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.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Happy Birthday Rosalba Neri

   In honor of this blogs favorite actress on her 76th birthday here's some LADY FRANKENSTEIN goodies. Below is the set of Italian "fotobusta" posters (along with the two one sheets) that were sent out to cinemas in Italy at the time of the films release. I've managed to pick up some of these for some other movies and they really are gorgeous with the montage design work & lurid bright colors. This entire set was up on Ebay Italy recently and sold for a pretty hefty sum.


   In some other Rosalba/LADY FRANKENSTEIN related news, a beautiful German trailer with some really eye popping color showed up on YouTube awhile back. It now seems to have disappeared, but here are some screen grabs from it. This is how this movie should look and hopefully one day the planets will align (and the lawyers will get all the rights sorted out...) and we'll get an uncut blu-ray. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee

May 27 1922 - June 7 2014

     Growing up watching horror movies as a child I can still remember vividly the first time I watched Christopher Lee in Hammer's 1958 version of DRACULA. Although I was weened (as many "monster kids" were) on the Lugosi version (and not to dismiss that), but upon first seeing Lee's interpretation of Bram Stoker's literary creation it was almost a revelation. Here was an athletically  powerful & sadistic force of evil that not for the work of his co-star and close friend Peter Cushing would have enveloped the entire movie. He is the Dracula of my childhood.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Roberta Collins & ADAM-12 1969

Season 2 Episode 2 - Original Air Date Sept. 27 1969

     Here's future 70's exploitation star Roberta Collins in a very early appearance (and her first speaking role) getting hassled by the man in an episode of ADAM -12 from 1969. Appearing in FIND ME A NEEDLE she plays "Sally"a stranded party-goer whose broken down car helps give the police a clue to a missing female hitchhiker..
    One of the more grim and darker episodes of the series, it concerns the hunt for a fugitive known as the "Mulholland Masher" who's been raping and killing young female hitchhikers. The episodes plot is unique in that it focuses on only one crime for the entire duration of the episode and the usual light humor and comic banter between Reed and Malloy is absent. It's also probably one of the earliest times on prime time TV that the word rape was freely used.
   IMDB incorrectly states that Collin's name is switched in the closing credits with blond actress Astrid Warner. Warner (who was later in the biker movies HELL'S BELLES and THE GLORY STOMPERS) plays Mary Gallagher, the young mini-skirted hitchhiker who runs afoul of Reed and Malloy earlier in the episode as they warn her against the dangers of hitchhiking on the streets of Los Angeles (or at the very least the Universal backlot). Since Collins is a redhead here rather then her later blond perhaps that's where the confusion lays.

    Collins would go on to appear  in such bona fide 70's classics as THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (mud wresting with Pam Grier ! - "Their bodies were caged, but not their desires !"), WOMEN IN CAGES,  UNHOLY ROLLERS, DEATH RACE 2000, SWEET KILL, CAGED HEAT, WONDER WOMEN, EATEN ALIVE, THE ROOMMATES & THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA. She would sadly pass away in 2008 at the age of 63 from an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol. The recent Gorgon blu-ray release of THE ROOMMATES (paired with A WOMAN FOR ALL MEN) has a short but very delightful interview with her recorded shortly before her passing. She is very much missed.