Category: Backyard Horror

The Ghastly Ones

Blood_Rites_FilmPoster

Video Nasty #2 of 72

Year of Release: 1968
Directed by: Andy Milligan
Budget: $13,000 (estimated)
Run Time: 81 minutes
Alternate Titles: Released in the UK as Blood Rites, also re-released in the US as Blood Orgy
UK Censorship Status: No UK re-release

[Bell rings, kids take their seats]
Alright now, alright! Calm the Hell down! You crazy kids. Before we rip into today’s movie like a steak at a barbecue, we should probably take a look a look at the chef who cooked it. Well, sort of cooked it. Okay, took a bloody raw hunk of meat, threw it on a platter, and called it a steak. He went by the name of Andy Milligan. Now please open your textbooks to page 666 and read along with me…

Andrew Jackson Milligan Jr. was born an army brat on February 12, 1929 in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father was a captain and his mother was a neurotic booze bag who was both physically and mentally abusive to both her children and her husband, fostering a vile hatred of women in the young man that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.
After graduating high school and serving a stint in the army, he dabbled in acting on stage and ran a dress shop before getting involved in the off-Broadway theater movement of the 1950’s, where he got his first directing experience as well as sharpening his dressmaking skills enough that he actually owned and operated his own clothing boutique for awhile (if you can’t tell, along with everything else Milligan was, he was also very very gay).
In the early 1960’s, Milligan got into film making with a 30 minute short titled Vapors, set in a gay bath house. This film caught the eye of several exploitation film producers, which got his almost 30 year career up and running.
Milligan’s early films (most of which are now lost) were basically soft core porn but after purchasing a Victorian era mansion on Staten Island, he started making horror movies. Today’s subject was his very first one.

I give you a bit about the history of Milligan for two reasons. One: His life is incredibly interesting to read about, and two: because it really helps to kind of understand his films a little bit better.
See, while Herschell Gordon Lewis was the kind of guy that I’d love to sit down and have a beer with and talk about film, Milligan is the kind of guy that I would cross the street to get away from. By all accounts, he was a very unpleasant person to be around. This bit from Wikipedia is a pretty good example of the kind of guy he was:

“Milligan had a reputation throughout his life of being extremely demanding and bad-tempered, often provoking fights or arguments with actors, film producers and financiers as well as strangers he would meet on the street. He would be abusive and frequently shout and yell at actors working on his films or plays for not getting the work done fast enough and even physically assault actors and actresses often by slapping them across their faces and laughing if the women he slapped would break down and cry. A non-smoker and non-drinker, Milligan was said to throw fits and tantrums in public and private if people around him smoke, drank, or used drugs.”

Milligan basically hated the world and everyone in it, but especially women. He even did things like get married to a stripper and then spend the night celebrating at local gay bars, probably just to hurt her. His only real friends were just as messed up as he was, including one that was involved with an abortion clinic bomber!
But see, the thing about Milligan’s movies is that even though they’re obviously the products of someone not quite right in the head and they should be depressing and impossible to watch, they’re just so stupid and poorly made that they become laugh riots instead.
Because Milligan wasn’t just a bad director, Milligan was possibly one of the worst directors of all time…

A good indication of what you’re getting into when you plug this movie into your eye holes is the pre-credits sequence, which has nothing to do with anything else and is kind of like it’s own little short film. Basically a couple of dorks wander around an island until they find a house. “Look, a house!” Exclaims the dorky young man before the camera cuts away and we never get a good look at the house.
Eventually the young man wanders away because he “Wants to explore the island.” But not the house, the house has nothing to do with anything. In fact nothing in this movie has anything to do with anything. After struggling with some bushes, the stupid young man is set upon by somebody and his eyeball is stabbed out. Hilariously, said eyeball balloons to about tennis ball sized once it’s out!  Then the young woman is also hacked apart by the machete wielding maniac as well. Open credits.
Here in about 6 minutes, you basically learn all you need to know about Milligan’s entire oeuvre. Basically, that the man did not know what in the Hell he was doing but through sheer force of will he was going to get his goddamn movies made, goddamnit! He didn’t know where to put the camera, he didn’t know how to move the camera, he didn’t know how to pace anything, he didn’t know how to light anything, and he sure as shooting didn’t know to edit anything.
This total incompetence at achieving even the most basic aspects of film making is really what makes Milligan’s films so unique and makes him still a popular cult figure in the bad movie world. His film’s aren’t just awful, they’re Andy Milligan awful! You can’t really mistake them for anybody else’s.

Getting back to the movie proper, three sisters all receive letters from their late father’s lawyer. Before we even meet the lawyer, we get to spend a lot of time with the sisters and their husbands in what Milligan obviously thought was an accurate representation of happily married life. Of course, Milligan was never actually happily married once in his entire life, so these scenes come off as rather strange bits of idle chatter, that of course have nothing to do with anything. However we do get in a bit of mild nudity, which probably pleased the 42nd Street crowd at the time. Hooray, I guess.
Eventually, and that’s a big “eventually” we get to meet the lawyer who for some odd reason has a head painted with goofy grey make up with random bits of hair stuck on his face! I guess that’s supposed to indicate that he’s old? I don’t know.
The lawyer reads off a statement from the old bastard which basically states that his daughters need to spend three nights in the father’s old house on an island, alone except for the humble servants that still live there (who the Hell’s been paying them all this time?). In three days time the lawyer will come back to the island and read the will and an old trunk in the attic will be opened, for some reason. (the trunk never actually gets opened.)
The servants consist of two older women and a mentally handicapped hunchback named Colin who I guess was supposed to be the murderer in the opening.
Curiously, even though everyone else is decked out in hand-made Milligan-style Victorian type period wear (another trademark), Colin is sporting what looks like a blazer and jeans! Besides killing people who wander onto the island, the hunchback’s extracurricular activities appear to include getting beaten senseless by one of the housekeepers and killing and eating small animals with his bare hands. Such befalls the fate of one poor rabbit when Colin slinks off while everyone else is walking to the house. (Don’t feel bad for poor Mr. Bun-Bun though, he was obviously stuffed.)
Colin is, of course a pretty typical and pretty obvious red herring in what should be a pretty typical Ten Little Indians rip-off, which it would be if it were made by someone else. But we’re in Andy Milligan-Land after all, so nothing here is typical at all….

