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



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: March 16th, 2021.
    Director: Andy Milligan
    Cast: Denis DeMarne, Julia Stratton, Gey Feld, Neil Flanagan, Jacqueline Webb, Judith Israel, Elaine Boies, Louis Gallandra, Jeanie Cusick
    Year: 1972/1970/1978/1978
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    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Movie Review:

    With this third – good God! - installment, we, for reasons that are increasingly difficult to explain, continue our in-depth look at Severin Films’ efforts to bring the films of the late, great Andy Milligan to Blu-ray in their ridiculously comprehensive boxed set, The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection.

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

    Disc Five – The Man With Two Heads / Guru The Mad Monk:

    The Man With Two Heads, the last film that Milligan would make during his stint in London, is actually about a man with one head (no penis jokes, please). This man’s name is Dr. William Jekyll (Denis DeMarne), a brilliant doctor who isn’t interested in doing away with mankind’s sinister leanings but rather to completely eliminate it and make everyone a really nice person! He’s engaged to a hottie named Mary Anne Marsden (Gay Field), who he puzzlingly ignores despite the fact that she’s clearly way into him.

    Jekyll frequently espouses his theories to his class of four medical students (one of whom sports very cool shades) whenever possible, which is all well and good until he runs into the same problem that ever other Dr. Jekyll has run into some Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his book in 1886, and that’s how to test this new serum that he is so completely convinced will work without issue? Of course, he tests it on himself and, completely unaware that his right hand man, Jack Smithers (Berwick Kaler) – who is involved with Jekyll’s cute but cockeyed sister Carla (Jaqueline Lawrence) - has spilt some liquid on his notes ruining his chances of coming up with an antidote or alternate serum that might reverse the effects that are now taking hold, they being the release of his ‘id,’ turning nice guy Jekyll into rat bastard Danny Blood! Danny enjoys the company of whores and gets off on yelling at them and smacking them around, starting with a fairly savage assault on April Conners (Julia Stratton), then later going on to go full on Jack The Ripper and start murdering prostitutes in the street!

    Andy Milligan’s tempestuous love affair with smoke machines continues in this seriously odd picture that you can, if you’re into such things, read a lot into. It isn’t such a stretch to see Jekyll’s transformation as a brute as a rejection of heterosexual norms what with his penchant for misogynist violence and trash talk. Given Milligan’s issues with women and his own openly gay status, this is hardly an impossibility – but it’s just as likely that Andy was like, ‘well, we need some exploitative nonsense to go along with all the bad makeup and smoke machine action that I’ve so maybe Jekyll should just smack some women around and we can call it a day.’ You never can tell with Milligan, and that’s a big part of what makes his utterly strange body of work so fascinating to dive into once in a while. This one is a fair bit more competent than many of his other movies, so it’s got that going for it as well.

    As to the acting, much of it is uniformly terrible but full credit to Denis DeMarne for really going for it. Yeah, fine, he chews a bit of scenery here and there but he plays Jekyll as a committed, if obsessive, man who prefers science to the company of a beautiful woman, and his more sinister side as a complete brute. When he raises his hand, you know someone is going to take one in the face, and while much of the film is, in typical Milligan style, hokey and goofy (in the best way possible), DeMarne delivers.

    Note that this version is the "uncensored director's cut" and that, according to the included book, it contains a few bits and pieces of stronger material that was removed so that the film could get a PG rating when it hit theaters. Unfortunately, the original release of the film isn't available for me to do an A/B comparison at the moment.

    Guru The Mad Monk, made two years earlier in 1970, is set roughly in fifteenth century England and stars top-billed Milligan regular Neil Flanagan as Father Guru of The Lost Souls Church Of Mortavia, which seems to double as a prison of some sort and is, not so surprisingly, built on the ‘beastly’ island of Mortavia. It’s complicated and not very well explained. Anyway, while Guru may be a man of the cloth, the fact of the matter is he’s a pretty corrupt piece of crap who seems to get off on heating up branding irons and scarring people with them right there in the sanctuary. He’s also got a mistress named Olga (Jaqueline Webb) who helps him out with his various acts of depravity. She might be a vampire.

