Monday, June 29, 2015


"Filmed in the Graveyards of England" 

     During the late 60's low budget Staten Island filmmaker Andy Milligan was cranking out ramshackle horror and grungy sex shocker films, mostly for low budget mogul William Mishkin the sleaze king of Times Square. Andy's battles with the penny pinching Mishkin are the stuff of legend and while Mishken did have the uncanny ability to market Andy's poverty budgeted epics and give them lengthy runs on the grindhouse circuit, his suspect accounting practices sent the ever violate Milligan into fits of rage.
    In 1968 at the behest of British producer Leslie Elloitt, Milligan packed up his 16 mm Auricon camera and headed off to London, where he would be seemingly free of his nemesis and could indulge in his love of Gothic settings. After rounding up the usual gang of misfits and disparate actors somewhat bizarrely Andy's first feature for Elloitt was the non-horror NIGHTBIRDS, a  very strange & downbeat story of a twisted love relationship between a pair of London street waifs. Only shown commercially once, it became a lost film until a print was recently discovered and released on blu-ray by BFI.

     For his second feature Milligan turned to his love of all things Gothic (although here with a contemporary setting) and made for all intensive purposes his most cohesive film and the one with the most straightforward narration - but still with burning hunchbacks, bright red stage blood, over blown dialogue & Andy's patented method of shooting highly un-erotic nude lovemaking sequences. Although the script is still filled with Andy's flowery overwrought prose, for once he found an actor worthy of it in the form of Gavin Reed (who later showed up in small but memorable, part in TOOTSIE). Although his haughty attitude and sneering condescending delivery would seem overdone in any other film, in Milligan's twisted universe and gutter view of the human race its a scenery chewing marriage in hell.
     Reed plays the Reverend Algernon Ford, who newly arrived in London, sets up residence at Carfax Abby (one of many nods to Bram Stoker & Lugosi's DRACULA peppered about) and looks to revive the All Souls Church. Along with his constantly knitting wife Alicia (played with an unnerving creepy silence by Susan Heard) he pays a visit on Graham Ford (Colin Gordon) who the Rev. claims to be a distant relative of. He invites Graham and wife Anna (Susan Clark) to dinner, while Anna has just had an unnerving experience in a local cemetery where she was accosted by three pasty blue faced blond haired women. Later the Rev. meets a young couple Susan's & Paul (Jackie Skarvellis & Richmond Ross) with who he also claims to be a relative of Susan and offers to officiate at their upcoming wedding.

    Seems the Rev. and his wife are part of a centuries old vampire clan who have begun to get progressively weaker caused by inbreeding and need to get some new blood infused into the family (all of which fits into Andy's favorite theme of dysfunctional families). Occasionally Alicia has to give blood transfusions to her ever weakening hubby and administer leeches to control his blood pressure. In addition sunlight doesn't kill them outright, but makes the grow weaker. After luring Susan to his home the Rev kidnaps her with the plan to turn into a baby maker in order to provide new blood into the clan and in addition sends the blue faced vampires out out for Susan who once vampirized lures Graham to Carfax Abbey for breeding purposes. In addition yet another relative Candace (Emma Jones) is kidnapped in order to use for a handy blood supply.
    Assisting the Ford's is sympathetic hunchback Spool (Berwick Kaler from NIGHTBIRDS) who after attempting to help the captives is crucified in an ornate garden with the blue faced harpies dancing about and the Rev. Ford pontificating in one of the more bizarre & surreal moments in Andy's cannon. Also hanging about is the Ford's maid, who while also showing some sympathies for the captives gets a pair of knitting needles shoved in her eyeballs for her trouble.
    The film ends in a delirious sequence with the vampires holding a meeting that allows Andy to unleash his fondness for outrageous costumes (with many looking to be made from shower curtains) and outlandish head wear for the ladies. Rev. Ford decides to move the clan to America which prompts one the vampire ladies to unleash this classic piece of Milligan dialogue - "Go to America ? Never ! What is America ? What it it made of ? Pimps, prostitutes, religious fanatics ? Thrown out of England but a few short centuries ago. They're the scum of the Earth !" - which most likely is a peek into Andy's psych and his feeling for his native country's "establishment".

     With the look of an acid tinged Hammer film shot through a Vaseline smeared lens this is for however bizarre it may seem on the surface, Milligan's most accessible film. His trademark swirling camerawork is held to a minimum, athough his 16mm camera can still be heard whirring away in the background at certain points. With the contemporary setting he doesn't have to worry (not that he worried anyways) about such things as light sockets and background traffic noises that invade his usual "period pieces" and the London setting help tremendously with the films atmosphere (much better then the usual Staten Island). As to be expected the pacing is a bit off with some long drawn out dialogue sequences (punctuated by jarring editing) & wonky sound editing- but what the heck, this IS an Andy Milligan film.
     Much of the film was shot at Sarum Chase, a Tudor style mansion in West Hampstead that served as the setting for numerous film and photo shoots including the inner gate fold of The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet album. Andy would later shoot much of CURSE OF THE FULL MOON here - later re-titled THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE !".
    Sadly, THE BODY BENEATH  would be the end of Andy's British sojourn as he had the to be expected falling out with his British producers. THE BODY BENEATH was never released in England but did play throughout the 70's on 42nd St. where it was co-billed with Andy's GURU THE MAD MONK. He stayed in England for awhile and ending making three movies there for the hated Mishkin - his take on Sweeney Todd with the THE BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS, Jekyll & Hyde in THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS and the above mentioned CURSE OF THE FULL MOON.  


  1. Another one I've never seen, but I LOVE the trailer for this one. It is one of the creepiest, most effective trailers I've seen. I've actually never sought out the film itself, cause I liked the trailer so much. I didnt want another case like Caged Virgins with its fantastic trailer that I liked way better than the film itself.

    1. Hi Rob - I won't suggest this as a blind buy (although its not as bad of an oversell as the Caged Virgins trailer is - you gotta love Harry Novack.....). Andy Milligan is a bit of acquired taste. Let me know if your interested and I'll hook you up.

    2. I appreciate it! But I think Ill stick with the trailer for now.
      Sides, if I was gonna take another hook up from the Vin library... itd probably be Top Sensation

  2. I have read ongoing arguments about whether or not Andy Milligan made any of his movies in England - or if they were all shot in Staten Island. Has it been settled that he did really go to England for this one? I have watched a few of his movies - though not this one yet. I think it's in the video vault though. I've always liked this quote from my former editor - Psychotronic Video magazine editor Michael Weldon - "If you're an Andy Milligan fan there's no hope for you." Ha!

    1. Hi Craig - This was actually filmed in England. The settings bear it out and its been pretty well documented in recent years. If you can find a copy of The Ghastly One - The Sex Gore Netherworld on Andy Milligan is one of the best film bio's I've ever read. The author spent a great deal of time with Andy and interviewed everyone he could find. Thanks for the comments !