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The Worm Eaters

      "Oh, nobody likes us! Everybody hates us! Guess we'll go eat worms. Nobody likes us! Everybody hates us! Guess we'll go eat worms. [Key Change!] Big fat juicy ones! All the teeny tiny ones! Guess we'll go eat worms! Fine fat fuzzy ones! Even little skuzzy ones! Guess we'll go eat worms! [Key Change!] Why, oh, why do we like them? That's not really the thing. All our friends think we're crazy! Whenever I think of our favorite thing in the world makes you squirm well we're sorry! [Kazoo solo!] Oh, nobody likes us..."

-- Verse 714, with 56782 consecutive versus yet to go.    




Gonzoid Cinema




Umgar go splat!

You will probably experience a similar side-effect while watching this movie.


Watch it!



Sights &
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Aaauugghh! Ted V. Mikels!

Sorry ... the movie kinda snuck up on me there. 


Break out the old nut-cups and crash helmets, kids, because we're about to take our first, tentative steps into the deep and murky waters of the gonzo-world of film exploitationeer, and noted bigamist, Ted V. Mikels. Probably most infamous for The Astro-Zombies and The Corpse Grinders -- though I was always partial to 10 Violent Women, today we're going to experience The Worm Eaters, a Mikels produced vehicle for the incomparable (-- or maybe make that incomprehensible --) Herb Robins; who not only wrote, directed, and starred in this thing, he also served as the head worm wrangler. 

But first a word of warning: To those of you with overly sensitive stomachs, you might want to skip this film. For those of you made of sturdier intestinal fortitude, lets us press on. Shall we go?


I warned ya!

Our film begins with some nifty artwork credits by Sherri P. Vernon, depicting a gaggle of worms inserted into all kinds of Americana. It's hilariously blasphemous as I'm reminded of Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel. However, the awe doesn't last long, though, as the novelty song "Might as Well Just Eat Worms" is seared into your brain, with the same four phrases repeated, over and over and over; and just like back in the old schoolyard, it's taunting refrain will be stuck in your head for eons and eons and eons. And the only thing that could possibly make things any worse would be a power kazoo solo. 

And then we get one. 

After the kazoos kick in, they accompany the chorus for sixty-four more verses before the credits mercifully come to an end.

Stupordiforoursly it gets even more worse yet, as "Eine Kleine Nacht Music" is robbed from the public domain, hooked up to a wagon, and flogged unmercifully for the next, what? Hour or so. Wait. How much time's left? 72-minutes? Eep. Never gonna make it ... Never gonna make it ... Never gonna make it...

When the movie proper begins, we find ourselves at a lake, where three fishermen lounge around a campfire, belching and farting to their heart's content. But unbeknownst to them, a club-footed man limps through the flickering light and drops a pile of worms on the ground that promptly begin to screech. Yeah. Well, apparently, one of the fishermen has bionic hearing, and, needing more bait, tells the others to quiet down so he can find them. Find them he does, and the scene comes to end with a lingering shot of a night-crawler skewered on a fish hook.

Next, we time-warp ahead -- I assume the time-warp because it's suddenly daytime, and spy the same limping man, who's mumbling in a thick Germanic accent, wandering by the palatial estate of Meir Melnick (Joseph Sackett), who also serves as the mayor of Melnick (-- as not to cause any confusion). In the backyard, Melnick oversees his daughter's birthday party. And after a brief glimpse of his Honor's collection of brats, and sampling their sibling rivalry, Melnick doles out some much needed tough love to his son (-- by socking the little gutter-mouthed cretin right in the head). Then, when the birthday girl cuts the cake, grabs a piece, and lifts it toward her mouth, a cascade of worms spurts out of the creamy filling. After which, the film embarrassingly switches to Benny Hill mode as the party-goers retreat -- toot sweet -- to get away from the creepy crawlies (-- a microcosm of the entire film to come).

Thankfully, the film editor attacks again, and, using his trusty meat-cleaver, abruptly cuts us back to the lake, where Melnick and his right-hand man, Max (Barry Hostetler), exposition the plot for us. Seems Melnick has got the rest of Melnick's city council to back his plan to rezone the lake. Once that happens, his Honor can build Minyana Estates, which would be a solid boost for Melnick's economy. (Both the town's and his.) The only problem is Umgar (Herb Robins), and judging by their description, he's the club footed loony whose been lurking about.

