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Film Review: The Worm Eaters (1977)

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SYNOPSIS:

Herman Ungar has a way with his worms. He keeps watch over them and is able to communicate with them. In the small town that Herman resides in, the mayor is trying to force him off his property. Once Herman is, in fact, forcibly evicted, he decides to exact revenge. Herman implants worms in the food of all sorts of locals. When these people eat the worms Herman feeds them, they transform into large, worm-like creatures themselves.

REVIEW:

THE WORM EATERS’ credit sequence kicks things off displaying a series of colored pencil drawings of worms in different dishes: spaghetti, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream sundaes, you name it. All the while a zany, “Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts” style of song, sung by children, plays: “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms.” This is a good summation of THE WORM EATERS’ vibe: totally whacky, childish, and gross. With a significantly higher budget, and if conceived a couple decades later, WORM EATERS could almost have passed for a NICKELODEON series pilot.

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Well . . . maybe . . . a bad one, though . . . one that, undoubtedly, would never air . . .

Ungar is played by Herb Robins, who also wrote and directed the film. He walks around with his club foot, talking in a German accent, the caliber of which is on par with John Banner as Hans Schultz in HOGAN’S HEROES (exorbitantly irksome).

Herman loves his worms. He spends lots of time talking to them and holding them up to the camera, letting them squiggle around. He has names for his worms. He’s so happy. But the mayor of the town wants to take that away from Herman.

What a devastating mistake that is. Herman has no quandaries about crashing said mayor’s daughter’s birthday party, and tainting the birthday cake.

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Imagine live worms, squiggling like crazy, in the mouths of people, eating their favorite foods. Sometimes, there’s even white slime in their mouths, along with the worm-entangled bites. Next thing you know, these people—the ones who’ve eaten the worms, hence the film’s title—begin slithering on the ground. They make noises, also, just like a worm would do (?). Somebody at some time said something about the worms being mutants.

So I guess that explains it.

As far as Ted V. Mikels productions go, they can’t all be THE ASTRO ZOMBIES. WORM EATERS is clumsy and outlandish enough for a bad movie lover’s psychotronic viewing. But it’s no cult classic. In fact, once you catch onto the whole schtick—which takes about fifteen minutes, tops—the movie starts to feel quite annoying.

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Much respect for Herb Robins and his willingness to be so gross with the worm eating scenes. They’re authentically repugnant. Yes, Herb, that is one way to use a close-up shot. And you get to wondering about the poor actors. Those definitely aren’t special effects. The actors actually are shoving live, writhing worms in their mouths.

Now that’s dedication.

Other than its off-the-rails grotesqueness, there isn’t much else here justifying this ridiculous movie. The humor falls pretty flat. The terrible acting is fun for a while, but all the shouted line recitation and presumed ad libbing eventually turns grating. Plotwise, I can’t even begin to describe how little this one coheres. And thus you’re left with such a common phenomenon in these bad movies: they aren’t able to transcend themselves into being unintentionally enjoyable. That’s THE WORM EATERS for you. It’s so bad it’s . . . still pretty damn bad. Has Ted V. Mikels produced worse movies? I have no question that he has. But if you’re going to start diving into those productions WORM EATERS is no place to start. CORPSE GRINDERS or, of course, ASTRO ZOMBIES, are much better choices. Psychotronic cinema buffs may enjoy WORM EATERS, but, inevitably, will need to mediate it with the fast-forward button.

A small town? Worms? Made in 1977? Had Robins seen SQUIRM?
I’ll let the viewer decide.

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