• The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review (Part Two Of Five)

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: March 16th, 2021.
    Director: Andy Milligan
    Cast: Gerald Jacuzzo, Susan Cassidy, Patricia Dillon, Neil Glanagan, Hal Borske, John Miranda, Jane Hilary, Berwick Kaler, Hope Stansbury, Jackie Skarvellis, Noel Collins, Jane Ogden
    Year: 1970/1972
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Movie Review:

    We this second installment, we continue our in-depth look at Severin Films’ efforts to bring the films of the late, great Andy Milligan to Blu-ray in their fantastic boxed set, The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection.

    Here’s a look at discs three and four in this ridiculously wonderful collection.

    Disc Three – Torture Dungeon / The Bloodthirsty Butchers:

    The first film that Andy Milligan would direct for producer William Mishkin, 1970’s Torture Dungeon introduces us to an impotent tri-sexual nobleman named Norman (Gerald Jaccuzo), The Duke Of Norwich, who fully intends to claim the thrown for his own as soon as the time is right, regardless of who might wittingly or unwittingly get in the way of his ambitions.

    When his half-brother is found dead in the garden, his head severed from his body, Norman realizes that he’s one step closer to his goal. However, there still remains the issuer of his other half-brother, Albert (Hal Borske), who is, to be frank, a bit of a simpleton. Norman decides that the easiest way to get rid of Albert is to marry him off to a commoner named Heather MacGregor (Susan Cassidy, whose breasts absolutely will not be restrained by clothing!), and one he and his wife procreate, Norman will step in to take control of the child and with that, the thrown. What Norman doesn’t count on is the presence of Lady Jane (Patricia Dillon), the widow of the decapitated half-brother from earlier in the film. She’s carrying her late husband’s child, something she confesses to her sister, Lady Agatha (Donna Whitfield). As Norman’s attempts to increase his hold over the throne, his actions become increasing erratic, desperate and violent. Oh, and there’s a hunchback named Ivan (Richard Mason) in the mix too, just for the Hell of it, and a weird one-eyed woman as well!

    If you’re into period pieces with giant eyepatches and hunchback sex, then Torture Dungeon is the movie for you. There are some pacing issues with the film but overall, it delivers enough cheapjack gore effects, weird sexual leanings, over the top theatrical performances and, admittedly, solid (if sometimes very low budget looking) costume work to maybe-kinda-sorta hide the fact that this movie was shot for peanuts not in England but in the wilds of Staten Island (don’t pay too much attention to things you can see in the background!), New York City’s ‘forgotten borough’ (and home of the Wu-Tang Clan).

    As to the acting? There is some! Like so many of Milligan’s films, it’s cast with people he either knew from his live theater background of people he just somehow convinced to appear in his picture. You don’t go into a Milligan picture expecting there to be award winning performances, because as good as these people might have been on stage, acting for the camera is a completely different ballgame. What this results in is some wonderfully unique performances that often times seem way over the top but which, if not necessarily ‘good,’ are at least very entertaining to watch.

    The title might lead one to believe they’re going to be in for a gore fest, and while there are some gory moments, this isn’t anything like the movies that Lewis and Friedman had been making a few years prior. It’s more a wonky period drama than it is a horror film, something that very likely confused theatrical audiences when it played way back when, and which will very likely confuse audiences watching it on this Blu-ray for the first time. Lots of crazy handheld camerawork in this one, enough to make you dizzy at times, and eventually we do get to a dungeon, which is pretty cool. Milligan, to his credit, shows a lot of ambition with this film. At times it feels like he’s aiming for Shakespearean treachery and drama and while he never quite gets there, it’s a lot of fun to watch him try.

    One of three films shot commando style (meaning shot without permission from anyone, due to union issues) by Milligan on location in England, 1970’s Bloodthirsty Butchers is, for all intents and purposes, Milligan's adaptation of Sweeny Todd. It’s also presented here by Severin Film in its 'never before seen director’s cut,' which is reason for any Milligan aficionado to be excited about this set (unfortunately I don't have the older Blu-ray release available to compare).

