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

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: March 16th, 2021.
    Director: Andy Milligan
    Cast: Laura Cannon, Neil Flanagan, Harry Reems, Paul Matthews, Earle Edgerton, Fred J. Lincoln, Maggie Rogers, Candy Hammond, Anthony Moscini, Gene Connolly, Neil Flanagan
    Year: 1973/1968/1965
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Movie Review:

    This fourth, and penultimate, installment of our coverage of Severin Film’s The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection take a look at the seventh disc in this nine disc collection.

    Disc Seven – Fleshpot On 42nd Street / Seeds / Vapors:

    Released theatrically in 1973, Fleshpot On 42nd-Street revolves around Dusty Cole (Laura Cannon). She once worked as a Times Square prostitute but now lives a grumpy middle-aged man named Tony (Richard Towers) in Queens. He’s always after her to help out more around the house and to get a job but she figures she’s paying her own way by sleeping with him. Eventually, Tony puts her on the spot and she decides rob him, fencing his valuables for cash. Or at least she tries to. She heads to a pawn shop run by Sammy (Earle Edgerton) but winds up robbing him too when he refuses to pay her what the items are really worth unless, you know, she does a little something extra for him under the table.

    Dusty winds up reconnecting with catty drag queen Cherry (Neil Flanagan, credited as Lynn Flanagan!), and after a conversation she winds up moving in with her, agreeing to go 50/50 on the rent. Dusty starts working as a hooker again, earning some money from kinky john Jimmie (Paul Matthews), but soon falls in love with a lawyer named Bob (Harry Reems). After they spend the night together at his family home on Staten Island, she starts to wonder if maybe he’s ‘the one’ and if maybe she should go straight. In order to do that, she’ll need to make a bit more money, however, which is where Jimmy and his equally sleazy pals Fred J. Lincoln, Tony Johnson and Ron Keith) come in…

    One of the last films to come out of the Andy Milligan/William Mishkin partnership, Fleshpot On 42nd Street is an exploitation picture and not one of the horror films for which the director is better known for cranking out. It also works as a genuinely interesting drama, and as a bit of a character study piece as well. At times the movie feels like something akin to the late 60’s features that Paul Morrisey was directing for Andy Warhol, in that it focuses on seedy characters rather than ‘average’ people, but it’s definitely got Milligan’s stamp all over it, particularly when it comes to the dialogue (Cherry’s dialogue in particular).

    Cast with a strange mix of early 70’s adult film stars and members of Milligan’s company of stock players, the acting here is quite a bit better than it is in many of his other pictures. Laura Canon and Harry Reems, who worked together on Shaun Costello’s Forced Entry the same year and on Dark Drams in 1971, are very good here. You get the impression that they really do care for one another, their scenes together are earnest and feel very genuine. This does a lot to elevate the picture, while Neil Flanagan steals pretty much all of the scenes that he appears in, providing the film with a bit of welcome comic relief. Paul Matthews, who showed up in The Oral Generation, does a fine job of playing the john with a taste for rough stuff, while supporting work from Ron Keith (of Milligan’s Vapors and Guru The Mad Monk), Tony Johnson and Fred J. Lincoln (star of Last House On The Left and numerous adult film productions) are quite good in their respective roles.

    Note that this version of Fleshpot On 42nd Street is completely uncut, which means that it does include two brief hardcore sequences between Laura Cannon and Harry Reems. In the context of the scenes in which they occur, they actually come off as surprisingly loving and romantic rather than crass or exploitative. It’s also worth noting that this is how the film was shot, these are not inserts added at a later date but reflective of the film’s original version.

    Up next, Seeds introduces us to Claris Manning (Maggie Rogers), a chain-smoking, booze-swilling wheelchair-bound matriarch tended to be her eye-patch wearing servant Mortimer (Jesse Bigelow). Claris lords over her family, a horde that she lovingly refers to as "bad seeds." Who are the members of this motley crew? Carol (Candy Hammond, Milligan’s former wife!), a lovely young woman who spends her spare time diddling herself to beefcake photos and who quite clearly has an unhealthy interest in her brother Michael (Anthony Moscini credited as Robert Service). He’s no peach either, in fact he holds a deep-seated hatred for his wife, a crafty woman who conned him into putting a ring on her finger by faking a pregnancy. And then there’s Claris’ son Matthew (Neil Flanagan), a man of the cloth who is not above using his stature to prey on Buster (Gene Connolly), a military cadet who is clearly more than just a little unstable. Let’s not forget daughter Margaret (Lucy Silvay as Helena Velos). She can’t get enough of the tough love she derives from her relationship with her cruel and oversexed boy toy.

    This remarkably dysfunctional ‘family’ all get together for a family reunion one fine Christmas and, as you’d expect, there’s plenty of backstabbing, sexual kink and vitriolic arguments – but then, things get turned up a notch when, one by one, someone starts killing off the members of the Manning clan, leaving those that are lucky enough to survive to reveal the true identity of the killer!

    Seeds is seen here in this boxed set in its original director’s cut, presumably as the late Andy Milligan would have intended. Running just over eighty-one minutes this is a fairly twisted film. The dialogue is bitter, angry and almost acidic at times, with Maggie Rogers really giving her all as the bitchy old head of the family. The other performances are, likewise, quite theatrical. No shock given Milligan’s background in live theater. The vast majority of the movie is shot indoors and it makes decent enough use of its main setting, that being Claris’ home. The action does head outside for one notable scene involving Buster, and it’s quite surprising when it happens, but we don’t want to spoil anything here by going into too much detail.

