Apparently there may be a couple of different version of the film The Flesh Eaters (1964) floating around, but this is the only one I've ever seen, so it's the only one I can comment on...I do want to take a moment to thank another Amazon reviewer named Charles, who very clearly, and appreciatively, delineated the differences between the DVD version that was originally supposed to be released, versus the version that eventually was released. Written by Arnold Drake (Who Killed Teddy Bear), and directed by Jack Curtis, whom some may know through the late 60s animated series Speed Racer (English version) as the voices of Pops Racer, Lionel Racer, Inspector Detector, and others, the film features perennial silver screen Nazi villain Martin Kosleck (Bomber's Moon, 36 Hours, Morituri) and daytime soaper Byron Sanders ("The Doctors", "Search for Tomorrow"), who, apparently, was the model for Salvador Dali's oil painting "The Crucifixion". Also appearing is Barbara Wilkin (I Saw What You Did), Rita Morley ("The Edge of Night"), and Ray Tudor, whose only other film credit is a movie titled Five the Hard Way (1969), better known to Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans as The Sidehackers, featuring the indomitable Ross Hagen, who doesn't not appear in this film.
The movie opens on a young couple frolicking on a good-sized boat. They end up going for a swim, followed by some ominous, yet kookie sound effects...that can't be good...and it isn't, for the couple, at least. Next we're at a seaport somewhere in New York City (see the Empire State Building in the skyline?) and we meet a hunky, granite jawed, all American charter sea pilot named Grant Murdoch (Sanders). Seems Grant's has some fiduciary issues (he's in hock up to his eyeballs), and is forced to accept a business proposition to fly a boozy actress named Laura Winters (Morley), and her buxomlicious secretary Jan Letterman (Wilkin) to a place called Provincetown, despite a wicked awesome tropical storm moving into the area. The trio take off, but soon run into difficulties as the plane's engine conks out, and they had to set down on the beach of what they believe to be an uninhabited island...turns out the island isn't completely uninhabited as no sooner do they land than they meet Professor Peter Bartell (Kosleck), a marine biologist camped on the beach studying shellfish, or so he claims. The group shacks up in the Professor's tent while the storm blows over, some stuff happens, the plane is eventually lost, Ms. Winters is in need of her `medicine (one of her suitcases, left on the plane, was filled with nothing but booze), the beach is cover with the bones of fish corpses, and Grant begins to suspect the Professor has more of an interest on the island than just crustaceans. Soon it's discovered the waters around the island are teeming with microscopic, parasitic flesh eating life forms, and the group has no means of escaping. But wait, there's some dingus on a raft coming towards the island, a really annoying hepcat, beatnik, be-bopping fool named Omar (Tudor), who sadly makes it to the beach intact...eventually Bartell's relationship with the parasitic creatures along with his evil plans becomes clear, all leading up to a real doozy of a finale.
This movie definitely had its flaws, the main one being the didactic, expository scripting, but in terms of sleazy, schlocky sci-fi cinema, it most definitely hit the spot. One of my favorite scenes involved Grant getting some of the parasites on his leg, and Professor Bartell performing some on the beach surgery with his knife...after removing the creatures from Grant's badly injured leg, Bartell yells to Jan for bandages, to which she promptly removes her shirt...hello eye candy...hotchie mama! Okay, she was wearing a bra, but still, you gotta love a woman of action, willing to doff her clothing in a time of need. As far as the performances, I thought most did very well (I really hated Tudor's beatnik character, but found solace in his eventual fate). Were they predictable? Perhaps, but predictable with flair... Kosleck's played a similar character in numerous films, but I never seem to get tired of it...you wacky mad scientist types, how could I not love you? As far as Sanders, well, he just seemed like a soap opera actor in a sci-fi/horror film, his strong features placing him squarely in the role of the hero. I think my favorite character was of Laura Winters, played by Rita Morley. I couldn't decide if I liked her character better drunk or sober. Drunk, she was pretty funny, while sober, she was kinda smarmy, condescending, and just a lot of fun to watch. Some aspects of the film didn't really jibe for me, like after Grant's incident with the parasitic creatures chewing up his leg and subsequent hack surgery, we see him bounding about like he was never hurt (perhaps the filmmakers forgot to tell him he was supposed to be injured, or his character was a quick healer). Also, if Ms. Winters was the complete boozehound she was made out to be, I would have fully expected her to be suffering from a serious case of the D.T. (delirium tremors) once she was cut off...one last thing, what the hell was Bartell doing with a giant solar collector on the beach? Ah well, given how much fun I had with the rest of the film, I suppose these were relatively minor points. The special effects were pure bargain basement, mostly involving someone manipulating the film negative (scratching it or such), but it worked for me (when you're dealing with minimal budgets, you sometimes have to resort to the most economical methods). The creature effects near the end were most excellent, and I was surprised to see a couple of fairly gory sequences. All in all, given this was director Curtis' one and only film, I'd say it was one hell of an effort, and definitely worth checking out if you dig this sort of thing. One interesting credit has Radley Metzger as the film editor here...if you're unfamiliar with Metzger, he's basically one of the pioneers of adult cinema, and the inspiration for Burt Reynolds' character in the Paul Thomas Anderson Boogie Nights (1997).
The widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic picture on this Dark Sky Films DVD release is most excellent in terms of clarity, much better than I would have expected, and the audio is very clear. Extras include two trailers for the film, along with a deleted, lurid, Nazi experiment sequence, and outtakes. It seems Fred Olin Ray's Retromedia group was originally going to release this DVD, and they even got film historian Tom Weaver to do a commentary track, but that didn't make it to this release, which is too bad as I'm sure he would have a lot of interesting bits of information to relate.
By the way, the artwork on the DVD case for this film may give the impression the film is in color, but it's not...it's glorious black and white, through and through (I guess there was a color sequence near the end in one version of the film, but that's not the version on this DVD).