Before the internet happened, film fans had to rely on a thing called books to find out about obscure films that couldn’t even get played on the lowest wattage UHF stations. One of those books was RE Search: Incredibly Strange Films that gave attention to the work of indie directors such as Russ Meyer (Vixen), Doris Wishman, Frank Henenlotter (BasketcaseBlood Feast) back in 1986. They were names that never get bantered about in a college film appreciation class. One of the directors interviewed in this seminal tome was Ted V. Mikels. The filmmaker who once lived in a castle outside of Hollywood understood his audience wanted a certain level of extreme in a film to make up for his lack of budget. He knew how to appease the grindhouse audience that wasn’t going to compare his film to the latest Doris Day flick. Nowadays his “biggest” film is The Girl in the Gold Boots that’s part of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But Mikel’s finest film was The Corpse Grinders which dared to go one step beyond the normal grave robber plot.
Late at night a woman goes to let her cat in the house only to find herself attacked and killed by her once sweet feline. What could have possibly turned her pet evil? She went out of her way to spend a little extra to get Lotus cat food. It’s specially made for “cats who love people.” And that turns out to be the problem since the secret ingredient in the can is people. Turns out the owners of the company needed to cut corners to save money and decided that instead of buying meat, pork or chicken, they paid off folks at graveyards to dig up the freshest of dearly departed. They’d go back to the factory and toss the corpses into the corpse grinding machine and everything ends up in the can for kitty’s dinner. While it seems like a great scheme to make the company profitable, they didn’t count on two things. Cats that eat Lotus would become maneaters. And supply of recently deceased wouldn’t keep up with demand from cat owners wanting the best for tabby. This leads to the business owners tempted to find fresh supplies of the secret ingredient. The local police are on the case, but will they be willing to expose the dark secret of the town’s hottest new business?
The Corpse Grinders is a gem of ’70s exploitation since it lives up to the title. There really is a machine that turns bodies into catfood. The cat attacks are gross and bloody. Even with a micro-budget, the film delivers the goods. The cat food angle is gross, but speaks about modern businesses that are about the bottom line. The film is only 73 minutes long so it moves at a fine rate. There’s no stretching the story out in the second act to make it a two hour epic. Ted V. Mikels didn’t disappoint theatergoers with a great premise covered in cinematic boredom. People came to see corpse grinding and they got it. Mikels truly belonged in the pantheon of cult directors covered in Incredibly Strange Films with a film that lived up to the title. After The Corpse Grinders, you’ll never look at premium catfood without a shudder.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The folks at Vinegar Syndrome has done a tremendous job cleaning up the film so the blood pops on the screen. Mikel shot part of the movie with extreme green and red gels on the lamps so that it feels like a precursor to Dario Argento’s Susperia. The 1080p transfer allows these colors to shine without overwhelming the details. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono. The levels and mix is great for a film recorded on a shoestring.
Historical Commentary Track has filmmaker Elijah Drenner discuss the history of the film and filmmaker using audio clips from Mikels. Drenner also found out about Mikels through Incredibly Strange Films.
Ted Talks (18:00) sits down with Ted V. Mikels before his passing last year. He points out that the film was packaged as the Final Dimension of Shock with two other films to create a program for theater. He also mentions that he shared office space with Bozo the Clown near Paramount Studios.
Stills (0:38) includes the original lobby cards and promo material.
Vinegar Syndrome presents The Corpse Grinders. Directed by: Ted V. Mikel. Screenplay by: Arch Hall Sr & Joseph Cranston. Starring: Sean Kenney, Monika Kelly, Sanford Mitchell, J. Byron Foster and Warren Ball. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 73 minutes. Released: October 24, 2017.
Tags: Ted V. Mikel, The Corpse Grinders, Vinegar Syndrome