    The plot moves at a good pace and there’s enough character development here to hold our attention. There’s also a fair bit of skin in the picture, Candy Hammond gets down to her birthday suit for a bathtub scene for one, which doesn’t hurt things. Still, as it is with a lot of Milligan’s earlier black and white picture, it’s clear that he was going for something more than just exploitation. Yes, it’s very theatrical and stagey in its style but this cut of Seeds manages to tell a decent, engaging story. The film was, like all his films, clearly made on a low budget but Milligan is at least savvy enough not to overextend his reach, getting a fair amount of atmosphere out of the locations and some interesting and engaging, if occasionally over the top, work out of his cast.

    Also included on the disc is Andy Milligan's debut film from 1965, Vapors. This picture tells the tale of a young man named Thomas (Gerald Jacuzzo). He leads a fairly lonely existence and to combat this, one day he decides to visit a public bath house. Here Thomas makes the acquaintance of Mr. Jaffee (Robert Dahdah). They talk, and as the night plays out in this grubby little club littered with graffiti and completely devoid of anything even close to glamorous, we get to know the gay men who inhabit it a little bit. They’re all there for their own reasons and come from different backgrounds. When Jaffee, who is married to a woman, tells Thomas about the death of his son the dialogue heavy film approaches tenderness but takes some unexpected turns before the film is over.

    Adapted from a play by Hope Stansbury, a Caffe Cino regular (the venue where Milligan would put on many of his theatrical productions), Vapors is a stagey picture but quite fascinating in its own weird way. It’s a niche film to be sure, dealing quite blatantly with homosexuality, but as it essentially unfolds on the screen in real time it pulls you into its seedy story thanks to some compelling characters and genuinely good acting.

    The movie is also very atmospheric. Like Seeds, it was shot in black and white 16mm film stock, and in the context of the subculture that it explores, that gritty look works quite well. The bathhouse is the film’s sole location and it is, from Milligan’s point of view at least, a shadowy, otherworldly place. It’s almost as if Thomas has walked into a strange, gay, alternate reality here. As to the dramatics, they’re handled well. Milligan used a lot of his Caffe Cino friends as cast members in the film, and they handle themselves well enough, never breaking character and delivering fairly convincing work.

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Blu-ray Review:

    Fleshpot On 42nd Street is taken from the Vinegar Syndrome restoration from a few years ago, which was taken from a new 4k scan of the original 16mm reversal framed at 1.33.1 fullframe and it’s quite a revelation over what we’ve seen before in terms of how this film has been treated. Taking up 24GBS of space on the 50GB disc the 1.33.1 framing looks better here than it did on the Something Weird DVD-R that matted the film to approximately 1.85.1. That version looked pretty tight, whereas this version improves on certain compositions and opens things up a bit more. The elements used for this transfer were clearly in very nice shape. The image quality here is miles above the previous release and color reproduction much stronger and more natural looking. Black levels are also improved in a big way, and skin tones look better too. There’s a lot more detail, depth and texture evident here and the image is free of obvious compression artifacts. There’s surprisingly little visible dame here, just some white specks here and there. You might notice a hair in the gate once in a while and some very minor wobble but otherwise, it’s hard to complain about this at all. Again, it looks so much better than it ever has before – it’s pretty impressive!

    Seeds also uses the Vinegar Syndrome restoration and is presented restored in 4k “from a mixture of 35mm & 16mm vault elements” framed in its original 1.33.1 aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 20.5GBs. For the most part, the transfer here is very solid. The opening sequence is a bit jittery and there are spots where not all of the print damage could be removed but clarity is surprisingly strong and we get nice black levels. Shadow detail is solid and the film is free of any obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction issues. The transfer for Vapors is likewise very strong. Again, some print damage is here but detail and texture are as good as you can realistically expect given the film’s origins, looking much, much better here than it did on the older Something Weird Video DVD edition.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track for Fleshpot is also pretty decent, given the elements available. There was no audio available with the uncut reversal used for the transfers so Vinegar Syndrome basically had to reconstruct the audio to match this version using a few different sources. As such, the track is understandably a bit uneven but those accustomed to the somewhat rough ‘around the edges’ nature of most of Milligan’s work won’t be too taken aback by this. There are a few spots where the score sounds a bit punchier and some spots where it sounds a little less punchy but generally speaking this is fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Seeds also gets a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono treatment with optional subtitles provided in English only. There’s a bit of sibilance and some occasional hiss here and there but nothing so serious as to take you out of the movie. The levels are well balanced and the score sounds quite good. This is a basic track to be sure, not fancy at all, but it would seem that the audio on this release is a pretty accurate representation of how the film would have originally sounded.

    Vapors, however, gets a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, downgraded from the 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track that was on the Vinegar Syndrome release. Honestly, most won’t notice much of a discernable difference between the way that disc sounds compared to this one, but in the interests of being thorough, it should be pointed out. Optional English subtitles are provided for Vapors as well.

    The only extra on disc seven is a trailer for Seeds.

    Completists should note that the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray release of Fleshpot On 42nd Street included a commentary from Kat Ellinger, Samm Deighan and Heather Drain and a locations featurette as well as 1.33.1 and 1.85.1 framing options. Likewise, the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray release of Seeds/Vapors included an interview with writer John Borske, an interview with actor Gerald Jacuzzo, a twenty-seven minute Q&A with Borske, Jacuzzo, actress Patricia Dillon and moderator Casey Scott. There was also a still gallery and trailer for Seeds and, most importantly, the softcore Seeds Of Sin variant cut of Seeds. None of these extras have been carried over to this release, unfortunately.

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan - The Final Word:

    It’s a shame that disc seven of The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection doesn’t carry over all of the extras from the previous Vinegar Syndrome releases as, to be fair, they were quite good but the presentations here are once again quite solid and for those who want to experience Milligan’s more serious side and appreciate the talents that he did occasionally show as a filmmaker, Fleshpot and Vapors (along with the previously reviewed Night Birds) should be considered essential viewing.

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