Orgy of the Dead

Color, 1971, 73 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Ted V. Mikels
Starring Sean Kenney, Monika Kelly, Sanford Mitchell, J. Byron Foster, Warren Ball, Durcilla Hoy
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Image Entertainment, Alpha Video (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), 88 Films (DVD) (UK R0 PAL, Umbrella (DVD) (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

If The Corpse Grindersnothing else, you have The Corpse Grindersto give the late, great Ted V. Mikels (of epic mustache and castle lady fame) credit for coming up with some of the greatest titles in exploitation history. The Astro-Zombies! Ten Violent Women! Blood Orgy of the She-Devils! Way up among the best of his “gotta see it” titles is one of his longest-running drive-in hits, The Corpse Grinders, which inspired an epic poster art design and far more shot-on-video sequels than any sane human being could ever want to see.

When docile house cats start going ballistic and attacking their owners in a bloodthirsty frenzy, Dr. Howard Glass (Terminal Island’s Kenney) thinks something is afoot. Aided by foxy nurse Angie (Kelly), he soon traces the activity to the sinister Lotus Cat Food company, where Landau (Mitchell) and his mute sidekick Tessie (Hoy) have been using graveyard attendant Caleb (Ball) to supply them with corpses to turn into cat food. Now the combination of grave robbing and cat food carnage has unleashed a furry plague on the city that could affect pet owners and their neighbors everywhere.

A famously The Corpse Grinderscheap and charming production, The Corpse Grinders is still perhaps best known for the grinding device itself, a painted box that drags actors in and ejects ground beef from the other end. It’s simple, it’s stupid, and it’s utterly unforgettable. All of the actors appear to have been left to their own devices, which results in a The Corpse Grindersstrange clash of styles including Ann Noble, star of the astounding Sins of Rachel, chewing the scenery with glee as Caleb’s mentally damaged wife. Mikels also tries to inject some bona fide style in here at times with vivid, colorful lighting designed to camouflage the lack of funds, and the script was co-written by none other than Arch Hall Sr., director and co-star of Eegah! opposite his more famous son, and Joseph Cranston (The Crawling Hand), father of Bryan.

Widely circulated in theaters on various double and triple bills throughout the ‘70s, The Corpse Grinders received its first DVD release in 2001 from Image Entertainment as part of its Cult Classic Collection line (along with several others Mikels titles). That release featured an audio commentary by Mikes, and unfortunately, anyone who sat through Mikels’ early stabs at doing commentaries knows what a tough slog they could be with lots of narrating of events on-screen and long gaps of silence. Some of the info is still useful, but it takes some effort sifting through to find it. Also included were an "Immaculate Contraption" music video tribute by Bentmen, The Corpse Grindersa gallery of behind-the-scenes photos, the theatrical trailer, a Mikels filmography, and bonus trailers for The Worm Eaters, Ten Violent Women, Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, Girl in Gold Boots, and The Doll Squad. The Corpse Grinders

The 2017 Blu-ray and DVD dual-format edition from Vinegar Syndrome features an opening disclaimer that the best available source was a CRI used for creating prints, which still bore some signs of wear even after restoration. That said, it's much better than any transfer we've had before and nicely conveys some of Mikel's more audacious lighting touches. Though obviously grainy and not the prettiest film in the world, the element here is much cleaner than past transfers and reveals more information in the frame, though the compositions shift around somewhat from reel to reel compared to the older release. Optional English SDH subtitles are included for the An audio commentary by Elijah Drenner (with some archival excerpts from a great pre-show program and other bits and pieces) is an entertaining walk through Mikels' cinema with notes about the performers in this film and trivia about the locations (including the site of Mikel's future house), and if you ever wanted to know what Ted Mikels has in common with Wes Anderson, Woody Allen, and Nicolas Roeg... well, you'll find out right here. A 2007 video interview with Mikels (18m.) offers an overview of the nuts and bolts of how he put his films together independently and got them released, and a still gallery is also included.

The Corpse GrindersThe Corpse GrindersThe Corpse GrindersThe Corpse GrindersThe Corpse Grinders


The Corpse GrindersThe Corpse GrindersThe Corpse GrindersThe Corpse GrindersThe Corpse Grinders

Reviewed on October 30, 2017.