Director: Ted V. Mikels
Vinegar Syndome

Vinegar Syndrome caters to "cats who love people" with their Blu-ray of Ted V. Mikels' THE CORPSE GRINDERS.

When cats start turning on their owners, resulting in a series of violent deaths, Doctor Howard Glass (Sean Kenney, TERMINAL ISLAND) and Nurse Angie (Monika Kelly, LOVE MINUS ONE) start wondering if there is a link between the attacks and the cans of Lotus Cat Food found at the scenes (which Angie also fed to her own cat before it attacked Howard). Their suspicions are valid since the factory managers Landau (Sanford Mitchell, THE SCAVENGERS) and Maltby (J. Byron Foster, SENSUAL ENCOUNTERS) have been using deposits at the nearby Farewell Acres cemetery as a source for cheap meat to grind up with grain in order to produce as much of the popular product as possible to save up enough money to flee to Europe. When caretaker Caleb (Warren Ball, UP YOUR ALLEY) and his dotty wife Cleo (Ann Noble, SINS OF RACHEL) demand they get everything that is coming to them, Landau decides to get rid of them and pursue alternate sources of "ingredients" by hiring a killer (Curt Matson, BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS) to procures fresher raw material by strangling winos on the street. Eventually, Howard and Angie's protracted investigation takes them to the factory where they may end up as the next victims of THE CORPSE GRINDERS.

One of the more overtly horrific efforts of schlockmeister Ted V. Mikels (THE GIRL IN GOLD BOOTS), THE CORPSE GRINDERS - from a script by Arch Hall Sr. (EEGAH!) and Joseph Cranston (THE CRAWLING HAND) – THE CORPSE GRINDERS does not live up to its title in terms of explicit violence, gore, or even the requisite nudity (victims of the cats and corpses being fed into the machine keep their underwear on) but it is wonderfully batty experience as only Mikels could make it. Exchanges between Landau, Maltby, and some truly odd and absurd supporting characters – from quippy morticians to the "oldsters" and mute cripples who Landau so charitably employs at the factory – make up for the comparatively dull scenes with the film's protagonists going back and forth between offices and houses for expository sequences when the audiences is so far ahead of them. Although the photography is largely static, Mikels livens up scenes of potential violence with quick cutaways to the inner and outer workings of the grinding machine and the meaty fate of its victims. Mikels' then-girlfriend Sherri Vernon (THE DOLL SQUAD), who also did the film's make-up, and former THE BLACK KLANSMAN star Richard Gilden both appear in the pre-credits sequence. In 2000, Mikels – who photographed, edited, and scored the film from library tracks – directed the direct-to-video THE CORPSE GRINDERS 2 – amidst three or four ASTRO ZOMBIES sequels – and executive produced the Mexican-made THE CORPSE GRINDERS 3 in 2012.

Released theatrically by Mikels himself in "The Final Dimension of Shock" triple bill with THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS and the black-and-white Italian thriller THE EMBALMER, THE CORPSE GRINDERS has been fairly accessible on home video with an 1980s World Video Pictures clamshell VHS release, Image Entertainment's 2001 anamorphic DVD and Alpha Video's 2007 reissue. While Vinegar Syndrome's back cover and slipcase specify the source as a 2K scan of the 16mm original camera negative, the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen presentation itself is preceded by text describing the source as a "well worn" CRI (color reversal internegative), and the latter seems more likely since Mikels shot the film with his Arriflex 35mm camera and the presentation looks as though it may be from the same source as the DVD editions with additional digital restoration and clean-up. The high definition image is clearer and crisper in detail but also much cleaner (some defects still remain). While Mikels' comic book-ish use of purple gel lighting is less noisy here than on the DVDs, his contrasting use of green gels is more apparent than before. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track is relatively clean and optional English SDH subtitles have also been included.

While Mikels recorded a commentary for the earlier DVD, that track has not been carried over but filmmaker Elijah Drenner (AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE) has provided a new track (as he did for Vinegar Syndrome's earlier THE DOLL SQUAD/MISSION: KILLFAST Mikels Blu-ray) that also features rare archival audio recordings from the private files of Ted V. Mikels and vintage Drive-In Theater announcements for “The Final Dimension in Shock”. Drenner discusses his discovery of Mikels and his grudging respect for this film and BLOOD ORGY OF THE DEVILS (while discussing his later digital video work as "hard to watch"), and getting the chance to meet Mikels while recording sound for the Wisconsin-lensed PLANETFALL during which he got to travel to Las Vegas with director Michael J. Heagle (GO TO HELL) to shoot scenes featuring Mikels as an actor. He discusses the film's "regional quality" that looks as though it was filmed nowhere near Southern California (the cemetery scenes were shot on the property of his future Glendale castle where he lived with a number of "castle ladies"), plays some of the "Final Dimension of Shock" announcements, and also touches upon Mikels' polyamory (including an audio recording in which he espouses his patriarchal version while noting the failure of matriarchal models) which the late director himself was reluctant to discuss at length (noting that Mikels was commissioned to make ALEX JOSEPH AND HIS WIVES about the Mormon fundamentalist who later founded his own polygamist sect).

Also included is the “Ted Talks” (18:00), an archival interview from 2007 shot at his studio in which he discusses leaving Hollywood for Las Vegas and the long path to establishing his own studio, showing off his Moviola, Arriflex 35mm camera, and more recent high definition camera, while also lamenting the passing of the period from the 1960s to circa 1973 in which he was able to distribute his films across the country through sub-distributors before having to rely on less reliable and less trustworthy distributors for his later films (which explains why he has no film materials for a number of his later productions for which Image Entertainment had to resort to tape masters for their DVDs). While a stills gallery (0:38) is provided, it is puzzling that Vinegar Syndrome was not able to source even a standard definition video source for the film's fun theatrical trailer ("Do you know what this is? It's a corpse grinding machine!") but they have provided a great reversible cover and garish slipcover. (Eric Cotenas)