The Painter and the Thief
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Now the title of a great book on lesser known British films Andy Milligans talky cheaply made Vampire flick looks like something the League of Gentlemen would take great pride in parodying. Unknown actors play vampires and not much else in this low budget film. The biggest fun is of course that while everyone celebrates great British films its crummy films like this that held the industry together. Milligan loves dialogue like a Fish loves Plankton and it's all good for a laugh.
A repetitive, unfocused, ultra-low budget vampire film. Gavin Reed is fun as the vampire priest, the score is good, and the trippy sequence with the Vaseline-ringed lens is actually pretty effective. This is the second Andy Milligan feature I've seen and there are lots of repeated motifs from GURU, THE MAD MONK (released the same year): churches, vampires, hunchbacks, drugged drinks, impaled eyes, captive maidens, and hands nailed to walls. The movie's concept is good enough to build on, but the execution just wanders around too much.
Horrific acting and shoddy production values - it's a toss-up which is worse.
CULT MOVIE MONTH
REVIEW #:015 &016
THE ANDY MILLIGAN DOUBLE FEATURE: THE BODY BENEATH  & VAPOURS : One of the most celebrated aspects of the Cult Genre in film is the wide and wild world of Exploitation Films. Within this sub-genre both the Movies & Figures have since become nothing short of infamous legends worthy of fandom amidst Cult Film Buffs. Especially the golden age of American Exploitation Cinema which ranged from the start of the 1960's until the early 1980's. One such name from the golden age of American Exploitation Cinema was Andy Milligan who has since became a legend for his notorious schlocky exploitation Horror films which bore a lot of Milligan's own personal anguish. Milligan's infamous films were shot on Budgets ranging from $8,000 U.S Dollars to $30,000 U.S Dollars and were jam-packed with unique stories, pacing problems, horrible sound, spinning camera work, and shoddy picture control. Milligan's Horror films like THE GHASTLY ONES , SEEDS , TORTURE DUNGEON , BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS , GURU, THE MAD MONK , THE BODY BENEATH , and the hilariously titled THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE!  have all since attracted a cult following since their original realises and Milligan's death in 1991.
Thanks to cult movie fandom of his early Gay-Interest underground Art-House films, his various soft-core sexploitation films ,his infamous horror films and attention to Milligan's depressing and tragic life, the mere name of Andy Milligan lives on in the annuals of American Exploitation Cinema & Cult cinema. In fact it was Milligan's name that caught my eye when I picked up a DVD copy of THE BODY BENEATH from the brilliant Home Video Company SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO (SWV), in my local Video Store's Cult Section. So in this review of THE BODY BENEATH I get my first taste of the films of Andy Milligan in this month long Cult Movie extravaganza.
VAPOURS : what appears as one of the Special Features on the DVD realise of THE BODY BENEATH from SWV is Milligan's first film VAPOURS . This Ultra-Rare and once controversial underground films subject matter was strictly taboo in 1965, Homosexuality and more particular the films setting in a notorious Gay Bathhouse, St. Mark's Bathhouse in N.Y.C. Remembering back in 1965 how Homosexuality especially male Homosexuality was strictly forbidden when Milligan directed this featurette and more importantly what most likely happened behind closed doors between two men in such an environment was a criminal offence branded as sodomy. VAPOURS for what it implies & subject could of sparked a total whirlwind of controversy had it been realised in the mainstream back in 1965 instead on the underground film circuit & it's just amazing how this film could have even seen the light of day back then is just nothing short of a miracle. SWV which has rescued so much of an entire underground world of American Exploitation Cinema gets a huge round of applause from me from saving this obscure film from near destruction from the hands of time.
One Friday night in the St. Mark's Bathhouse Gay Bathhouse a man called Thomas (Gerald Jacuzzo) heads for the legendary bathhouse. Since its Thomas' first time in the saunas the other patrons soon inform him about the purpose of the rooms and how to attract some one is to leave ones door open slightly a jar. Thomas in his room is soon visited by another first time patron called Mr Jaffee (Robert Dahdah) and instead of getting up to what most of the other patrons most are likely getting up to in their rooms, the two men have a deep conversation about life. The two men talk about a lot of things in life including about Mr Jaffee long marriage to a straight, his struggle with his sexuality and one tragic revelation that makes for a sad ending.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: Milligan himself was a homosexual and in a way just like the character of Mr Jaffee, Milligan himself despite being openly gay entered a marriage to a straight woman in 1969 (despite having many relationships with men & being heavily involved with the S&M scene). Milligan first feature reflects the all of the directors "auteur" style which became more dominant in his later films. VAPOURS has everything associated with Milligan's style, awkward camera work , the terrible sound with the wine of the camera's motor & a reflection of Milligan's personal pain. In the case of VAPOURS could reflect Milligan's struggle with being Gay in a time which it was viewed as an unnatural thing. But whatever the case despite Milligan's technical problems with getting the equipment to work well behind the camera combine with nice Black & White shots, the good performances from the two lead actors who do a great job as portraying their characters as nothing more than two human beings in a time Homosexuality was view as being below the level of any 'normal" so-called prefect human being. Combine with the films thought provoking script VAPOURS so far this month has been one of the most touching Cult films & Underground films I have come across in this month long movie extravaganza. For the well ahead of its intolerant time VAPOURS gets a solid 70% percent from me.