When I said that Milligan didn’t know how to do jack shit that involved movie-making, I really meant it. His camera-style is disarming even if you’re expecting something amateurish and terrible. A lot of the movie is shot through close-ups of the actor’s faces, even when there’s other things happening that we should be able to see. My favourite bit is a scene where two people are talking and one is completely off-screen, except for his nose! At one point he actually leans in to get into frame! And it got left in the actual movie! Amazing.
He also does this thing where when something bad is happening, he spins the camera around and around, for no good reason at all. Maybe to get the audience dizzy and disoriented? Maybe he thought it just looked cool? I have no idea.
Then there’s the gore that is sandwiched in-between the endless scenes of characters idly chatting about nothing to kill run-time. I’ll give Lewis his due, even though his blood and entrails looked cheap, they have nothing on Milligan’s red paint and Papier-mâché skin. I’ve never attempted to make a film before in my life even I could make better looking grue than that!
In fact, I think I could probably make a better film than Milligan as well but I doubt it would be half as entertaining and I doubt that anybody would want to sit and write about almost 60 years later. Maybe I should get rid of my conscience and start slapping people around…

Andy Milligan died of AIDS at the age of 62 in 1989. He was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Los Angeles since he was flat broke at the time and none of his skeezy friends could afford to buy him a burial plot or even have his body cremated. It seems like a fitting end for someone who lived such a dirty life and left behind such a bizarre legacy.

[Bell rings]
Hey, hey hey! I dismiss you, not the bell! Sit your asses down! Okay, Jimmy! Would you like to tell the principal what you just said! That’s what I thought! Damn kids…

Watch the trailer (which features most of the gore scenes!) here

Random Things

  • There is a mild rape scene in this movie. It was either dictated by the producers or put in at Milligan’s own insistence as another show of his gigantic hatred of women but it comes out of nowhere between two people who seemed to be on good terms before and is never mentioned again!
  • In his non-fiction book Danse Macabre, Stephen King calls this film “The work of morons with cameras.” He was wrong though. It was mostly the work of one moron with probably one very cheap camera.
  • I actually own a copy of this one:  Something Weird Video’s fantastic double feature disc that also contains Milligan’s previously lost Seeds of Sin. It’s a great package that’s pretty much essential if you’re a Milligan fan or addicted to 42nd Street trash like I am.

Next Time: Love Camp 7

Machine Head (2000)

Cover

This thing has been kicking around for quite some time in the DVD rack at the local Reject Shop, oddly fluctuating between a dollar and a whole two bucks. The cover art is actually pretty dope and the back of the box screams “Cult cinema at it’s best!” in quotes and everything, without citing a source, so it seemed like a no brainer to pick it up when it stopped being a dollar over-priced.
Was it worth it? Dollar horror DVDs are always worth it dude!

Plot: This awkward nerdy science geek has to hide his experiments with electronics and motors from his dad while they both work at a morgue his dad runs. The kid resurrects a corpse for a local science fair but everything starts to go wrong when he tries to impress a girl he likes…

Ah, backyard horror movies. While not always made in someone’s backyard, they are usually made by a minuscule studio using family and friends of the director and funded with the change pulled from his sofa.
I always like to commend the people that put these things together since making a movie isn’t easy and you’ve got to have some love for it to put so much time and effort into something that like maybe 20 people are going to see.  Unfortunately, most of them are, to put it bluntly, piles of shit. They either take themselves way too seriously and end up being painfully boring or they try to make up for their lack of budget by being “funny” and end up being painfully lame.
Machine Head might not be Young Frankenstein but it’s made well enough that it’s not too painfully awkward (except for that eye searing low quality digital video) and it’s actually kind of fun in a stupid Jr. high school type of way. It wears out it’s welcome by the end and the big final twist is too dumb to work, but the gore effects are decent for what they are and the acting and dialogue are hilariously loopy.  Plus it has this endearing small town charm that I don’t think I’ve seen in too many other horror movies. “Aw look, there’s Uncle Bill’s gas station! and there’s grandma again!” Yeah. Even the “sick” sense of humor present is still kind of endearingly childish, like the director loved Re-Animator so much that he wanted to re-make it for Mr. Dean’s 3rd period media class. I think he’d get an A but also probably a psychiatrist visit or two. To summarize: Machine Head is a decent party movie with the right kinds of friends and the right kinds of booze.

Rating: B+

Random Things

  • Machine Head is kind of a crummy monster.  He’s a re-animated corpse with a lawnmower engine strapped to his head.  All you’d have to do is pull his spark plugs out or put the wrong kind of gas in him and he’d be done…
  • I wasn’t kidding about the “look, there’s grandma again!” thing. She’s in the background for much of the science fair scene and is even shown driving away from the carnage, probably on her way to bingo night at the local Lutheran church.
  • Isn’t his dad going to notice that corpse has gone missing?
  • Isn’t the town going to notice his dad has gone missing?
  • So so many “actors” with snaggle teeth, weird moles, and clothes from the local K-Mart. Hollywood this ain’t…

To finish off, there is actually a metal band called Machine Head and they kept coming up when I was trying to Google info about this movie. Fun times!