That makes sense in a film made at the end of the ’60s camp fad; by the time Mikels made this film, the notion that cat-food could make monsters of little kitties could be recognized by many of the more ‘hip’ at the drive-in as a humorous excuse, after a few puffs on a doobie, to go back to necking in the back-seat.Ten stars for this bad movie because it is truly one of a kind. I’m not going to talk about the admittedly silly premise of the film, because it happens to be similar to the premise on which Val Guest built “The Day the Earth Caught Fire,” a very good sci-fi/disaster anti-nuke drama from the early ’60s. Guest demonstrated that the way to deal with a silly ‘scientific’ premise was to unravel it gradually, having no one accept it on face value, until it could no longer be denied; while concentrating your film-making abilities on the dramatic interaction between well-developed characters, supplying them with a convincing visual backdrop of the world eroding into chaos.Well that certainly doesn’t happen in this film. Actually, it’s a joke.Here’s the tell-all moment about the budgeting of the film and the incompetence with which it is made – I think it half, but I remember the percentage higher, of the shots used to depict the effect of Miami’s freezing and the response of the population there are localized on a single hotel swimming pool. That’s right, a swimming pool, and a rather small one (low budget hotel for a low budget movie).

The best review here so far has been Timothy Farrell’s from 2007, that remarked this film as the best-paced and most consistent from director Mikels. But most of the comments, both favorable and unfavorable, have been largely on the money – which in itself tells us we have a rather strange critter here. I.e., how can we say of a film that it is a camp classic in one comment, and that it is not a camp classic in another comment, and yet both comments be right? How can we mock such a film for its cheesiness and then admit that it wallows in that cheesiness, as if cheesiness were among its redeeming values? The answer of course is that Mikels made this film with tongue firmly in cheek.

This is the problem that the writer, producer, and director must own. Either Doctor Who is a series worthy of proper storytelling, or it is a throwaway for a quick buck.Recognizing that this episode was clearly intended for children, I’ll give it a little extra credit. But I expected more – a solid story taking advantage of the animated media. Karloff’s Wong compares quite favorably to the various screen interpretations of Charlie Chan.


These characters are all profoundly unpleasant and two-dimensional; except for Martin, who’s rarely on screen.The film is apparently a remake of an Italian sex-farce, Wife for a Night; that in itself tells me that the whole project started off badly. (And continued – the Walston part was intended for Peter Sellers, who Wilder couldn’t deal with, and Wilder himself suffered heart problems.) But the main problem is that Italian comedy is coming from a very different tradition than Wilder’s (so clearly related to Lubitsch), so it’s really impossible to guess why he tried what he was clearly unsuited for.Not much to add except the cinematography is good, and the music sucks. (Apparently based on material the Gershwin brothers decided needed reworking… maybe they were right?).Caused a minor scandal in its day – but it was easy to cause scandals back then. Nevermind; it is the first in the series of Hammer Frankenstein films that ran well into the ’70s.

Most exploitation-horror films of the time (especially those coming out of Europe) took themselves way too serious. Even looking back to Ed Wood, one reason that “Plan 9” is so amusing is because Wood clearly thinks he is saying something important with it, even if he’s not sure what.There were important exceptions, of course – Corman’s “Little Shop” is overt comedy, and “The Undertaker and his Pals,” while providing the necessary gore and ‘suspense’ also throws in large dabs of comic bits and dialog. But “Corpse Grinders” avoids the obvious – there is no overt buffoonery, no sight gags or puns here. Instead Mikels simply pushes a ridiculous plot device – cats eating human meat go crazy, because desperate racketeers can’t afford the butcher’s bill – as far as it can go, and allows the characters involved to be their low-life selves. Thus we end up with a weird slice of trailer-trash Americana. That’s evident to some extent here as well, but in this case there seems to be a secondary audience targeted – those capable of getting in on the joke.

The animation of Dreamland is clearly based on computer game CGI. Not great, but certainly of its time.The animation of Infinite Quest is also of its time, not great either, although given over to impressive visual effects in the foreground and background. But the real difference between these two Doctor animated episodes has to do with something far more basic. Dreamland, whatever its visual weaknesses, tells a strong story with a discernible beginning – middle – end. Infinite Quest – does not.In fact the narratology of Infinite Quest is very similar to that of The Pescatons, jumping and skipping over essential details.

That could be interesting if Walston had been directed against type – but he isn’t – he is directed to be a character actor – in a leading role? Once Walston appears on screen, the film goes straight to hell. In fact it is hell, a weird kind of wigged-out Nevada version of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry – why? To provide a small enough stage to make small characters look large, I guess; doesn’t work.

Everything is here – the homage to universal, the darker characterization of Doctor Frankenstein, the decision to place the series in a 19th century setting…. The ending of this short film would be rewritten as the end of “The Curse of Frankenstein.” Okay, it’s not really much more than a neat little B-movie short; but what else would one want from a Hammer horror film? And the hiring of Universal horror films writer Curt Siodmak to write the script is a nice touch of linking with the ‘grand tradition’ of Frankenstein films. It is certainly entertaining and moves quite well, and everybody puts their best into it. (The “making of” featurette on the DVD is a wonderful look into the making of a higher budgeted ‘indie’ movie by the way.) But there is one serious flaw to the film, and that is Renée Zellweger’s performance.

Obviously there was no longer any purpose served in evoking the Battle of Britain, so the location of the film is moved to America. The birds of the film then take on an entirely different quality – they become what can be called ‘an open metaphor’ meaning that they can be interpreted in any number of ways. To one asking “why are they attacking humans en masse?” the proper response is “what is it you most fear? that’s what they will represent to you.” Hitchcock does provide us with a key to his own interpretation, by adding a clinging mother to the family unit. Hitchcock, for better or worse, is the most overtly Freudian of directors – as the birds gather in the background preparing their assault, the central players quietly dance around the problem of the lead female’s sexual attraction to a man whom his mother has effectively neutered. Only the sudden onslaught of the birds allows him the moment to reclaim his status as head of the family, and by that time his would-be lover has been severely damaged.