Corpse Grinders, The (1971)

Some people work on automobiles. Others perform delicate surgery. Others still, practice law. However, only one person 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. But unless you’re like Ted (a castle-dwelling polygamist who made over twenty films in forty years), you wouldn’t know. Ted knows.

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. 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 — all of these things spell 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 and colorful 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.

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

From the Archives