• Monstrosity (Garagehouse Pictures) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Garagehouse Pictures
    Released on: December 14th, 2018.
    Director: Andy Milligan
    Cast: Tommy Voager, David Homb, Michael Lunsford, Joe Balogh, Hal Borske, Carrie Anita
    Year: 1987
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    Monstrosity – Movie Review:

    Andy Milligan lensed this low budget reinterpretation of the Frankenstein mythos in 1987, which would make it his last films (only The Weirdo and Surgikill would follow, both in 1989), and with his name attached as director, it should come as a shock to no one that this is a cheaply made picture with the director wearing a lot of hats behind the camera. While it lacks the atmosphere that make his better films like Vapors, Nightbirds, The Body Beneath and Seeds as intriguing as they are, the movie makes up for that… sort of… with cheap gore, bad wigs and hokey humor. Like all of the director’s pictures, the film is stagier than it is cinematic, but it has a certain charm to it that makes it endearing in its own stupid way.

    Set in the California of the late eighties, the film begins with a trio of hoods wreaking havoc on the streets of Los Angeles. After mugging an old man and stealing a car, they rape a pretty young girl. She’s taken to the hospital but ends up dying in the hospital afterwards when one of the rapists who put her there, Cole (Tommy Voager) disguises himself as a doctor and shows up to finish her off. Her boyfriend and a pair of his cronies decide that they’ll build their very own Golem to carry out their plans for revenge against the culprits.

    The victim’s boyfriend, Mark (David Homb), is understandably upset. He and his two medical school pals, Carlos (Joe Balogh) and Scott (Michael Lunsford), are inspired by the story of The Golem to create a monster out of available human and animal body parts to set out and get the revenge that Mark craves. Their months of long and tedious dedication to the project eventually comes to fruition when their creation, dubbed Frankie (Hal Borske, a Milligan stock player), is finally given life. Things get hairy as they try and keep him under wraps but after inspiring him to go on a killing spree by showing him pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, they get him to go after the gang of thugs from the beginning of the film, but of course, nothing goes as planned. When Frankie falls fast and hard for a junkie named Jamie (Carrie Anita), it’s clear that all he wants is to be loved. A few people get killed and before it’s all over an angel named Angelo (Joel Weiss) shows up and we see an unusual amount of closeup shots showing an old school Care Bears wind-up alarm clock.

    Filled with the kind of cheap gore effects that would make H. G. Lewis scoff in disbelief, and a monster running around with a monkey’s arm and a giant red afro, Monstrosity is full of every manner of whacked out exploitation elements. While it’s certainly a terrible film, it is still a pretty fun ride for those who are able to appreciate these things. Milligan and company were clearly not playing any of this even remotely straight, playing things more for laughs than anything else. Still, the movie is tonally all over the place – we’re supposed to see humor in things but then, there’s rape and there’s some reasonably graphic gore – it’s pretty weird. What exactly Milligan was getting at with this one is questionable, but if nothing else this is entertaining.

    The makeup effects from Rodd Matsui, who would go on to work on some big budgeted Hollywood films like From Dusk Till Dawn and Batman And Robin as well as decent horror pictures like Bride Of Re-Animator and Lord Of Illusions, are clearly done fast and cheap but they’re gooey and gory and fun to see. The score by Larry Wilkins is bonkers. It’s repetitive and poorly edited into the picture, starting and stopping at random in true Milligan fashion. Milligan not only directed the film but he edited it, shot it and did the sets and costumes as well. He also wrote the picture and while there’s less acerbic dialogue here than in his more dramatic pictures, it’s still clearly his work.

    The acting is no great shakes but you’ve got to hand it to Borske for playing Frankie as well as he does. Wandering around with a droopy eye, a gorilla’s arm and a dopey red wig on and delivering his lines with a hokey ‘sad sack’ voice, he’s fun to watch here. The rest of the cast don’t really fare as well but they’re fine. Special mention has to be made of Anita’s work as Frankie’s love interest, she manages to create a character that is simultaneously adorable and highly irritating at the same time.

    The end credits state “See the return of Frankie soon in MONSTROSITY II” but for better or worse, that movie never happened.

    Monstrosity – Blu-ray Review:

    Monstrosity arrives on Blu-ray from Garagehouse Pictures on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p presentation framed in its original 1.33.1 aspect ratio. This transfer looks about as good as it probably can given the shooting conditions and haphazard production values of the film. Detail varies a bit from scene to scene usually depending on how it was shot or lit. Still, we get a substantial upgrade in quality over the previous DVD release that came out via Video Kart in 2003. Colors fare quite well and generally look really nice, the red blood in the kill scenes popping quite vividly and the color in Frankie’s wig shining through nicely. Black levels are also pretty strong here. The movie retains a nice film-like vibe throughout, showing some natural film grain and some minor print damage but nothing too distracting. Those familiar with how this movie has looked in the past should be quite pleased with Garagehouse’s efforts on this title.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is fine. Dialogue is a little thin at times but it’s always discernible. The insanely repetitive soundtrack comes through with more clarity than you might expect or even hope for, but it definitely has some depth to it. There aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion save for a few spots here and there. Overall, the audio here is probably as good as can realistically be hoped for. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided.

