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How to Skin Friends, Continued...

The Undertaker and His Pals Sometimes people kill and eat others for profit. You'd have to be either severely unhinged or incredibly cheap to try to make money serving up Filet of Victim. In the case of The Undertaker and His Pals (1966), both extremes are equally true.

Business is slow for the undertaker and a couple friends of his who run a greasy-spoon restaurant nearby, so they decide to kill two birds with one stone. They kill people and cut off body parts to stock the restaurant's larder. Later, when the victims need burying, the families of the dearly dismembered call upon the undertaker. Ka-ching!

All three killers take macabre glee in slaughtering folks. The cook at the restaurant likes to pretend he's a surgeon and perform impromptu operations on unwilling patients. When his patients pass away (and they always do), they soon become the special of the day.

Sometimes the three morbid amigos put on biker disguises and break into homes or businesses to chop off chunks of people. At one point, they bust into a spa and, just before whipping a woman to death with a chain, they assault a statue of the Venus de Milo, breaking off her marble head (she's already armless, so that's really adding insult to injury).

Considering the recession our country is experiencing at the time of this writing, I only hope that maniacs reading this column don't decide to enter the combination funeral-parlor/fast-food business. Though now that I think of it, it would save a lot of money... and solve the overpopulation problem... and eating people would even be good for the environment (the victims couldn't litter after they die). But on the downside, murder is illegal and funerals make people sad. Plus, does human meat have an agreeable taste that would keep restaurant clientele coming back for more? Return customers are a necessity for the continued survival of any business.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The cannibal family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) savors the flavor of Homo Sapiens. Human flesh is their main foodstuff. The cannibal clan's patriarch seems to be extremely long-lived -- he looks like he's over a hundred years old -- so maybe milk isn't the only protein source that does a body good.

Here's a thought... These Texas cannibals, like those in The Undertaker and His Pals, are clearly psychopathic. So the question is: does a regular diet of human flesh turn a person insane?

Consider this: if you feed beef byproducts to a cow, that dubious diet will give the creature Mad Cow Disease. So who knows, maybe people who eat human flesh develop Mad Human Disease. (Please note: I am neither a veterinarian nor a physician, so if my scientific insights into this matter seem a bit wonky to you, don't be surprised. Dr. Doolittle and the Surgeon General probably don't wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, worrying that I'll oust them from their positions as the world's foremost experts on the health of animals and humans.)

If regularly eating human flesh makes people go quite mad, then all the members of the cannibal tribe in Cannibal Holocaust (1980) would certainly be insane. After all, they constantly eat people right down to the bone. But wait a minute! If they became insane after eating all that human meat, then what made them start eating people in the first place? Perhaps necessity, like in The Severed Arm -- though you'd think a jungle would have enough plants and wildlife in it to eat instead of people.

So maybe human flesh is addictive for cannibals. In that case, the same could be true for cows with Mad Cow Syndrome. Maybe they're hungry for beef and long to take big, sloppy bites out of other cows. Fortunately, their teeth wouldn't be sharp enough to tear through the leather hides of their bovine buddies.

But whether or not the members of the cannibal tribe are insane, one thing is for sure: even though the jungle explorers in the movie aren't cannibals, their actions reveal that even "normal" people can engage in vile, brutal behavior.

The movie purports to show footage captured by exploring documentarists studying the lives and rituals of the cannibal tribe's members. As it turns out, the footage reveals more about the documentarists than it does about their subjects.

One of the documentarists grins like a vastly amused schoolboy upon viewing a native woman skewered on a pole. His colleagues have to remind him that he is on-camera and should look a bit more solemn.

In one scene, three male documentarists laughingly rape a teen cannibal girl without even giving their actions a second thought. They think of their victim as little more than an animal, and in their eyes, that makes their crime... okay. Later, when those men are devoured by the tribe, one doesn't feel all that sorry for them.

So what would it take to make you eat human flesh, gentle reader? Would you do it to stop from starving to death? Would you do it for fun and profit? Or would you do it because meat is meat, no matter what critter supplied it? If the last one is the correct answer for you, don't invite me over for dinner. I have a sinking feeling that I'd end up as the main course.

Besides, you wouldn't want to eat me, anyway. I drink a lot of coffee, so my meat is heavily caffeinated. You wouldn't get a wink of sleep.