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Dark Sky Films presents
The Flesh Eaters (1964)

"I will beat the flesh eaters with the only weapon we have left. Ourselves."
- Professor Bartell (Martin Kosleck)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 30, 2005

Stars: Martin Kosleck, Byron Sanders, Barbara Wilkin
Other Stars: Rita Morley, Ray Tudor, Christopher Drake, Darby Nelson, Rita Floyd
Director: Jack Curtis

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (minor horror-related gore)
Run Time: 01h:27m:03s
Release Date: October 25, 2005
UPC: 030306772998
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B- B+

DVD Review

Hollywood is littered with directors who have only made one film, and often they're as forgotten as their sole project. Jack Curtis, probably more widely known (though oddly unknown) as the voice of Pops on the English-dubbed Speed Racer series, is one of those, and in 1964 his single feature film was the low-budget horror title The Flesh Eaters. For some reason or another, this film made an indelible mark on me as a young horror fan, and I always kind of wondered why Curtis never made another feature. Thankfully Dark Sky gives Curtis his long-deserved props with a beautifully restored release of The Flesh Eaters, still full of understandably campy flaws, but looking better than ever.

After an opening sequence with a couple of expendable victims sets up the premise of something deadly in the water, hunky, square-jawed charter pilot Grant Murdock (Byron Sanders) reluctantly agrees to fly drunken movie star Laura Winters (Rita Morley) and her very able-bodied assistant Jan (Barbara Wilkin) to Provincetown. An unexpected storm and subsequent mechanical problems force them to land on what they assume is an uninhabited island to take shelter, and they soon discover the island has another inhabitant, the sinister Professor Bartell (Martin Kosleck). As the growing swarm of the titular mysterious phosphorescent organisms prevent anyone from going in the water, tensions flare as Bartell's true intentions are revealed.

The Flesh Eaters screenplay was penned by respected Silver Age comics writer Arthur Drake (Doom Patrol, Challengers of The Unknown, Deadman), so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the quick flow of the dialogue has that same type of feel to it. Characters speak in rich, short bursts, and it is almost possible to actually envision voice balloons with bold fonts and exclamation points over their heads. There is a pulpy noir veneer to Drake's words (one character even refers to Grant as a "big lug", and means it) and the cadence of the dialogue remains one of the film's pleasures. Even a number of Jack Curtis' visuals borrow that same comic book mentality, framing shots with interesting angles and closeups.

There is a curious mixture of early 1960s gore and sexuality in this print, with somewhat graphic shots like a very nasty leg wound on Grant to one of the film's signature moments of a disemboweled character set adrift on a raft after being forced to drink a cupful of the title beasties. The veiled sexy comes from the demure topless dive of the opening scene to Barbara Wilkins consistently cleavage-baring Jan, and while it seems quite modest by today's standards, this restored print from Dark Sky includes the original theatrical presentation.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: With their release of The Flesh Eaters, Dark Sky once again has proven that they are not just content to be reissuing clunky prints of old horror films. This spiffy new black-and-white 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of the original theatrical print is impressive, apparently struck from a nearly pristine negative, because the final product is largely devoid of any expected age-related blemishes, nicks or scratches. Some minor shimmer and a bit of haziness on some of the restored transitional scenes is evident, but the clarity and sharpness of the remainder of the print overshadows all that.

There have been quite a few subpar (re: awful) releases of The Flesh Eaters, and Dark Sky has really given the title a whole new life with this one.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 mono, and it is adequate without being particularly noteworthy. Voice quality is clear, with some minor clipping during shrieks and screams, but overall the presentation is typically the kind of flat, thin mix found on most low-budget horror films of the period.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There isn't a lot here, but what has been included should no doubt please the many fans of The Flesh Eaters. Let's start with the packaging, which is a clear Scanavo case that opens to reveal a nice picture of Grant and Jan on the beach staring at the giant flesh eater rising out of the ocean. An insert sports black-and-white poster art ("The only people who will not be sterilized with fear are those among you who are already dead!") on one side and a few words from the film's writer Arthur Drake on the reverse, written in July 2005. Drake talks about the budget, casting and dishes out kudos to unsung director Jack Curtis.

A real treat is the Rare Nazi Experimentation Sequence (04m:07s), added as an extra to keep "true to the vision" of director Jack Curtis, as a text scroll indicates. Presented in nonanamorphic widescreen, and understandably looking a little worse for wear in spots, the scene shows a secret Nazi laboratory doing experiments on some unlucky women who have to leap nude into a pool full of the flesh eaters. Sure, it doesn't make much sense that skeletons can pulled out of the water by their hair after every ounce of flesh has been eaten off their bodies, but just go with it, ok?

The Nazi Experiments Outtakes (:50s) shows alternate behind-the-scenes angles of the women leaping into the pool, and features prominent nudity, something that was delicately avoided in the final experimentation scene.

Dark Sky has also collected up a lurid and campy pair of original theatrical trailers for the film, a long version (01m:06s) featuring a stern warning from director Jack Curtis and a more traditional short version (:24s). The disc is cut into 14 chapters, with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

It might look more than a little campy and strange today, but for my money The Flesh Eaters remains one of the great cult horror titles of the early 1960s. Martin Kosleck really steals this one as the villainous Professor Bartell, and Dark Sky has done an exceptional job on the newly restored widescreen transfer, with all of the original and often edited gore intact.

Recommended.

 


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