‘Absolutely nothing will prepare you for what will see!’
The Flesh Eaters is a 1962 [released 1964] American science fiction horror feature film directed by Jack Curtis from a screenplay by Arnold Drake (Who Killed Teddy Bear).
According to Brian Albright’s Regional Horror Films, 1958 – 1990, the Third Reich flashback sequence was added by distributor Mike Ripps (of Poor White Trash fame).
In the UK, the film was released in 1968 by Grand National on a double-bill with Death Curse of Tartu, having been passed uncensored by the BBFC (so it was presumably pre-cut).
A wealthy, over-the-hill actress named Laura Winters (Rita Morely) hires pilot Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders) to fly her and her assistant Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin) to Provincetown, but a storm forces them to land on a small island. They soon meet Professor Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) a marine biologist with a German accent who is living in seclusion on the isle.
After a series of strange skeletons wash ashore (human, then fish) it turns out the water has become inhabited by some sort of glowing microbe which apparently devours flesh rapaciously. Bartell is a former US Government agent who was sent to Germany to recover as much of their scientific data as possible. He was chosen for the job for his scientific skills and knowledge of the German language. Using the methods learned there he hopes to cultivate a group of monstrous “flesh eaters”.
A beatnik named Omar (Ray Tudor) joins the group after becoming shipwrecked on their shore. Tensions mount after the plane drifts off into the ocean, leaving the castaways and Bartell as potential meals for the ravenous monsters…
“The threat here is patently impossible and the nervous terror is fun in a goofy campfire-story way. It starts like a morbid take on a Beach Party flick. A girl on a pleasure boat loses her bikini top, followed by the rest of her body when the title critters attack. All we see are some screaming faces and water boiling with dry ice, and the main titles pop on with a visceral chill.” DVD Savant
“Some of the film feels very serious, almost nihilistic […] It could have used less arguing and more flesh eating, but the pace picks up in the final third. Things so especially crazy in the final ten minutes.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
” …this movie looks great. It’s one of the most well-shot and intelligent constructed “b-movies” I’ve seen from this period. The small budget hasn’t stopped Jack Curtis and Arnold Drake from filming it like it would be a Hitchcock-movie, a noir-classic or something that usually has more ambitions than to scare people.” Ninja Dixon
“The Flesh Eaters is a tense little black and white horror flick that exceeds the constraints of its budget with more than enough thrills and remarkably innovative bloody effects. The plot line, dialog and acting are deliciously over the top…” variety.” DVD-Drive In
“The film’s effects are hit-or-miss quality-wise, but they always achieve the desired result. The miniature flesh eaters were rendered apparently by scratching directly on the film’s emulsion. When we later see them a bit bigger, they’re obviously rubber-flappingly fake, but their bulbous, alien appearance is truly creepy.” The Gentleman’s Blog to Midnite Cinema
Cast and characters:
- Martin Kosleck … Professor Peter Bartell
- Byron Sanders … Grant Murdoch
- Barbara Wilkin … Jan Letterman
- Rita Morley … Laura Winters
- Ray Tudor … Omar
- Christopher Drake … Matt
- Darby Nelson … Jim
- Rita Floyd … Radio Operator
- Warren Houston … Cab Driver (scenes deleted)
- Barbara Wilson … Ann
- Ira Lewis … Freddy Miller
- Jack Curtis … Radio Deejay (voice) [uncredited]
- Arnold Drake … Pete’s Beat Singer (voice) [uncredited]
Jones Beach, Long Island, New York