    As to the story, Sweeney Todd (John Miranda, who would go on to appear in two episodes of Mork & Mind!) is a local barber who coincidently teams up with a baker named Maggie Lovett (Jane Hilary). Together, the two of them decide to begin committing a rash of nasty murders against many of their customers and other local types unlucky enough to cross their paths when the pair is in the mood to kill. Todd uses his shop to slit the throats of many of his customers, and then stealing any rings or jewelry they might be wearing.

    Eventually they enlist the aid of one Tobias Ragg (Berwick Kaler), a man who works for Maggie at the bakery. Tobias begins to abduct a bunch of the customers from Sweeney's barber shop and does away with them in all manner of nasty ways, and they quickly begin to get increasingly bold in their increasingly frequent acts of murder.

    Ultimately, of course, they start to make meat pies out of their victims and sell them to the general public out of the bake shop (this results in one of the movies more infamous scenes involving a woman's breast showing up in one of the pies). Will it eventually catch up with them or will they continue to get away with murder/cannibalism? You can probably figure it out pretty easily.

    Yet another cheap quickie from Milligan, this one benefits from an overly sleazy atmosphere and an extremely bitter cascade of misogynist dialogue that gives the film a gritty and dirty feel that actually really works well in its favor. The wonky Milligan-style camerawork actually benefits the movie here, some of the cinematography is quite effective even if maybe it shouldn’t be. The London locations also work better than the Staten Island locations we see in his other films, they look genuinely older and more ‘of the period’ than they do in Milligan’s American films. Again, the costumes have obviously had some care put into them, which is a good thing. Overall though, the production values are charmingly low, with Milligan clearly trying to mask the more modern aspects of his locations in camera.

    Again, the performances are reasonably lunatic, with stage actors over enthusiastically reciting a whole bunch of Milligan’s trademark acerbic dialogue at a rapid fire pace. It’s a pretty fun watch if you’re in the mood for nonsense and don’t mind the endless amounts of overripe dialogue that fills the film.

    Note that both of this film is also presented in its "original director's cut, which was X-rated for violence" (again, an older version isn't currently available for me to compare).

    Disc Four – The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! / The Curse Of The Full Moon:

    The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, released in 1972, was shot both in London and in Staten Island, which is kind of awesome. Another picture released by producer William Mishkin, the film gives viewers the chance to meet the Mooney family. They’re a bizarre clan that lives in Victorian-era England, more specifically, a rundown section of London. Their neighborhood isn’t exactly the nicest neighborhood in the city. One of the reasons that the Mooney's live there, however, is because they harbor a pretty nasty secret. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here…

    Lovely Diana Mooney (Jackie Skarvellis, sporting some amazing eye makeup) is set to marry her fiancé, Gerald (Ian Innes), a painter. Initially, their relationship seems to be just fine. They met while she was in medical school and seem to be really and truly in love with one another… and then she takes him back to meet her family - bedridden Pa Mooney (Douglas Phair), younger brother Malcolm (Berwick Kaler), older brother Mortimer (Noel Collins), older sister Phoebe (Joan Ogden) and younger sister Monica (a scene-stealing Hope Stansbury), the later of whom owns a pack of rats. It isn’t long after she does that that he realizes none of his soon to be in-laws are what anyone would call normal people. Not only are they quite vocal about their disapproval of the pending nuptials, but the fact that mentally challenged Malcolm is kept chained to the wall in the basement is pretty much a dead giveaway for that. Gerald also finds out that his bride to be has a strong affection for rats and that her family is actually… werewolves.

    Thankfully there’s a gunsmith nearby who has the ability to make silver bullets! But will Jackie be able to use her medical expertise to figure out a cure for her family’s curse before that becomes necessary?

    The 'rats' idea has very little to do with anything else in the movie and was apparently thrown into the film on a whim to cash in on the success of Willard and the upcoming flop that would be Ben (great theme song though) – and when you watch the film, you can kind of see how that theory plays out. The scenes with the rats feel forced into the rest of the narrative and don’t really wind up adding much of anything, except the presence of rats, to the movie. As such, the film, much like most of Milligan's other efforts, is a mess but is not without its bizarre sense of charm. The sex and violence prominent in many of the director’s other pictures is toned down here quite a bit, but that nasty, catty dialogue that is always such a draw when thinking about the man’s work is definitely here in spades.

