Today’s movie is a little story that answers the age-old mystery of what cat food is made of: “The Corpse Grinders.”
“The Corpse Grinders” was directed, produced, edited, scored, and co-written by Ted V. Mikels, a b-movie legend who also created “Girl In Gold Boots,” “The Astro-Zombies,” “The Black Klansman,” and “The Doll Squad.” The other credited writers were Arch Hall Sr., best known for “Eegah,” and Joseph Cranston (“The Crawling Hand”).
The executive producer on the film was Peter James, who was also behind “Head in the Clouds,” “The Merchant of Venice” starring Al Pacino, and a 2005 adaptation of “Beowulf & Grendel.”
The cast of “The Corpse Grinders” is made up mostly of inexperienced exploitation actors, like Sean Kenney (“Star Trek,” “The Toy Box”), Sanford Mitchell (“The Scavengers”), Warren Ball (“The Harem Bunch”), Ann Noble (“Sins of Rachel”), Vincent Barbi (“Dolemite,” “The Astro-Zombies,” “The Blob”), and Drucilla Hoy (“Sinner’s Blood”).
The story of “The Corpse Grinders” centers on a cat food company that is grinding up human corpses to make their product. The result is, of course, that domestic cats begin going wild and attacking their owners.
“The Corpse Grinders” spawned two sequels many years after the fact: “The Corpse Grinders 2” in 2000, and “The Corpse Grinders 3” in 2012.
In 2013, the Las Vegas Review Journal did a spotlight feature on Ted V. Mikels that covers many of his eccentric life experiences, as well as how the digital revolution affected his film making. Apparently, he at one point lived in a castle with a veritable harem, has a distinctive mustache, and is generally a bit of a creepy oddball. However, he also provided some interesting insights into his film-making process, particularly why he almost always worked with amateurs, and how that rounded him as a director:
“I found that the people I could use, the only ones I could afford, were people who didn’t have the type of experience that I required. So I had to put some tutoring into them to get what I wanted.”
The cat food company featured in “The Corpse Grinders” is called Lotus Cat Food Company. As luck would have it, there is now an actual pet food company that uses the name Lotus: Lotus Pet Foods. Much like the recent popularity of “Soylent,” based on the infamous product from “Soylent Green,” perhaps using the name “Lotus” has given the company a slight boost.
A 2008 documentary was made about the long career of Ted V. Mikels, called, appropriately, “The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels.” The movie was made by documentary maker Kevin Sean Michaels, who also created a feature about the infamous horror host and “Plan 9 From Outer Space” star Vampira.
The infamous corpse grinding machine, according to Ted V. Mikels, was constructed out of plywood and a series of bicycle parts, contradicting the myth that it was made precariously of cardboard.
Justifiably, the reception to “The Corpse Grinders” wasn’t exactly glowing. It currently has an IMDb rating of 3.4, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 17% (critic) and 28% (audience). That said, the outlandish plot has cemented the film as a cult classic of the good-bad quasi-genre.
The budget for “The Corpse Grinders” was reportedly less than $50,000, which is astoundingly low even for low-budget flicks.
“The Corpse Grinders” obviously suffers from being as cheap as it is: the actors aren’t good, the effects are iffy, and, most notable of all, the sound quality is just awful. However, considering all of this, the film really isn’t all that bad. The biggest issue is probably how slow it is, as the plot plods around a bit too long.
If there is anything to say positive about “The Corpse Grinders,” it is that it is imaginative. The film came out the same year as “Willard,” which popularized the use of otherwise innocuous creatures as the subjects of monster movies, which led to films like “Night of the Lepus” and “Frogs.” However, “The Corpse Grinders” does a better job of explaining why the cats are attacking, something that most of the others gloss over. “The Corpse Grinders” also makes some interesting use of colored lighting during certain scenes, which creates a bizarre ambiance for the corpse grinding room.
Ted V. Mikels is, of course, an exploitation director. As you would expect from the genre, there’s a lot of inexplicable lack of clothing throughout the film, but it could certainly have been more flagrant. From what I have seen of Ted V. Mikels, “The Corpse Grinders” is actually pretty low-key among his films.
Overall, “The Corpse Grinders” is an imaginative little cheap flick with an interesting concept, but it suffers immensely from having an extremely low budget and being paced awfully. The experience of sitting through it is unfortunately pretty boring, and the highlights are rare and fleeting. That said, a supercut of them is probably worth checking out.