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An alcoholic actress, her personal assistant, and their pilot are downed on a secluded isle by bad weather, where a renegade Nazi scientist is using ocean life to develop a solvent for human flesh. The tiny flesh-eating sea critters that result certainly give our heroes a run for their money - and lives. Written by
Martin Kosleck stars as the most detestable villain in cinema history
Martin Kosleck's number was in the Los Angeles phone directory,and I just happened to dial long distance on two occasions in 1982.The man himself answered the first time,and Christopher Drake the second,and between them,I had the opportunity to express my appreciation for "The Flesh Eaters"(1962).Mr.Drake(who also appeared in the film)related the sad news that the director,Jack Curtis,had died in 1970,and that all the filmmakers were justifiably proud of their efforts,though only the distributors saw much of the profits.He added that shooting was done on weekends over two successive summers,which confirms the impression that it was a labor of love.What I never learned until recently,is that the film was shot silent and completely post-dubbed,an amazing feat that is not obvious on first viewing.Rarely offered starring roles(and doing only a dozen features after 1948),Martin Kosleck here gets to play what I consider the most detestable villain in cinema history,and it is clearly his own voice on the soundtrack,done in the same dedicated fashion as the rest of the cast.While the beatnik character of Omar may be off-putting to some,his death scene is my favorite in the picture,as the doctor effortlessly convinces the ninny that they should drink a toast to friendship,which hits "the ever lovin' spot"(Omar's words),unaware that the doc has spiked his drink with a fatal dose of Flesh Eaters(which the audience is clearly shown).Far better written than just a clichéd mad scientist,there is never a point when Kosleck earns any sympathy,even when his death scene is shown to be just as horrific as Omar's.But at Universal in 1944-46,Kosleck was treated like a star,and fondly remembered one in particular,the 1946 thriller "House of Horrors," in which his villainous "starving artist of ill repute," driven insane in clichéd fashion by an unappreciative public,never once loses our sympathy as he induces a spine-snapping killer known as The Creeper(Rondo Hatton)to strike back at his enemies.The top-billed leads,Robert Lowery and Virginia Grey,are such a tiresome,colorless pair of boorish nincompoops(along with all of the big city critics on hapless display),you begin to wonder if Martin's character is written to be the hero! His roles in bigger films like Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent"(1940),"Confessions of a Nazi Spy"(1939),and numerous other Nazis were usually small,so it was these "forgotten little programmers" that gave him more exposure and garnered more fan mail.On a final note,he pointed out that the actor he most enjoyed working with was Basil Rathbone,first in 1940's "The Mad Doctor," then 1945's "Pursuit to Algiers." The former was not about your typical mad scientist but a complex psychodrama,with Kosleck snuffing out his share of victims,the latter was one of the last Sherlock Holmes adventures,with Kosleck as another homicidal maniac,whose knife-wielding abilities are negated by Holmes' swift actions.There aren't many left from Hollywood's Golden Age,and there won't be another due to changes in technology,the death of the drive-ins,and the radicalization of Tinseltown.The films will survive the people who made them.
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