    The cheaply made costumes again show some care and attention to detail, even if it’s clear that budget was an issue. A few bizarre out of place set pieces of violence, over the top melodrama and amateur night performances all lend themselves to Milligan's utterly bizarre style of low budget filmmaking, all of which makes this one more than watchable. Again, it feels like Milligan is directing his actors to perform for the theater rather than the camera, so things are dialed up quite a bit, but that fanatically bitchy is delivered so perfectly that you can’t help but get sucked into this stinky pile of beautiful trash.

    Oh, and Milligan himself shows up in this picture as a gun smith AND as a pawnbroker – there’s no mistaking that impish grin and that wonderful moustache!

    Also included on this disc is the unfinished director's cut of rats, The Curse Of The Full Moon, clocking in at 1:13:07. This is available with original dialogue only (no music or effects) OR with cut down audio from The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, which runs 1:32:00.

    There are some noticeable differences here, starting with the fact that there are no opening credits provided for The Curse Of The Full Moon (again, this is the unfinished cut). Basically, as noted above, producer Mishkin wanted to cash in on the popularity of ‘rat’ themed horror movies after Willard hit, and he asked Milligan to add footage with rats to the movie. Milligan went back to Staten Island after finishing photography in England and did just that, and the end results are the finished version of The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!. This version features no rats and runs almost twenty-minutes shorter.

    As to the differences? Again, opening credits are gone. There is a weird additional scene involving what appears to be a character’s back hair (it’s confusing) but mostly it’s a matter of what has been removed. The scene that foreshadows the rats at the thirty-five minute mark in the theatrical cut is gone, as is the scene where Monica plays with and then tortures a real rat around the thirty-eight-minute mark on the theatrical cut. Additionally, the scene around the forty-one/forty-two-minute mark where Monica buys rats is gone, as is the scene at the fifty-one-minute mark where Monica talks with the rat seller and then coddles a clearly rubber and she names Ben is also gone. A second scene with the rat seller is gone, as is a burning scene and a scene where the two sisters talk and play around with a jar is also gone. There’s also a scene involving a clever chop that has also been excised.

    In some ways, this unfinished cut feels ‘more’ Milligan than the version we’ve seen before with all the goofy rats footage cut into it. In this version, the emphasis is in on characters and nasty family drama, and while, sure, the dopey werewolf finale is still there in all it’s stupid but awesome glory, it’s often times Milligan’s dialogue and penchant for letting his cast chew scenery that makes his movies as distinctive as they are. In this version, we don’t have fake and/or real rats to distract from that.

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Blu-ray Review:

    Torture Dungeon, scanned in 2k from its original uncut 16mm camera reversal, takes up 23.4GBs of space on the disc while The Bloodthirsty Butchers, also scanned in 2k from its original uncut 16mm camera reversal, gets 23.2GBs of space, both features share the same 50GB disc. Both films are presented in 1.33.1 and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The Rat Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! gets 24.6GBS of space while The Curse Of The Full Moon gets 21GBs of space and again, both features share the same 50GB disc. Curse has been scanned in 2k from its original 16mm camera reversal, and that same element was used to put together the version of Rats that is included on this disc, with some scenes cut in from 35mm blowup negative where necessary. Again, both films are presented in 1.33.1 and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Picture quality is pretty similar across the four films on these two discs – expect some print damage throughout, but colors are handled pretty nicely. The transfers are very grainy, as they should be given the films’ origins, and while detail isn’t going to rise up to the best looking HD presentations out there, if you’ve seen these movies before, you’ll definitely appreciate the substantial upgrade in depth, detail and overall quality of the image despite the limitations of the source material.

    Audio for Torture Dungeon is handled by a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track while The Bloodthirsty Butchers gets a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono, both in English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The Rat Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! and The Curse Of The Full Moon each get 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks with optional English subtitles. The audio can be a little flat sometimes – again, we’re at the mercy of the elements available – but overall dialogue is generally pretty easy to understand and the levels properly balanced.