    Nadja (Judith Israel) and Carl (Paul Liebe) are a young couple who wind up on Guru’s bad side. She’s been accused of killing her newborn and locked away in the Church, sentenced to be executed for her crimes. Carl pleas with Guru to save his beloved and winds up having to help him acquire corpses to sell in return (this is Guru’s side hustle – he sells cadavers to medical schools). Olga gets mixed up in all of this and Guru talks to himself a lot, but an elaborate plan to stage Nadja’s death and get her out in once piece is launched, but after Igor falls in love with her, things go from complicated and confusing to… even more complicated and confusing.

    Needlessly complicated and confusion but somehow loveable, Guru The Mad Monk is decorated with a bunch of Halloween store cobwebs and costumes that would once again appear to be made by Milligan himself, giving it a DIY vibe that goes a long way towards making it as fun to watch as it is. There’s really no defending the film’s many and obvious shortcomings but somehow Milligan secured St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Manhattan (Chelsey to be precise) as a location, which definitely adds to the production values for the film – it’s a beautiful church and it really adds a lot where the film clearly needed it. The cinematography is, in typical Milligan style, manic and questionable in both its intent and its execution.

    Denis DeMarne, who also appeared in The Ghastly Ones, Seeds, Torture Dungeon and Fleshpot On 42nd Street (where he played Cherry Lane as Lynn Flanagan!), steals the show here. He’s flamboyant and over the top and doesn’t even come close to looking the part but it doesn’t stop him from just going for it. The rest of the cast are as typically stagey as most of Milligan’s cast members tended to be but DeMarne (who would later go on to show up in hardcore porno movies like Sometime Sweet Susan and sitcoms like The Bob Newhart Show!) gives his all here.

    Disc Six – Legacy Of Blood / Legacy Of Horror:

    Legacy Of Blood (not to be confused with the John Carradine film of the same name) is, for all intents and purposes, a remake of Milligan’s earlier film, The Ghastly Ones, so this plot synopsis is going to sound more than a little familiar – but trust me, it’s accurate.

    The film is set sometimes in the 1800s, beginning in New England where we meet sisters Margaret (Elaine Boies) and Mary Lennox (Marilee Troncone) who worked as maids at the fancy mansion home of The Hanley’s where they reside with their brother Carl (a manic and scene stealing Chris Broderick), who is clearly mentally challenged. The owners of the house passed away some time ago, but a letter was sent out to the three daughters (and husbands) of the late Mr. and Mrs. Hanley – James (Joe Downing) and Regina Hanley (Dale Hansen), Robert (Peter Schwartz) and Jennifer Burke (Louise Gallandra), and John (Peter Barcia) and Louise Halverson (Jeannie Cusick).

    In order for them to get their inheritance, they have to leave the various cities they live in and travel to Hanley Island and spend three nights together in harmony! Before they do this, the three sisters catch up and look back on how odd their father could be at times before then visiting a completely cracked psychic named Baba (Bob Elia) who looks so out of place here you have to wonder just what the Hell Milligan was thinking when he cast him. At any rate, Baba predicts that one of the sisters will not make it back from the trip alive and then promptly sends them on their way.

    Before the Hanley girls arrive, Mary learns that Carl has gotten violent with his pet rabbit and killed it, burying it as quickly as she can so as to avoid incident. The Hanley’s and their respective husbands all show up and start poking around the place, and it isn’t long before they see Carl freak out and Mary remove to calmer quarters. With no telephone or even any electricity, the guests are truly cut off from the rest of the world, and later that night Carl’s poor dead rabbit makes an appearance under the sheets of Regina’s bed, complete with an ominous note attached to it! Prolonged stretches of bickering about money occurs between the guests and the help alike, and then John turns up dead.

    Things get weirder from there on out, leading up to a couple of nifty, albeit very amateurish, murder set pieces and one of the best final deaths in trash movie history!

    Once again primarily shot in and around the wilds of Staten Island (standing in poorly for 1800’s era New England), Milligan does a poor job of hiding where the movie was made, allowing us to easily see modern day industrial buildings and factories in the background, his heavily costumed cast members dressed in the type of finery you associate with the director’s work failing to distract us from this. The fact that the Tottenville sign on the platform of the train station that the characters take in the film is also a dead giveaway as to where this is all taking place. Milligan’s hotel at 399 Ellis Street is also used in the film, a location that is now an Italian restaurant called Angelina's Ristorante.