Yeah, old Umgar isn't the brightest bulb in the world, and since everybody knows the kooky old coot is patently obsessed with worms Melnick is about 100% sure as to who was behind that birthday cake catastrophe -- the latest salvo in the long running Melnick / Umgar family feud, which began when Umgar's father met an unfortunate and fatal "accident" during the construction of the dam that made the lake, another Melnick enterprise, after he refused to sell his land that was about to become some prime beachfront property. But, I honestly think I'm spending way too much time on the plot, here, so let me just sum up:

Having greased all the necessary wheels at the local bank, Melnick is ready to build but fears Umgar has the original deed to the property hidden somewhere inside his filthy cabin, which could throw a real monkey-wrench in our villain's plans. But! If he can get his hands on the deed, Melnick can destroy it, seize the land, and get Umgar institutionalized and locked up for good.

Speaking of Umgar ... we find him in his cabin, doing his best Jerry Lewis imitation while talking to his "babies" that are scattered and squirming all around him. Calling them each by name, the worms squeal in response. (It sounds like someone rubbing two balloons together -- and judging by the film's budget, it probably was.) Then, as he lingers over a trapdoor to his basement, we hear some strange noises from something below that he orders to be quiet just as someone knocks at the door. It's Melnick, and after a quick farmer's blow* Umgar invites him in.

* Farmer's Blow: [verb] The fine art of plugging one nostril with a finger while blowing and clearing all the snot out of the other.

Once inside, Melnick tries to trick Umgar into giving up the deed, but the filthy heir insists his father left him nothing. Unconvinced, Melnick still leaves -- but not before threatening some bodily violence unless Umgar turns the papers over. After he's gone, Umgar reveals that he really does have the much coveted deed to the land, hides it in one of the miniature buildings in his worm farm, and asks his "children" to guard it for him. With that taken care of, he moves on to his other diabolical worm experiments, at which he inexplicably shouts German and Jewish epitaphs while picking up and tickling certain squirmers. He then completes his rounds at a boiling and bubbling fish tank, whose sinister occupants devour a whole ham-hock in seconds -- followed by a dessert of powdered DDT.


Next, somewhat inexplicably, a woman shows up at the cabin and lets herself in. She also sports a phony accent, and gives Umgar beer and chips ... Uhm, excuse me, ma'am, but we're trying to shoot a movie here? Ma'am? ... Well, I don't have a clue who she is, but she's got the hots for Umgar, and, with all her might, tries to be seductive; god bless her. Mad because he likes the worms better, Ms. Pushy-Pants squishes a passel of them, and then retreats into the bathroom. Upset at this blatant act of wormacide Umgar promises to make Ms. Pushy-Pants a spaghetti dinner she'll never forgot ... Well, we all know where this is going but the movie takes it's own damned sweet time getting there ... So, not so soon enough, the woman comes out and the camera lingers on her mouth as she stuffs spaghetti -- and worms -- into it. But as she chews, she starts choking and foaming at the mouth, and then, after several convulsions, Ms. Pushy-Pants transforms into a were-worm: human from the waist up, and worm from the waist down. Unsure of what to make of this development, Umgar quickly decides he'd better hide her before someone else shows up.

And show up they do, as the movie makes another quantum leap in plot logic, when more people arrive, demanding hotdogs ... What the -- Is this a cafe? ... I, uh ... never mind. Sure. Why the hell not ... Since all Umgar has to offer is bologna and eggs, he gives a trio of girls the meat and cooks up the eggs for another camper's shrewish wife. Of course, a few more toxic worms get mixed in with the scrambled eggs, so now Umgar has two mutations hiding in his basement. (What was down there making all that noise under the trap door before? Nothing, apparently.) After caging his prisoners up, Umgar decides to take a nap. But this is cut short when he wakes with a start and a fishing lure hooked in his mouth! Quickly -- and painfully, pulled outside and down to the lake, Umgar is eventually landed by three more were-worms, whom we recognize as the three belching and farting fishermen from the beginning of the movie. Transformed after eating fish caught with Umgar's tainted worms, these creatures have found peace and serenity at the bottom of the lake. However, since it sure does get lonely under the water, they demand some worm-women mucho-pronto. In fact, these were-worms want the ones Umgar has locked up in his basement. However, having grown rather fond of them, Umgar refuses, but manages to pacify the worm-men by promising them three younger girls (-- remember those female campers demanding hotdogs earlier). The worm-men accept the offer and return to the lake.

