance. No affirmation is needed. Erratic confidence trails from every moist open grave, every $38 prop, and every sparse timpani bomp. Fog, sweat, mold, blood, food, bums, cheesecake (not the kind you eat), fake sign language, and killer kitty-cats. Clearly, Mikels has gone legit.

The Lotus Cat Food Company is enjoying a spike in sales. A few months earlier, goony owners Landau and Maltby clubbed a shareholder and inadvertently sent him sailing through the magic grinding machine. A new product ships. The kitties eat. The kitties kill. Landau and Maltby rely on gravedigger Caleb and his digs at “Farewell Acres” for a not-so-fresh supply of their secret ingredient. When that well runs dry, they murder bums. Three cheers for big business! For some reason, Dr. Howard Glass and Nurse Angie are on the case. Mortician comedy. Make-out breaks. Kitten surgery gore. Necro touchy-feely. For a Lotus employee, it’s all in a day’s work.

Old fashioned in terms of explicitness, but never at a loss for supple kinks, The Corpse Grinders is an invigorating experience. No matter how many times you’ve seen it. Luscious, dirt-cheap visuals (the corpse-grinding machine’s goopy discharge), a non-stop barrage of freaks, and Ted’s exotic technical skills all unite to form a writhing monument to independent weirdness. Better yet, the film lacks the rambling numbness that sometimes seeps into the T.V.M. oeuvre (main offender: Girl In Gold Boots). It’s short, sweet, and unified. Legit.

The profits from this $47,000 investment made Ted V. Mikels a millionaire. Again, he does not fool around.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
This is how you do it. The Corpse Grinders appears in anamorphic widescreen and splendid mono, retaining every ounce of its aged, gritty charm. I’ve watched this film for the last ten years via the Walterscheid Productions VHS. The DVD preserves the scratches, washed out color, and emulsion lines, but disowns the muddy picture. Digital resuscitation can sometimes destroy the charming impact of cheapo horror films. Here, the effects are amplified.

EXTRAS
First, the bit parts. There’s a stunning theatrical trailer, a lengthy behind the scenes still gallery (which includes a peek at some alternate nude takes), and a five minute shot on video “tribute” to the film from a band called The Bentmen. They sound a little like Ministry circa 1994, but with added funk. Press “menu” and put it out of your mind.

Welcome to the castle. Next up, T.V. Mikels kicks out a full length commentary track. In keeping with his other talks (Blood Orgy Of The She-Devils, for example), Ted starts out strong. After the first 30 minutes, the going gets tough. Still, the stop ‘n’ go offers up tasty information about Ted’s real-life castle in Glendale, California, set construction and shooting locations, and technical aspects. It goes by fast, but you’ll probably learn more by flipping through Re Search’s Incredibly Strange Films. Or John McCarty’s Sleaze Merchants. Or both.

Capping it off are five theatrical trailers for other Mikels films, all of which have been released on DVD under Image’s “Cult Cinema Collection” banner. Magnifique.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Farewell Acres never locks the gates. The Corpse Grinders hits the midnight mood and doesn’t fizzle out; it’s a true embodiment of exploitive fun. The DVD is both stunning and cheap, so take Ted’s lead. Don’t fool around.