    All of the Milligan ‘quirks’ are here – extremely questionable camera placement, insanely stagey acting, super silly but oh-so-awesome low budget gore effects and lots of cattiness and outright bitchiness among the different characters in the film.

    At the same time, this picture is a bit more competent than quite a few of his other pictures. The camera work, while far from great, is at least a bit more polished, meaning he probably figured out how to use a tripod by this point in his career. The Ghastly Ones has a certain something to it that Legacy Of Blood is missing but this later picture is a bit more cohesive in terms of its structure and hey, we even get a stunt when Carl is set on fire (and a cool dummy death when he’s tossed off a balcony). That ending though, hot damn. There are some slow parts here but stick with it, because it’s a pretty bonkers finale even if you can see where it’s heading.

    Legacy Of Horror is, in short, the edited for TV version of Legacy Of Blood. Interesting enough, the film actually runs 1:23:02 versus Legacy Of Blood’s 1:17:34. The TV version follows the same story pretty much to the letter but it removes virtually all of the gore scenes from the film and pads things out with just under six-minutes of more of Milligan’s trademark dialogue. It’s this edited but longer version that made it to VHS back in the day, so pairing it with the proper uncut theatrical version of the film makes for an interesting comparison. That said, as great as it is to have both cuts here for posterity’s sake, once you watch the theatrical version with the gore intact, you’re probably never going to go back to the TV cut, simply because the ending that is so great on the theatrical version really lacks the impact when the gore is removed.

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Blu-ray Review:

    The Man With Two Heads is framed at 1.33.1 and it takes up 18.9GBs of space on the 50GB disc with Guru The Mad Monk framed in your choice of 1.33.1 or 1.85.1, each transfer taking up 13.9GBS each on the disc, sourced from a 35mm release print. With each film presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition they look about as good as can realistically be expected. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we are once again at the mercy of the elements available. Expect some scratches and some print damage throughout and keep your expectations in check in regards to detail – particularly during scenes involving a lot of fog/smoke or scenes with a lot of darkness – but once again we get substantial improvements over what we’ve seen before in terms of how these pictures have been presented on home video.

    As to the next day, Legacy Of Blood is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taking up 22.8GBs of space, presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and sourced from the only know elements, a 35mm release print. Legacy Of Horror is a different story, taped sourced and framed at 1.33.1 and taking up 5.1GBs of space and offered up in an MPEG-2 encoded transfers. Legacy Of Blood generally looks quite good – again, expect some scratches and some print damage and even some occasional color fading but overall, it’s very watchable with a respectable amount of detail present. The 35mm film stock is considerably more forgiving than the earlier 16mm productions in that regard. Legacy Of Horror, however, is a different story. Taken from what we can assume are the only elements available, this looks like the tape-sourced transfer that it is. While including it here was absolutely the right thing to do – who wouldn’t want oddball alternate versions included on Blu-ray releases whenever possible? – the screen caps below don’t lie, but again, this is all that’s left of the film and it’s important that it be preserved here.

    The first three films get 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks, while Legacy Of Horror gets a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono option. Subtitles are provided in English only. The lossless tracks sound about as good as you can realistically expect them to. There’s a bit of hollowness inherent in the original recordings that is just always going to be there, but the levels are balanced well enough and the dialogue is usually pretty easy to understand and follow. As to Legacy Of Horror, the audio is on par with the video, hampered by the tape source and subject to some occasional wobble.

    Extras for discs five and six in this collection are spread out as follows:

    Disc Five – The Man With Two Heads / Guru The Mad Monk:

    Extras for The Man With Two Heads are limited to a theatrical trailer and an alternate version of the party sequence from the film. The deal here is that when the movie was released, someone - either Milligan or Mishkin - completely recut the original party sequence to get rid of anything that might push the film past a PG rating, adding some goofy gore shots in their place. This two-minute clip shows the theatrical version of that scene, complete with soundtrack cuts where the edits were made and it's pretty Goddamn bonkers.