Back in town, Melnick and Max have something new to worry about: a group of environmental protesters have arrived, who want to block Minyana Estates to protect the lake's natural habitat. Despite this new threat, Melnick's more worried about Umgar; but Max assures that he'll take care of everything long before that rezoning meeting scheduled for that night. Meanwhile, Umgar finds two of the girls he needs and, with the promise of those much coveted hotdogs, lures them back to his cabin, where more lingering close-ups of mouths, masticated hot-dogs, and worms follows ... Chew each bite twenty times for proper digestion, people. Good lord, pass the Pepto Bismol already. Geez ... Elsewhere, the third girl and the camper -- who's not missing his shrewish wife at all -- investigate some strange tracks around the lake. Then, an outhouse enigmatically explodes in a shower of toilet paper. High hilarity ... Seriously. What the hell is going on?! ... Moving on, while looking for her friends, the third girl -- whom we'll call Third Girl with the Big Bazongos (since the movie never bothered to give her a name, and she is blessed with a pair of big bazongos) -- heads to Umgar's cabin. She arrives just in time to see the others turn into were-worms. Alas, Umgar see her, too. She flees, and the chase scene wocka-cha-wockas right along until the limping Umgar, somehow, manages to keep up with, and finally corner Third Girl with the Big Bazongos.

After dragging Third Girl with the Big Bazongos back to the cabin, while restraining her, Umgar realizes that, during the melee, he upset his miniature worm farm and all his beloved squirmers have escaped. Moving quickly, he rounds them all up except for Bertha -- his true love. So, he heads outside to search for her, and finally spies Bertha perched on a rock on the other side of an open meadow. And as a romantic melody cranks up, he slow-mos across the clearing, and then he and Bertha are happily reunited as he gently cradles her to his chest (-- and I don't know whether to define that scene as disturbing or friggin' brilliant).

Meantime, while Umgar's out of the cabin, Max and his goons douse it with gasoline, hoping to burn Umgar out. But as they finish up the job, we spy one of the goons lighting a cigarette, and when Max asks her for another match to ignite the blaze, well, turns out that was her last one. With that, the other goons gang-tackle her and they roll out of sight.

So Umgar returns to an intact cabin, where Third Girl with the Big Bazongos, despite being tied up and gagged by this psycho, offers to help him foil Melnick's plan. And to do this, all Umgar needs to do is get the deed to Phil ... Wait. Who's Phil? ... Phil will know what to do with it, she says, and he'll help Umgar stop the rezoning of the lake so he can keep his home ... Waitaminute. How did she know about that?!? And who's Phil!? And how did she know about the deed? And who the hell is Phil?!? Well, come to think of it, who the heck are you Third Girl with the Big Bazongos?!? Rewrite!!! Who did the rewrite and forgot to tell the audience?!?

Heeding her advice, Umgar delivers the deed to Phil by leaving it in the middle of the street next to a discarded protest sign. Then, a man comes by, picks up the discarded paper and gets all excited. I'm assuming this is Phil -- so we'll call him Assumed Phil ... At least the movie better hope that's Assumed Phil ... Later that night, when the city council convenes to vote on the rezoning (-- and we recognize the other city councilors as members of Max's arson brigade), Assumed Phil and the other protestors are there, too, and watch as Father Smut (!) opens the forum with a prayer, demanding that the heathen protestors be thrown out! With that, Assumed Phil, the other protestors, and Umgar's deed, are bum-rushed out of the film, never to be heard from again, rendering half the friggin' plot moot.



With no more dissenters present, the rezoning motion passes unanimously. And when a victorious Melnick is congratulated by Max, who says they can finally have Umgar committed, his boss promises to do that one better and kill his long time nemesis -- just like his father killed Umgar's father at the dam ... Meanwhile, back at the cabin, when Umgar and Third Girl with the Big Bazongos hear over the radio that the rezoning measure has passed, Umgar swears vengeance on the whole city council -- and especially Mayor Melnick. We then get what can only be called a gratuitous montage of the entire city council unknowingly munching down on tainted worms. It's low-lighted by Father Smut (!) eating a worm flavored ice cream cone, and high-lighted by a cameo by Ted V. Mikels, himself, arm wrestling the smoking gal over a bottle of tequila, with an awfully big worm floating around the bottom. Soon enough, the entire town is overrun with frothing were-worms.

Returning to the cabin, Umgar finds Melnick waiting for him, pistol in hand. Seems he still wants the deed, even though Assumed Phil has it, and his rezoning plan already passed ... Oh, right. The plot. Never mind ... They fight over the gun, and during the struggle, Melnick falls through the trapdoor, down into the basement, where the were-worms gleefully rip him to pieces and consume him. But Umgar doesn't even get a chance to celebrate before he's hooked by another fishing lure (-- dang, I'll bet that smarts), and reeled out to the lake again, where the three angry were-worms demand their promised worm-women. Figuring he was just trying to cheat them all along, the mutants force-feed Umgar some of his tainted worms, and then storm the house and free the others. In the confusion, in case you were wondering, Third Girl with the Big Bazongos manages to escape. Then, all the were-worms return to the lake -- except for the newly transformed Umgar, who wriggles away, out onto the highway, where a Mack-Truck bears down on him. And in the films final insult, the Umgar-worm goes splat on the truck's windshield in a tidal wave of goo ... How he got all the way up there we'll never know, but I think it would have been hilarious if the driver would've turned his wipers on and scraped him off.

