Updated: Dec 4, 2022
In her 1969 memoir, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, the actress writes:
Some day soon, perhaps on your local television station during their daily horror film show, you’ll be able to see my two latest films. Fortunately, I did not have to return to Hollywood to make these films. They were produced in Canada and Florida and, in vogue with today’s trend of putting older stars in horror movies, both these efforts are designed to turn your knuckles white, set your heart pounding and cause you girl friend to cuddle up close in sheer terror.
I’m glad she reveals the design of the second film, Flesh Feast, because it comes nowhere near to being realized. In fact, it’s such a bad movie, I don’t want to spend my time without writing anything nice about it. Honestly, after watching it, my only thought was how in the world it came to be and how in the world a Hollywood legend ended her career with it. Fortunately, her autobiography offers the most information I could find about it and allowed me to dig a little deeper.
After one paragraph about the first film, Footsteps in the Snow (1966), she writes about Flesh Feast:
Not only do I star in this film, I am also the titular producer and director. It came about because of Yanka Mann, my partner in the cat house. Yanka does get around Miami, and in her travels she came across a local Miami production house. They told her they always wanted to produce a feature film and she suggested they get together with me. That they did and we concocted Time Is Terror (aka Flesh Feast.)
Making moves, even low-budget ones, is an expensive and demanding chore. You’d better know what you’re doing or your low-budget job will blossom into a bankrupting one. That pretty much is what happened with Time is Terror.
She continues to candidly explain troubles with the production, including the fact that “the film’s working director” refused to shoot master shots and therefore had nothing to cut away from… nothing in which to insert reactions or prop business. This meant the film couldn’t be edited.
Over 130 thousand feet of 35-millimeter color film was used up filming the movie. That represents and outlay of about $20,000 just for the raw film and basic processing to see what you got. And it can’t be edited. It sits there in the can, some of the footage very good and imaginative, and will continue to sit there until the production company comes up with more money with which to go back and reshoot master shots.
If any such efforts were made, they don’t appear to have lifted Flesh Feast beyond anything more than a silly, slow, talky film. At its core is a clever idea… for an episode of The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. 72 minutes is too long for the amount of action provided. The second twist at the end isn’t as shocking as the one prior, but without it, we wouldn’t have seen Lake’s performance explode into a hilariously manic rant.
Lake provides a synopsis of Flesh Feast that’s more accurate than any I’ve read elsewhere, even though it reveals a huge spoiler (warning!):
The film’s premise is a simple one. Adolf Hitler is alive and living in South America. He wants to return to Germany and those he loved. But everyone will recognize him.
So, he consults with a noted but mad doctor who has perfected a way to change the facial features of anyone. What this mad doctor does is let maggots eat away at your face until they’ve accomplished enough eating to make you look different.
That’s not exactly how I interpreted it. I thought the maggots made people look younger, as it did their guinea pig, Mac Bauer (Chris Martell.) In either case, was there not plastic surgery in the late 1960s? The aforementioned first twist is the reveal (in the final moments of the film), that the big, bad leader is Hitler. The second twist at least makes sensible use of the maggot method. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but somehow satisfying. At least there’s a punch line.
This being a real Thanksgiving turkey of a movie, consider that director Brad F. Grinter later wrote and directed a movie about a turkey-monster, Blood Freak (1972.) I feel like it's better known than Flesh Feast... for all the wrong reasons. I also find it funny that Grinter's career in entertainment began in 1966 as an actor in another low budget horror film, The Death Curse of Tartu. As William Grefe's young padawan, he seems to have failed learning enough to further his career the way his "master" ultimately did.