Now with the main feature, Milligan's 1970 vampire film "Shot in The Graveyards of England" that to most fans have dubbed Milligan's best Horror film, THE BODY BENEATH. Unlike the thought provoking piece of art VAPOURS, Milligan's Vampire feature is no were the levels of brilliance of the pre-mention feature or of what most would consider a great horror film. So in the following review of THE BODY BENEATH, just read how odd & how good this film is.............................
THE BODY BENEATH : what has been proclaimed to be Milligan's best schlocky Horror-Feast, oh hell how couldn't you not like a film with a bit of atmosphere, low production values, a archetype hunchback assistant, the vampire master receiving a blood transfusion (for no real reason) & three green faced Vampire Brides. THE BODY BENEATH is a Milligan film through and through with his personal pain embedded beneath (pun intended) the vampire story while his auteur style complete with the dizzying and awkward camerawork & the wine of the camera motor drowning out the lines of muted dialogue. But thankfully despite the annoying presences of the sound of the camera motor turning over is slightly muted out by a lame stock soundtrack.
When a mysterious and snobby Anglican Minster called The Reverend Ford appears in the lives of three other Fords and informs them that they are indirectly related, one the Reverend comes to contact with soon learn the true reality of their families bloodline. The Good Reverend is none other than the head of The Ford Vampire clan, an ancient race of Vampires who are deeply concerned about their rapidly deteriorating bloodline in their living descendants. Their evil plan is to kidnap the Pregnant Susan Ford & have Her Breed decedents worthy of the Ford Clan. However once Susan's Fiancée comes to save her, while the abused hunchback assistant Spool decides to help another Female Ford escape, things soon turn ugly for the Reverend and his Clan. And it all happens at the worst possible time, with the annual Ford vampire conference taking place later that night.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: Aside from the odd bit of atmosphere and intriguing plotline written by Milligan himself, THE BODY BENEATH has all of Milligan's style in it. The awkward, dizzying, and oddly focused Camerawork with the sound of the films motor going in the background (while the cheesy stock score that repeats itself constantly tries to drown the sound out) juxtaposed with the odd touch of atmosphere makes for some unique viewing. The pain Milligan's reflects in this film is his rough childhood via the small back-story that the Hunchback assistant Spool tells about his abusive parents. It seems Milligan personally hated his parents, Milligan's Father was an Army Colonel who was abusive, & an alcoholic tyrant while his mother was an overweight, neurotic & also an Alcoholic as well. In this film Spool tells to a female captive about his tragic upbringing, and Milligan was no stranger to using his films to reflect his hate for his parents. Despite the odd moments in this film I.E The Reverend Ford having two Blood Transfusions seems odd for a vampire to do, the three green faced vampire brides, Spools odd line about liking pudding and several other things, THE BODY BENEATH despite its major short comings is one decent Vampire film which why it get a 50% from me.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE DVD REALISE: on the DVD realise of THE BODY BENEATH from Something Weird Video (SWV) is brilliant. Aside for VAPOURS being one of the Special Features, SWV are renowned by Cult DVD collectors for their DVD's unique features. On The Disc were three trailers two for the reviewed features & one for another Andy Milligan film called GURU, THE MAD MONK  and a poster gallery of various Horror film Posters with rare radio adds playing over the slide show. For my overall rating on the tomato-meter is 60% as an average rating for both feature films.
This vampire flick has the makings of a good story, but all the painted blue girls and unimportant characters get in the way of the actual story. Plus, none of the actors are that good. This could have been a good movie. As it is, it's just so-so.
Probably my favorite of the three Milligan films I have seen so far. A truly bizarre if sometimes plodding vampire film that features Milligan's typical low budget aesthetic as well as the obilgatory sex scenes, although they are fewer and shorter than in some of his other works. Overall, this film will only be of interest to fans of bad movies or those interested in the history of horror.
Another weird low-budget horror film from Andy Milligan. Mostly dry, but interesting, and the last fifteen minutes or so are crazy enough to make it worth a watch-- like "Manos" meets Kenneth Anger!
Andy Milligan has never really achieved the cult status of some of his contemporaries (ie HG Lewis, Ted V. Mikels), but his films are at least as bizarre as their work. THE BODY BENEATH may be Milligan's only genuinely decent film; it's creepy and surprisingly well put together.
Well worth a look for horror fans looking for something a little different.
Possibly Andy's best looking film. Also his most boring (a huge feat, i know). Would get away with a 15 these days, if not a 12a...
Lots of people hate Andy Milligan, but give this movie a chance anyway. It has some good costumes, cool camera work and a relatively easy to follow story (for a Something Weird release, anyway).