And then, while the kazoos and chorus kick in for another round of our beloved song, a sanitation engineer cleans what's left of Umgar off the highway. Which brings us mercifully to --

The End

Screw Fear Factor. Get five faux celebrities and make them watch this crap and see who makes it to the end. That's reality TV, baby. Mondo Worm! It's a worm snuff movie! Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom.

My first experience with Ted V. Mikels was a couple of years ago at B-Fest with The Corpse Grinders, and the one thing that always stuck with me was how grainy, washed out, and confusing his day for night, night for day footage was; like it was shot using one of my sweat socks as a filter. The Worm Eaters has the same opaqueness, kind of a quasi-video feel, to it. I'm assuming this is due to cheaper film stock. Is this true of all his films, or am I just crazy? Herb Robins, meanwhile, was a regular in many a Ray Dennis Steckler movie and appeared in a couple of other films for Mikels. As stated before, Robins was a crapola-trifecta, serving as writer, director, and the lead in this opus. He's a lot closer to Ed Wood than Orson Wells, but I honestly think he gives a nice little method performance as Umgar; it's somewhere between Captain Quint, Artie Johnson, and Colonel Klink. The rest of the cast is rounded out, I'm sure, by people who were more than willing to stick all kinds of things in their mouths. (I'm talking about worms, you heathens!)

In the Medved's Son of Golden Turkey Awards, The Worm Eaters was nominated for the Worst Promotional Gimmick in Hollywood History (-- but amazingly, it didn't win.) Apparently, if you could suck down yourself a worm, the theater would let you in for free. Mikels and Robins barnstormed the country with the film, and according to the book: 

"In order to win suitable attention for this epicurean epic, the producer and director traveled along with the film and staged a series of stunts described in the press as 'too outrageous to top.'  In Kansas City, director-star Herb Robins stood in front of television cameras and hundreds of onlookers, and then proceeded to gobble down four eight-inch-long 'Canadian night crawlers' while producer Ted Mikels got away with only two. Meanwhile, Howard Hall, manager of a local bar, outdid them both by consuming eight of the wriggling critters -- all of which had been specially imported by the Minnesota Worm and Fly Company.  This event proved such a success that the producers later staged a worm-eating contest in Las Vegas and offered free admission to anyone who ate a worm before entering the theater."

Now, I know I branded this thing with an 18th Amendment and that's usually saved for films that I truly loathe and despise to the point of wanting to hurt those people responsible for it. But I have no homicidal rages brewing after sitting through The Worm Eaters, and honestly, I don't hate the picture. It's supposed to be a comedy, and, to the films credit, it actually made me laugh out loud on two separate occasions when it was actually trying to be funny (-- believe me, that's some feat). But now that I've seen it once, I really have no need or desire to ever see it again.

I mean, good gravy, it's just an entire film based on the concept of "A worm! Ick! Icky! A worm!" Couple that with a kazoo and slide-whistle soundtrack, bad acting, a complete absence of plot and character development, and you have something that's either brazenly brilliant or an atrocity against humanity. Yes, the film's whole 'reason de art' is showing people inadvertently shoving worms in their mouths while allegedly chewing on something else. Yeah, it's gross. We get it. Move on ... And I swear to god, the reels of this film were shown out of order or edited together wrong. Remember, at the beginning, Umgar tells something to be quiet down in his basement when there's no were-worms down there yet. The subplot of were-worms is almost an afterthought, and the main plot, if we can call it that, is so paper thin and contradicting that half the characters aren't even given a name; or people pop out of nowhere, who are vital to move the plot along, and then just as quickly disappear. Yes, Assumed Phil, I'm looking right at you. And then the whole thing just implodes. 

Dang it. There are some genuine good nuggets here and there, and if they just tried a little harder, but then again, why bother -- just eat another night-crawler while I get a close-up of your mouth. *sigh*

Hell, who hasn't eaten a worm? I've done it. Twice. Once when I was young and stupid on a dare, the other was at the bottom of a tequila bottle and I was drunk. What Herb and Ted's excuse was, however, remains a mystery. Watch at your own gastro-intestinal risk.

Originally Posted: 06/18/03 :: Rehashed: 07/20/2010

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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