The Flesh Eaters
A tabloid infamous actress depends upon her personal assistant to keep her even more dependant companion of alcohol, and her lack of sobriety, hidden whilst off set. A full time job for Jan Letterman, and in order to whisk her employer Laura Winters to her next assignment she pays three times the going rate to charter a small sea plane. Pilot Grant Murdoch takes the fare, but he and his two passengers encounter engine trouble out at sea, and a storm is on the horizon. Murdoch is forced to seek a safe place to land to run a diagnostic on the plane, and to take shelter from the approaching bad weather. A small, uninhabited island provides sanctuary. Upon landing, however, they are startled by a lone man, himself equally surprised to meet with other people. He introduces himself as Professor Peter Bartell, a marine biologist. There is something very guarded about his purpose for being on the remote island, something that later reveals itself with ghastly consequences in, The Flesh Eaters !.
Martin Kosleck’s portrayal of the German professor, with Nazi connections in his ongoing research and experimentation with micro organisms, is more than convincing. If anyone were to rein act his life on screen the closest comparison would undoubtedly be Udo Keir. As Professor Bartell, Kosleck is obsessed with creating a new life form. One that is a literal living organism capable of complete and utter devastation of living flesh. An entity derived from the Nazi tests on human life and one contrived to feast upon living tissue. A microscopic form of piranha, in their billions of billions !.
Pilot Murdoch is suspicious of the professor from the outset and his reserved, yet clear sense of self importance rubs both of the women up the wrong way. Peter Bartell is a misogynistic megalomaniac, intent upon harnessing the virulent micro miscreants and selling their all but insidious malignancy to the highest paying world war mongers.
The secluded island setting is perfect for this low budget early shocker, with gore ahead of its time, to convey the isolation and futility of the small casts situation. When the protagonists become fully aware of what Professor Bartell has been up to, during his self imposed segregation from society upon the non indigenous island, the true horror of the implications of their arrival unravels. The sea water surrounding them on the isle is populated with the flesh eating organisms. When amassed together a silvery glow glistens within the water, and resonates from the picked to the bone carcass of dead fish upon the beachfront, and the skeleton of a human !.
In true mad scientist manner Professor Bartell is feeding up his progeny, and the infusion of great electrical charges into the water have an affect akin to super advancing their natural evolution. The resultant monstrosity that rises up from out of the sea is a creation of pure Sixties styled Sci-fi / Horror that is worth the price of admission to behold.
The Flesh Eaters is an overlooked horror mini masterwork, ahead of its time and with some quite startling images that still shock today. Gun shots to the face, pernicious organisms eating into the flesh of humans, and the resultant expulsion in bloody fashion from unwittingly ingesting the micro beings through an intentionally spiked drink !.
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the film is the more than implied Nazi experimentations surrounding the discovery of the original fairly inert organisms. Director Jack Curtis shot a back story segment, detailing Nazi experimentation in their laboratories during the second world war, showing Nazi scientists using helpless human beings as guinea pigs to witness the external, and internal devastation that the Flesh Eaters would bring about. This entire portion of film is included with the movies release on DVD as a supplemental extra. The directors decision upon initially releasing the film was that the film played better without the interjection of this material. Upon watching the main feature it is evident where the segment is intended to be, and although it is arguable that the film benefits from its director preferred presentation, due to sustained suspense leading to the films conclusion, the scenes themselves are perhaps the most shocking of all. The controversy of having audiences at the time witness such stark barbarianism, still resonating from a period not so very long prior in history that was factual in human experimentation, may well be the more resounding reason for excising from the movie !.
A debateable curiosity of controversy, and equal measure of daring diversity in the field of horror, made well before the boundaries of shock and gore truly came into force later in the decade, and beyond. The starkness of the piece from its setting, and the minimal use of cast, works extremely well, and the black and white movie stock accentuates both the horror, and moments of blood and gore, to an extreme that the use of colour would undoubtedly have diluted.
The Flesh Eaters Trailer
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