    Guru The Mad Monk also includes an original theatrical trailer in addition to a few other goodies starting with Remembering Andy Milligan, an interview with set photographer Tom Vozza that originally appeared on the Retromedia DVD release of the film from a few years back and which clocks in at just shy of thirteen-minutes. Here he speaks about how he wound up working with Milligan once he moved to California. Vozza speaks pretty candidly about the quality of the film that the director was making during this later period, how he treated his cast members during shoots, the constraints and issues that the film's ultra-low budgets caused and quite a bit more. Vozza is pretty honest about Milligan's good side and bad side and it's an interesting interview that also happens to contain some nice archival photographs presumably taken from his collection.

    This disc also includes a commentary track from Keith Crocker over Guru The Mad Monk. He starts by talking about the 'creative and lush' credits, noting that this was Milligan's first 35mm film with synchronized sound, which wound up giving Milligan a severe headache during editing since he shot it without a proper synch cable! As the track continues, Crocker covers the film's release history, notes and details on the different cast members that appear in the film (sadly Neil Flanagan passed away from AIDS), the film's attempts to cash in on historical horror films that were starting to become popular around this time like Mark Of The Devil, how Milligan formed Nova International to distribute his own films only for that idea to fall apart, the film's interesting connections to Roosevelt, Long Island, some of the locations that were used for the production, Milligan's double-featuring this film with The Body Beneath, how producer Monte Isaacs (credited as M.A. Isaacs in the film) and Larry Revene were involved with the production and their connections to a lost film called Vampire Valley, how Isaacs used stills from Guru The Mad Monk to try and entice Nathan Schiff into working with him which ties into Crocker's own work as a filmmaker, ties to Harry Novak's career, Crocker's own dealing with William Mishkin when he wanted to make a documentary on Milligan as a student film, the film's home video release history and plenty more. It's a really fun track. Crocker can occasionally ramble a bit but even when he does he's a lot of fun to listen to and he knows his stuff.

    Disc Six – Legacy Of Blood / Legacy Of Horror:

    Legacy Of Blood includes a featurette called Legacy Of Chris that interviews actor Chris Broderick that clocks in at just under eleven-minutes. Here he speaks about how he met Milligan and asked him for a part in the film only to get rejected on the spot and then later got a phone call offering him the role of the simpleton who gets set on fire in the movie! He then goes on to talk about Milligan's safety procedures for setting his actors on fire, how his mom talked to Milligan about all of this and what it was like to actually be set on fire on an Andy Milligan movie. He then goes on to talk about his thoughts on the scene, staging the scene where his character was thrown off a train station, using false teeth during the shoot, how bad the taste of the fake blood (beet juice!) Andy used during the film was, Milligan's DIY work ethic, going on to work with Milligan again as a one-legged man in House Of The Seven Belles where he didn't bother to learn his lines based on Milligan's instruction and his thoughts on Milligan's legacy. Great stuff, this interview is a lot of fun and quite revealing.

    Extras for Legacy Of Horror include a featurette with Executive Producer Ken Lane entitled Blood Or Horror. He speaks here for sixteen-minutes about how he was working with Troma on the distribution side of things when in the fall of 1977 Andy Milligan walked in and tried to get them to distribute Legacy Of Blood so that he could pay off the money he owed to Technicolor. He then talks about his thoughts on the movie after screening it, getting Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz on board to distribute the movie, splitting off to form his own company, Andy's penchant for talking about getting screwed over by all of his other distributors and his intentions of treating Milligan honestly, getting the film into the Times Square theaters of the era and problems he ran into with them, how this film differs from a lot of Milligan's other work, getting the film to television recut as Legacy Of Horror, Milligan's acting in the film under the alias of Charles Richards and his costume work as Raffine, he much he loved hanging out with Milligan, his thoughts on Mishkin and his relationship with Milligan, Milligan's marriage to Candy Hammond and Andy's passing and legacy. Lane tells some great stories here, and he's quite animated and enthusiastic here, which makes this a treat to watch.
    Additionally, the disc includes a tape-sourced TV spot for the feature.

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan - The Final Word:

    Discs five and six of The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection continue the fine tradition laid down by the first four discs in the set – giving films that haven’t been treated so well in the past very respectable presentations and with a great array of extras that document their history and provide some very welcome context as to what make’s Milligan’s world such a fascinating (and absurd) place to visit!