If you’re a lover of Grindhouse and Drive-In flicks and have never sunk your teeth into Laurence Harvey’s WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH (a.k.a. Tender Flesh), stop reading this review. Don’t make a sandwich or check your social media account. Get off your breakfast burrito and obtain a copy by whatever means you procure moving images. Well, in this case it will most likely be VHS. Make sure you get the 94 minute version with the good transfer so you can accurately taste Gerald Perry Finnerman’s work as director of photography. The poor man suffered through 60 episodes of the original STAR TREK TV series so give him some feature-film love.
Are you back? What did you think? You know I can’t keep my barfly opinions to myself so here we are.
Overshadowed by another 1974 cannibal film, what we have here is a generous buffet of American exploitation, where odd choices in seasoning lead to an array of interesting flavors. While an argument could be made over the thematic similarities dealing with society’s generation gap in the 70s like its less bloody chainsaw wielding competition, one should rightfully dismiss WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH as a horror film and celebrate the work as a sleazy slice of campy suspense.
British actor Laurence Harvey (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) directed and starred in WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH before succumbing to stomach cancer at age 45. After being dropped by Warner Brothers, the film was released in a truncated re-edited version by Brut Productions under the title TENDER FLESH. Armed with less blood, yet a sensationalized ad campaign, it hit the drive-in market.
Our film opens with an outrageously out of place theme song titled “Who Can Tell Us Why” sung by Lou Rawls; juxtaposed against a witches quote about cannibals. It’s so absurd, it’s perfection. Foxy blue-eyed brunette Robbin Stanley (Meg Foster of THUMB TRIPPING) hitches a ride from a dust-demon speed freak played by Jesse Vint (BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY). After a high speed police chase ends in a wreck, she wanders through a private nudist colony onto Arrow Beach and into the binoculars of resident psychopath Jason Henry (Laurence Harvey), who has an incestuous relationship with his sister Grace (Joanna Pettet).
Abnormal urges bubble to the surface and dish-up some gratifyingly cheesy moments of dialog peppered with culinary suspense. The script serves some truly unforgettable lines that permit veteran actors Stuart Whitman, John Ireland and Gloria LeRoy to really chew-up the scenery. Ireland’s speech on America is the apple cobbler for this main course and I adored David Macklin’s naïve observation, “The places that a woman could inject herself with a syringe defy the imagination!”.
Even Vint’s brief appearance reminds us of why we hunger for some Vint. The creepy sibling relationship between Jason and Grace is gastronomic divinity. Their repertoire is so convincing, it’s easy to understand why Harvey was top choice on the menu for actresses throughout his career. Simone Signoret, Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Christie all garnished their resumes with Best Actress Oscars after appearing in films with Harvey. And then there is Meg Foster. Weathered just right with those gorgeous eyes. Scrumptious.
WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH worked for me on every level. It’s cheap when it needs to be and hysterical in its flamboyance. This is the stuff of ozone culinary dreams. More akin to Guerdon Trueblood’s classic THE CANDY SNATCHERS (1973) than the Vietnam Era nihilism of the horror roach coaches. WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH is in dire need of a bluray release and on high up on my list of the 100 greatest films ever made. This would be a perfect release for the U.K. label Arrow Video! I can see it now, “Arrow Video Presents Welcome to Arrow Beach”. Laurence Harvey is a Brit too! It’s a no-brainer. Maybe if I write Arrow Video enough times it will come up on one of their searches. I better learn some meta data S.E.O. shit too. Love this film. My highest recommendation. See it!