    The first of two audio commentary tracks that are available to play over the feature comes from Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough (author of The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld Of Filmmaker Andy Milligan and the production assistant on this particular film) and Charlie Beesley, who worked as assistant editor on the picture and who used to write for Psychotronic Magazine. McDonough describes this picture as Milligan’s ‘last interesting film’ and then goes on to point out many of the locations used in the opening scene. He and Beesley share some memories of the cast members involved in the shoot and tell some interesting stories about them, discuss the prosthetic effects in the film and how it was a bit sad that Milligan didn’t do the effects himself on this picture. They also talk about what it was like shooting in California at this point in time, literally gave addresses for certain locations and their proximity to Okie-Dog because of the hustlers that hung around there and more. They also talk quite a bit about what Milligan was like to work with, their thoughts on him as a person and as a filmmaker, how a certain actress was very sweet but sort of ‘stunned’ by everything involved in filmmaking and lots, lots more. There’s NO dead air here, and while McDonough may lead the charge, Beesley’s got some great input here as well. Consider this track essential.

    The second commentary features filmmaker Andrew Repasky McElhinney who is joined by podcaster Greg Giovanni and artist Dan Buskirk. These guys offer their thoughts on the film as it plays out in what is basically a scene specific talk. Repasky McElhinney talks about the different phases of Milligan’s career and offers up some input on his relationship with the Mishkin crew. From there the three talk about how the rape scene in the film is used as a ‘trope for plot development’ and that it’s very much a product of its time, how the disembowelment in the film mirrors the one scene in Last House On Dead End Street, some of the quirks of the camerawork in the movie, how the film shifts gears from being a rape revenge drama to a bizarre take on the Golem story, and of course the importance of Borske’s presence in the film and his relationship to the director – and they offer up some notes about Torture Dungeon too and accurately describe the soundtrack in the film as… relentless. Interesting stuff.

    Up next is Matsui’s Monstrosities: An Interview With A Make-Up Man, a featurette that gets Rodd Matsui in front of the camera to talk about this early entry in his career and what it was like working with Andy Milligan. Here, over the course of fifteen-minutes, he talks about how he wound up moving to Los Angeles as a young kid, got into monsters at an early age thanks to his family’s love of Halloween, and then how he got into makeup and effects work. From there, he talks about some of the early work he did and some of the techniques he employed, how he wound up meeting Milligan for the first time and how he wound up working for him on this picture after being hired on the spot. From there, he talks about his familiarity with Milligan’s work thanks to an article he read in Fangoria, what it was like on set and trying to do all of what was needed to be done on a low budget.

    If that weren’t enough, the disc includes a whopping hour-and-forty-four-minutes of outtakes from the film! These outtakes don’t have any sound and are presented silent but optional audio commentary tracks with McDonough and then with McElhinney, Giovanni and Buskirk.

    McDonough goes first, pointing out what they can as the footage plays out, going freestyle about what it was like working with Milligan (McDonough notes that he’s said all he has to say about Milligan in the commentary for the feature). He talks about how and why he came to write the biography about Milligan that he wrote, dealing with some of the Café China people, some of the experiences that he had getting to know the late director, why he became so obsessed with his work, some of the different ‘fringe characters’ that hung around Milligan, how Milligan worked in New York and London and then eventually in Los Angeles, Milligan’s failed attempts to make a Blaxploitation film and more. This talk goes for approximately fifty-five-minutes.

    McElhinney, Giovanni and Buskirk is done basically on the fly as they watch the footage included here for the first time. They elaborate on what we see, not that they’re presented in order, and speculate on why they may not have been used in the feature. They point out McDonough’s appearance in the footage, note where different takes were used, and then go off into a few different directions talking about the writing in the film, offer some observations about the filmmaking on display and plenty more. These guys manage to keep talking over the entirety of the footage and it is an amusing talk.

    As to the footage itself? It’s all pretty random, covering everything from interior scenes, character bits, inaudible scenes of dialogue, some extra added effects bits showcasing Frankie’s creation, some nice shots of a parking lot, girls lounging around the pool,

    From there, dig into a selection of deleted scenes. There’s six-minutes of material here, including some opening credits that use different music, some footage shot in the Hollywood hills, some clips from the opening with the thugs, extended bits with dialogue and a great speech from Angelo.

    Rounding out the extra features is a nice still gallery, a collection of Andy Milligan trailers (Monstrosity, Guru The Mad Monk, The Man With 2 Heads, The Rats Are Coming The Werewolves Are Here), a collection of Garagehouse Pictures trailers (The Dismembered, Ninja Busters, The Satanist and a few of the Trailer Trauma compilations), menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, this release includes some new cover art by Stephen Romano on one side of the insert sleeve and on the reverse some liner notes by Jason Coffman that provide some thoughts on the feature and its merits. The first 1000 copies of the movie also come with a very nice slipcover that features artwork from Justin Miller on the front panel.

    Monstrosity – The Final Word:

    Surprisingly enough, Garagehouse Pictures has given Andy Milligan’s Monstrosity a full-fledged special edition release. The film is presented in very nice shape and with fine audio but it’s the extra features here that really impress. The effort put forth to document the history of this genuine cinematic oddity is impressive and the results interesting and entertaining. The movie itself isn’t the director’s best, but it’s an entertaining picture with a screwy charm all its own.

    Click on the images below for full sized Monstrosity Blu-ray screen caps!