    Note that The Curse Of The Full Moon is available with original dialogue only (no music or effects) or with cut down audio from The Rat Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, which does feature background music and some occasional sound effects. The audio quality on the original dialogue version is a bit flatter.

    Extras for discs three and four this collection are spread out as follows:

    Disc Three – Torture Dungeon / The Bloodthirsty Butchers:

    Aside from a trailer for the feature, Torture Dungeon also includes a commentary track from Milligan historian Alex DiSanto. He opens by talking about his obsession with Milligan, before then going on to talk about how he feels this particular film is a great summation of his sex and horror films. He covers the Staten Island locations, how the film originated as Macabre, his thoughts on 'little shithead' producer William Mishkin, Milligan's theater experience and how this often times lead to his casting people he knew from the theater world in his film productions. He also covers Milligan's penchant for throwing tantrums, Jimmy McDonough's work uncovering Milligan's story, how Milligan conned a lot of people on Staten Island into letting him use their property, the quality of the acting in the film, how Milligan admitted to never using a light meter and simply guessed his exposures, the wardrobe featured in the film, Milligan's experiences making a dress for a certain Rockefeller, the release history of this film and the different cuts of the movie that exist and how gorier versions existed besides those that were taken from the 35mm negative for home video release, how most of what was removed from this and other Milligan films and which has been reinstated in for this collection was sex rather than violence and plenty more. DiSanto is really enthusiastic here and offers up a lot of information about all sorts of minutia regarding the film and it's all very interesting stuff. This track is well-researched and packed with interesting factoids and plenty of critical analysis as well.

    The only extra for The Bloodthirsty Butchers is the film's original theatrical trailer.

    Disc Four – The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! / The Curse Of The Full Moon:

    The only extra included for The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is a theatrical trailer for the picture.

    For The Curse Of The Full Moon we get a featurette entitled The World Of Andy Milligan. Narrated by Chris Poggiali, this fifteen-minute piece takes a look at some of the locations that were used in his films as well as some places where he lived and worked. We get a look at the Anco Theater where he worked as an usher, see some promo material for some puppet work that he did, locations for his Ad Lib clothing store and a look at where Caffe Cina used to be, where Milligan directed a whole bunch of productions. We then see a few other places where Milligan worked before then seeing locations from Fleshpot On 42nd Street, where Milligan's own Showboat Theater used to be, gay porn house Jewel Theater where Milligan did a production called Section 8, locations used for the exterior in Vapors (which would later become Kim's Video for a while) as well as the theater space where that film premiered, (once the home of Alexander Hamilton's family!) and the church used in Guru The Mad Monk. We then travel to London where we see the cemetery used for the Body Beneath, the mansion Milligan used for that film and a few others, the barber shop from The Bloodthirsty Butchers (now a Thai restaurant), The Ten Bells Pub featured in the film (also a real life location that toys into the Jack The Ripper murders). After that, we visit Staten Island and visit Milligan's home that was also used for Seeds, The Ghastly Ones and Torture Dungeon (supposedly haunted in real life!) before checking out a different home that Milligan lived in that was used in Fleshpot On 42nd Street and Blood. As the featurette winds up we visit a few more Staten Island locations used in Fleshpot, Legacy Of Blood. We also get some shots of Times Square and the theater distract that compare who it looks today and how it looked when Fleshpot was filmed and a look at a few more theaters that Milligan was involved with including The Troupe Theater (where he lived on the top floor) and last but not least, some locations from his time in Los Angeles used for Monstrosity and his final residence where he lived until he passed away in 1991.

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan - The Final Word:

    Discs three and four of The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan offer some of the twisted auteur’s beater known films in very nice quality and with some choice extra features as well. Having the unfinished director’s cut of The Curse Of The Full Moon is going to be a huge appeal to anyone with an interest in his work but the presentations are strong and both the commentary and locations featurette on these discs are seriously interesting.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Blu-ray screen caps!