THE CORPSE GRINDERS
Director: Ted V. Mikels
Screenplay: Arch Hall & Joseph Cranston
Starring: Sean Kenney, Monika Kelly, Sanford Mitchell, J. Byron Foster
Running Time: 75 Mins
THE DOLL SQUAD
Director: Ted V. Mikels
Screenplay: Jack Richesin, Pam Eddy
Starring: Michael Ansara, Francine York, Anthony Eisley
Running Time: 88 Mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
When viewing the entire spectrum of exploitation filming, the majority of it is a band of quick, workmanlike, serviceable entertainment. Cheerful, and gaudy, designed to do nothing more than terrify or titillate (preferably both).
It’s when you look to either end of the spectrum that you find the real treats.
On the one hand, you have the creators that stand out from the perceived lowbrow nature of their genre (not that I’m one to make such elitist judgements, as a browse of my reviews, indeed my entire career should make clear). People like Mario Bava, weaving real artistry from cobwebs and silk lingerie.
On the other, you have those whose existence is simply baffling. People like Ed Wood, Herschel Gordon Lewis and, yes, Ted V. Mikels. These are the people who simply shouldn’t have a thriving career in film as they rarely showed an inkling of being able to competently make one.
For every badly framed shot, every inaudible line of dialogue (an occasional blessing given the scriptwriting chops on display), for every, grainy, washed-out piece of bloody horror onscreen that promises much but delivers only what the loose change in the filmmaker’s pocket could afford… there’s magic in these cinematic offcuts. A sense of energy, enthusiasm and an uncontrolled desire to entertain that turns what, objectively, should be a viewing chore into an unquestionable pleasure.
88 Films, whose entire catalogue seems to be built on these principles, are the natural UK home for Ted V. Mikels.
Like Doc Savage sporting a handlebar moustache, Mikels cuts a daunting profile, as proud and unapologetic as his movies. He once lived in a castle in Glendale, California maintaining a harem of women. Indeed, THE CORPSE GRINDERS is partially filmed in its grounds, a cemetery mocked up in his garden, a living room in his outhouse.
The story of a cat food company, tired of the exorbitant expense of purchasing meat, turning to the cadavers of the recently interred (or homeless) to fill their tins. Naturally, this moneysaving wheeze has the knock-on effect of developing a taste for human flesh in the cats who eat the stuff.
We shall ignore the apparent monetary flaw (is it really cheaper to buy corpses than offal?) because this is not a movie of logic. It is a grimy, grainy piece of schlock and awe. It is ugly, silly, clumsy and fiercely entertaining. The cats are better actors than the cast and the grinding machine is a plywood box that squirts mince.
Not even a narcoleptic could fall asleep during it.
The transfer is rough and the sound muffled but this is like criticising roadkill for not combing its hair.
The disc comes with a —surprisingly restrained — commentary from Mikels alongside a making-of feature.
It’s claimed that the movie was the inspiration behind CHARLIE’S ANGELS and it’s a logical leap.
Sabrina Kincaid (York) leads a team of all-female agents against rogue agent Eamon O’Reily (the resolutely Not Irish Michael Ansara). Given that this is a film without a budget, she does this mostly by running around a lot, modelling her bikini, or spending a terribly long time in a jeep.
What is particularly startling about THE DOLL SQUAD is how hilariously inept the female agents are, as if all concerned lost their bottle at the last minute and, despite their apparent intention to present the women as all-action heroes, decided instead to show them falling over and fumbling with their guns a lot. Remember Britt Ekland as the “amusingly” buffonish secret agent in Guy Hamilton’s 1974 Bond picture THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN? Now picture a trailer-park translation of her turned into a whole team. O’Reily is unfortunate indeed to still find his plan to spread the bubonic plague foiled.
Even the mighty chops of Tura Satana seem flimsy, a world away from her turn in FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL KILL!
The transfer is a marked improvement on THE CORPSE GRINDERS, while changeable, the picture looks nice and clean and the soundtrack, littered with bongos, is clear. As with the other movie, the disc comes with a Mikels commentary and a making-of feature.
Two more films from Mikel’s back catalogue are forthcoming, his crime picture GIRL IN GOLD BOOTS and the subtly-titled BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS.