Monstrosity (1987)

Monstrosity (1987)

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 07/11/2018

The first of Andy Milligan’s California-made movies, Monstrosity takes a major tonal shift from misanthropy in the direction of comedy.

Monstrosity opens on a crime spree, murder, rape, thefts all by a small gang of generally over-the-hill hoodlums and their molls. This rather bleak beginning gives way to a trio of dudes who cook up a golem-themed Frankenstein revenge plan that gives us a dim-witted, frizzy-haired hero monster to take back the night.

As wonky as it is still has that Milligan authorship to it, especially in some of the camerawork and editing. That said, it sort of seems like Milligan was sort of having a more fun time on the set? According to Jimmy McDonough’s biography on Milligan, it’s not entirely likely, but who knows?

The comedy is sort of grating, seesawing back and forth to mildly amusing at times.

The most a-typical Andy Milligan flick I’ve seen.

Torture Dungeon (1970)

Torture Dungeon (1970) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 03/30/2018

Among Andy Milligan’s many claims to fame (or infamy), add to it that he made a Sweded version of Game of Thrones decades before Game of Thrones or “Sweding” was even a thing.

Torture Dungeon is the first Milligan flick I’ve seen since reading Jimmy McDonough’s biography of him, The Ghastly One, which by the bye, was brilliant. And though it seems now that every successive Andy Milligan picture I see becomes my new favorite, I agree with McDonough that Torture Dungeon is perhaps the most fun.

The costumes, the camp, the joyous and miserable sleaze, the character names, misanthropy and cheap gore. And Milligan himself! Though not onscreen, Milligan is everywhere in his movies. You can almost feel him shooting the footage, hear him breathing life into his dramas of discontent.

It’s tragic that most of his earlier pure Exploitation films are lost because they sound AMAZING!! I still have several more to seek out, but I’m already eager to revisit the first movies of his I’ve seen.

Torture Dungeon is a total lark.

Blood (1973)

Blood (1973) VHS cover

director Andy Milligan
viewed:  03/11/2018

I don’t know what it is about Andy Milligan films, but it seems like the more of them that I watch, the better I like them.  This is my 8th Milligan in a little over a year. My trajectory has run: The Body Beneath (1970), Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973), Guru, the Mad Monk (1970), Carnage (1984), Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970), The Man with Two Heads (1972), and most recently, The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972).

And Blood may be my favorite so far? Toppling The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! which had just taken the top spot. Are they getting better or am I becoming more attuned to Andy Milligan?

Hope Stansbury (from Rats/Werewolves) is here, as a perpetually discontented vampiress, being kept alive by the ministrations of her husband, Orlavsky (Alan Berendt), and his assistants, Carrie (Patricia Gaul), the legless Orlando (Michael Fischetti), the simpleminded Carlotta (Pichulina Hempi).

Everything was going great until…Ha, ha, it was never going great for this clan, returning to America from Europe to settle up with an exploitative accountant and reclaim Orlavsky’s family home. Orlavsky imprudently falls for Prudence (Pamela Adams), who unwittingly falls in with this crowd.

This crowd is a vampire, a werewolf, and some man-eating plants. I guess producer Walter Kent (who appears as “Man in office”) hadn’t quite the flair for titling that William Mishkin did, or this might have been called “The Vampires Are Here! The Werewolves, Too! And Man-Eating Plants! Frankenstien Is Coming!” Because, yes, at the end, as a joke, Dr. Frankenstein takes over the premises when all is said and done.

All this, in less than an hour. And of all his Milligan’s movies, which he shot himself, I loved the aesthetic achieved, even shooting the bulk of the film in his house and property.

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 02/26/2018

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is an Andy Milligan movie up and down but it’s also producer William Mishkin’s masterpiece of titling.  You get rats coming and werewolves going when you ask your auteur to shoot an additional 20 or so minutes of footage to a picture already in the can for some time. Apparently, inspired by the success of Willard, Mishkin had Milligan  add in a killer rats subplot. Not only did this give us that title but more interestingly, it gave us Andy Milligan himself.

“Well, when one brings as many little creatures of the night into the world as I, one forgets a little sex now and then.” Is this Andy Milligan getting all self-reflexive on us?

Because this is Andy Milligan, in character as Mr. Micawber, a rat-looking dude, selling flesh-eating rats, who ate both his left arm and half his face off, to Monica Mooney (Hope Stansbury). We also have Andy Milligan in another guise as an unnamed gunsmith selling a pistol and homemade silver bullets to a Miss Diana (Jackie Skarvellis). Both of these sequences were shot in New York, supplementing the werewolf movie Milligan had previously filmed in Britain.

But how fascinating it is to see Andy Milligan himself on camera! Albeit in deep character and make-up, hamming it up with apparently glee. As disjointed as these additional sequences are, I found them most enjoyable, especially the Mr. Micawber one.

Milligan is such an enigma. Lost as he is to life and time, save for his extant films and their utterly uniquely Milligan-esque character. The Milligan we know today is pieced together from his work and subsequent lore for present day fans he probably never imagined that he would ever have.

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is Milligan does Milligan. And I love it!

The Man with Two Heads (1972)

The Man with Two Heads (1972) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 10/15/2017

I always think of Mario Bava as the director/cinematographer/set designer who seems to do the most with the least. In that vein, Andy Milligan is perhaps the director who manages to do the least with the least.

That said, The Man with Two Heads is possibly the most competent of his films I’ve seen. The title is a marketing deke, disguising the fact that this is actually a pretty straight-up Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie made on the cheap.

It seems that Milligan aspires to Hammer-style horror in some of his period horror films. Made with fuck-all care at having no budget and using whatever locations he can to portray Victorian wherever.

Many have noted that the opening part of the film is fairly dull, if by the numbers, and not outrageously bad. Part of Milligan’s coup is having Denis DeMarne star as Jekyll/Hyde(Blood). Under camp make-up and pasted-on eyebrows, he gives a lurid portrayal of the venal villain, whose ruthless hatred unleashes radiant sadism. DeMarne may be no Fredric March, but he’s very good, very much in the vein of Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 classic.

And Milligan may be no Mamoulian, but as the film veers into the madness of Mr. Blood, his swirly camera swoops into an S&M phantasmagoria twisty and bizarre and for my money actually very effective.

Milligan continues to fascinate me. While many voice disappointment in The Man with Two Heads, in part because of its dull competence, it’s interestingly also a much less ironically enjoyable feat of cinema from one of the form’s most strange outsider artists.

Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970)

Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970) movie posters

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 08/12/2017

Andy Milligan continues to intrigue me, though I am hard-pressed to say exactly why. His particular brand of low-budget schlock features such a weird mixture of uncaring badness and yet soldiers forth from one picture to the next as if all shows must go on.

Bloodthirsty Butchers is indeed his take on Sweeney Todd. But he seems more interested in the romantic and sexual intrigues (not that they are interesting) than with the butchering from barber chair to meat pies.

For my money, I thought the acting was slightly better here, though the story was a muddle and a mess.

I still find myself drawn to his films, like a moth to a series of really bad flames.

Carnage (1984)

Carnage (1984) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 05/29/2017

I’ve become an Andy Milligan aficionado of late. But I am still exploring. I have yet to really construct my understanding of the man and his movies.

Carnage is Milligan making a horror film in the 1980’s, but yet also making something sort of out of time.  For all his acquired skills and knowledge of film-making, he also exhibits a completely, amazingly amateurish qualities as well. And there is something vaguely surreal about the bizarre production.

Carnage is a ghost story, of sorts. Actually, it’s kind of like Beetlejuice (1986) in a way. A ghost couple is trying to scare (or kill) the new humans that have moved into their house. And initially, they do it with some really silly moving of objects. But wherein Beetlejuice Alex and Geena took a liking to little Winona, these ghosts eventually up their game and start dismembering everybody.

It’s quite hilarious in a variety of ways.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I just want to see more and more Andy Milligan movies.

Guru, the Mad Monk (1970)

Guru, the Mad Monk (1970) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 01/31/2017

I was so taken with Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973) that I just jumped on into Guru the Mad Monk. My Andy Milligan rabbit hole currently captivating.

Here Neil Flanagan (who was so great in Fleshpot as Cherry Lane) stars as titular Guru, the Mad Monk.

And then there’s the rest of the movie.

Guru was apparently Milligan’s least favorite of his films, and was shot on 35mm as opposed to his preferred 16mm Auricon. It’s gleefully unconcerned with passing off Long Island 1970 for the fictional isle of Mortavia in some long ago time, in particular the church standing in for the castle, anachronisms galore.

It’s eleven grand Grand Guignol. Apparently quite a lot for a Milligan movie.

I’m still taking these in. I don’t know that I have a full response yet. But I am stupendously fascinated.

Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973)

Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 01/31/2017

Considered by some to be Andy Milligan’s best film, Fleshpot on 42nd Street is sleazy sexploitation and a bitter bit of social realism. I’m totally new to Andy Milligan, having just watched and read up on The Body Beneath (1970), I was intrigued.

Milligan worked mostly in either sexploitation or horror, and Fleshpot was his final flick in the former genre. It’s less titillating than some other sexploitation and more outright depressing.

Dusty (played by Diane Lewis) isn’t an overly sympathetic character. She’s a young woman functioning as a prostitute, but really kind of scamming her way through life, using anyone who comes her way: johns, strangers, friends. And life uses her right back. And so does essentially anyone else in her little orbit on the grim streets of 1970’s New York. Neil Flanagan plays Cherry Lane, a transvestite prostitute, friend, and roommate to Dusty in the film’s finest performance.

As I’m new to Milligan, I can’t draw too many conclusions. As opposed to his horror films, it lacks the cheap costumes, bad FX, and weird fantasy elements, but maintains his other characteristics, many more idiosyncratic than necessarily qualitative. But it’s interesting, and I found Fleshpot on 42nd Street quite compelling in its way, in its ruthless vision of life that is downright misanthropic.

I am totally intrigued. More to come.

 

 

The Body Beneath (1970)

The Body Beneath (1970) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 01/23/2017

I’ve had a number of Andy Milligan films in my queue, on my watchlist, in planning to see, but The Body Beneath was the first one I ever watched.

And I really don’t know what to say.

Reading about Milligan’s life is interesting.

The Body Beneath comes from his brief stay in Britain. So it’s about an English vampire clan seeking…”new blood”. It’s clearly made on the cheap, but it has a totally different vibe from say Ted V. Mikels, H.G. Lewis, really any low budget schlockmeister that I can think of. Maybe the closest I can come is to say it’s like a Kuchar brothers movie with all the intentional camp sucked out of it. And Kuchar movies are almost 100% camp.

I don’t know. Still pondering.