Cannibal Cat People From Outer Space!
Nearly 30 years after the events of the first film, young Landau and Maltby (nephews of the original owners) reopen the Lotus Cat Food Company as a quick means to make a buck. With a copy of the original recipe (the secret ingredient being human corpses, of course), and a distinct lack of moral code, these two are raking in the cash in no time. But with a suspicious doctor on their tail, and an unknown corporate entity who wants to buy out the company, their fate could go either way…
Simultaneously redundant and out of left field, THE CORPSE GRINDERS 2 had the promise of a good time but ultimately squandered it and leaves one wildly disappointed. A few nice additions to the lore aren’t enough to overcome the uneven tone, uninspired effects, and lazy scripting. If you’re looking for a wackiness, there’s plenty to be found here, but if you’re looking for a wacky good time, you’re better off going back to the original.
Ted V. Mikels returned to the Lotus Cat Food Company after 29 years away. Why? It’s difficult to say, but I’m sort of glad that he did it. I’m all for belated sequels, especially when done by the same creative force that was behind the original. THE CORPSE GRINDERS was an endearingly cheap piece of exploitation cinema, so why not reignite it with a more modern sensibility, especially if there’s a new story to be told?
Unfortunately, Mikels’s new story is one part a complete rehash of the original, and one part science fiction story that basically ruins the film for me. The man was no stranger to sci-if—he had directed THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES (1968) after all—and that’s fine; but shoehorning a science fiction element into a horror “franchise” where it didn’t previously exist is never a good idea. It would be like putting Pinhead or Jason in outer space. (Oh, wait…). Here, it took a very basic horror concept that was admittedly slightly ludicrous and made it endlessly more ludicrous, ravaging the horror tone of the film.
In the first film, deviant businessmen Landau and Maltby discovered that buying corpses for ingredients in their cat food was cheaper and more appealing to the felines than using the typical fare. A doctor and his nurse learn the truth and get involved, and cats turn on their masters. This time around, however, deviant businessmen Landau and Maltby discover that buying corpses for ingredients in their cat food is cheaper and more appealing to the felines than using typical fare. A doctor and his nurse learn the truth and get involved, and cats get…well, a little pissy.
Oh, and there’s also a race of alien cat people who are at war with a race of alien dog people, and the alien cat people come to Earth to find food for their survivors. And nothing sates their hunger quite like the fine product from the Lotus Cat Food Company.
Is it a remake? Is it a sequel? It’s kind of a little bit of both, like EVIL DEAD 2—but with 100% more aliens.
At the onset of the film, when the text crawl began like a low-rent STAR WARS, I was beyond confused, and had to pause to make sure that I was watching the right movie. The alien dog people were created by poor CGI (it would have been poor even when this film was first released some 16 years ago), and the cat people were just normal humans in cat tee-shirts and furry ears. I wasn’t expecting AVATAR here, but that was the problem. I wasn’t expecting any of this. Couple this with the fact that a pretty decent portion of the running time was spent observing the day-to-day routine of running a cat food business—if you’ve ever wanted to sit in on a board meeting, this is your chance—and that the movie doesn’t so much wrap up as it does end (all the better for the next sequel, one would falsely assume) and you’re looking at a pretty rotten horror film.
That’s not to say that it’s all bad—or, rather, all worse than I was expecting. There were a few nice additions, chief among them the souped up grinder and the fact that this time around Landau and Maltby pay off the coroner to use flavored embalming fluid. Now that’s the type of ludicrousness that fits with the storyline.
As mentioned before, Ted V. Mikels wrote and directed THE CORPSE GRINDERS 2, and he also produced it and appeared as the quirky Professor Mikoff. In 2004, Mikels would revisit his Astro-Zombies universe with MARK OF THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES and turn it into a genuine franchise. THE CORPSE GRINDERS 3, however, on which Mikels was only a producer, would have to wait until 2012.
Much of the cast never seem to have achieved great things in the business, aside from a few other Mikels projects and some tangential ties to Ed Wood. The exception here is Liz Renay, who played gravedigger Caleb’s ill-fated wife Cleo. Renay appeared in films like Ray Dennis Steckler’s THE THRILL KILLERS (1964), the Arch Hall western DEADWOOD ’76 (1965), cautionary exploitation story THE HARD ROAD (1970), and the John Waters film HARD LIVING (1977). Even apart from her contributions to cult cinema, Liz Renay would be a fascinating character worthy of an article devoted entirely to her. Perhaps someday, but until then, a brief rundown:
She was born Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins in Chandler, AZ on April 16, 1926 (or thereabouts—the exact date and location may vary depending on the source) to religious parents who no doubt would resent her later exploits. She grew to be a 5’2” blonde with extreme measurements of 40-26-36 that she was unabashedly proud of, all of which helped her to win a Marilyn Monroe lookalike contest sponsored by Twentieth Century Fox. This figure certainly didn’t hurt her career as underwear model or burlesque dancer, either.
She was married seven times, the first of which resulted in the birth of her daughter Brenda Renay, who would appear onscreen with her mother a few times in minor roles, and onstage with her in major ones: they toured America as the premiere mother-daughter striptease act. Brenda committed suicide on her 39th birthday.
Liz Renay’s most famous romantic entanglements occurred between marriages, with everyone from Joe DiMaggio to Regis Philbin, and were so plentiful that she wrote a book about them, My First 2000 Men, though she admitted that sum was somewhat exaggerated. There were other books as well, most importantly her memoir My Face for the World to See.
If her love life brought her good fortune, it also brought her trouble. She was involved with gangster Tony “Cappy” Coppola, a Murder Inc. associate, who nearly killed her when she rebuffed his marriage proposal in front of his cronies. She traded one mobster in for another and hooked up with Mickey Cohen, and the criminal activities of him and his peers landed her in court on several occasions before finally being sent to prison for violating the parole she was placed on for perjury. She spent 27 months in Terminal Island.
Honest work was hard to come by after her release, but Renay was a dedicated self-promoter, and she managed to stay afloat and out of trouble. For the most part, anyway. She was arrested at age 46 for streaking down Hollywood Boulevard as a publicity stunt for her nude revue—but the jury determined that in her case, public nudity was not a crime.
A bit later on, she became a lifestyle columnist for the Las Vegas showbiz newspaper Dirt Alert, offering up advice to readers on a variety of topics. It may not have been the glamour job that she was used to, but it certainly made sense. The woman had lived enough life for two people. Maybe even three.
Liz Renay passed away in early 2007 at the age of 80, a feather boa fashionista right to the very end.
If nothing else, I can thank CORPSE GRINDERS 2 for bringing her to my attention.