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

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: March 16th, 2021.
    Director: Andy Milligan
    Cast: Deeann Veeder, Chris Georges, Leslie Den Dooven, Michael Chiodo, Allan Berendt, Hope Stansbury, Patricia Gaul, Michael Fischetti, Pamela Adams
    Year: 1984/1973
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Movie Review:

    This last (but certainly not least – CARNAGE!) installment of our coverage of Severin Film’s The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection take a look at the eighth and final Blu-ray disc in the set as well as the other ‘non-disc’ extras that are included, and quite important to the overall quality of the package.

    Disc Eight – Carnage / Blood:

    The first film on the last Blu-ray disc is 1984’s Carnage, a feature length picture shot on 35mm once again shot in and around Staten Island (though at one point we do voyage across the water to spend a couple of minutes in Manhattan).

    The story, such as it is, opens when a man and a woman dressed in wedding attire embrace while the wedding march song plays on their Victrola. He tells her he loves her, picks up a tiny pistol and then shoots her in the temple before then turning the gun on himself.

    Three years later, newlyweds Carol (Leslie Den Dooven, who looks a bit like Karen Black) and Jonathan Henderson (Michael Chiodo, who looks a bit like Jon Lovitz) sign the papers on their dream home. Sure, it needs a bit of work but it’s a beautiful old house that they got ‘for a song’ and it comes complete with all the furnishings and, apparently, even some old tea bags that are still good. They can’t wait to move in, but the first thing they see is a portrait of a young couple in their wedding garb. When they look at it and wonder who it is, something pulls it out of Jonathan’s hand.

    From here, they hang out in the house a bit, talk about whether or not they’ve got enough money to buy lunch for both them, make some of the aforementioned tea and discuss dinner plans. While they do this, we see objects start to move around the home whereas they do not. As time goes on, they prepare for their housewarming where two other couples - Walter (John Garrit) and Susan (Deeann Veeder), who are experiencing martial problems, and Mark (Chris Georges) and Ann (Chris Baker) – arrive. While all of this is going on, Susan has a terrible conversation with her mother (Che Moody) about her problems with Walter, and it kind of seems like the old lady has the hots for her son-in-law. Carol gets weirded out when she can’t find a notepad to write down the details of a Broadway show she’s supposed to go to with her dad (Bill Grant), while the old guy’s maid gripes in the background, telling Carol she should just sell the place because it’s obviously haunted. No one listens to her and the housewarming goes off. Soon enough, some robbers have been killed, a lady from the office is dead, awesome bad gore has been spattered about and WILL SOMEONE SHUT THAT FUCKING INVISIBLE DOG UP ALREADY?

    Carnage is something else. Milligan, clearly inspired by The Amityville Horror and maybe even Poltergeist, spends more time obsessing over unnecessary melodrama that adds nothing to the story than he does on the horror. Most of the ‘scares’, at least in the first half of the movie, involve things in the house moving under their own power: there’s the notepad mentioned earlier, some cups, the Victrola turns on by itself, Carol’s gardening sheers go missing, some candlesticks move around. Stuff like that. It isn’t likely to give anyone nightmares.

    But then, as the movie starts moving to a close, Milligan loses focus on the drama and the scary home décor and brings in some pretty amateurish but no less delightful gore sequences. We won’t spoil them here, but they happen at just the right time to keep trash movie fans invested in the film. Oh, for sure, there are pacing issues galore here and the acting is terrible even by the lower than average standards of your typical Milligan cast, but this movie has stupid charm to spare. Aside from the gore scenes, which are highlights of the movie, also look out for a scene where a certain character runs through the basement chased by a ghost and what appears to be a bunch of pizza boxes and maybe some silly string is used to achieve the perfect recreation of what that surely must be like in the real world.

    Fair warning – my wife, who appreciates most Milligan films and is a really good sport about all of this nonsense, did have trouble not falling asleep during this one and spent a lot of time screwing around on her phone, but personally, as utterly ridiculous as this movie is, I had had an absolute blast with it. It’s also considerably more polished on a technical level than pretty much any other film in this set, what with things being kinda-sorta properly lit and generally always in focus.

    Which brings us to 1973’s Blood, a sixty-nine-minute opus that was, once again, shot at Andy’s place out on Staten Island. The film introduces us to one Lawrence Orlovsky (Allan Berendt) and his wife Regina (Hope Stansbury). They’re a quirky and clearly miserable couple that has recently left Europe and relocated to some new digs with their three oddball assistants, the coolest of whom is gimpy Carrie (Patti Gaul) but joining her in servitude are a dwarf named Orlando (Michael Fischetti) and Carrie (Patti Gaul), who has some sort of strange growth on her leg. Despite some strange fluctuations in the time/space continuum, we’re led to believe that the Orlovsky’s just might be descendants of some better known horror movie luminaries – but we shan’t spoil that. They take up in a big old house and keep odd hours. Lawrence has a bit of a mad scientist thing going on, spending countless hours working on his clandestine projects, while Regina claims to have an unusual skin condition that prohibits her from going outside in the daylight. The reality of their situation is that Regina is some sort of monster that needs injections culled from plans that Lawrence grows in his lab.

    They seem to be getting away with this bizarre lifestyle until Carl Root (John Wallowitch), a lawyer with the best eyebrows ever, arrives on the scene. It has something to do with some pilfering from his Lawrence’s late father’s estate. Lawrence distracts himself with the company of other women, like Root’s secretary Prudence Towers (Pamela Adams). She’s the kind of woman that doesn’t into a monster when she doesn’t get weird plant-stuff injections. But then the bodies start piling up…

    Also known as Black Nightmare In Blood and released theatrically as part of a double feature with Gerard Damiano’s Legacy Of Satan, this movie checks off pretty much all of the right boxes if you’re one of those gluttons for punishment who appreciates the auteur’s particular ‘style’ of filmmaking. As was common with many of his films from this period, the cinematography is frequently very unhinged. There are focus issues, sound synch problems, moments where the dialogue is fairly unintelligible. The gore is shoddy and loveably dumb and the makeup effects never particularly convincing. But you expect that, no, you almost want that when you start digging deeper into his filmography.

    Hope Stansbury (who Milligan used in Depraved!, The Degenerates and The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, which would make her a bit of a regular) is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. She’s not the world’s greatest actress but she handles the material without any trouble. Allan Berendt overdoes it, but we love him for it and you can’t help but giggle every time he puts on his tiny hat. Why didn’t Milligan get him a bigger hat? Who knows, but thank God he didn’t. John Wallowitch (whose only other credit appears to be as ‘piano player’ on a 1994 episode of The Cosby Mysteries!) is amusing enough. Pamela Adams is pretty cute and Prudence Towers is a bad ass name and she has a shiny hat the fits properly.

    Also be on the lookout for a gross chicken gutting in the kitchen, and a woman named Petra (Eve Crosby), the 'keeper of the graves' and a scene where a poor little mouse gets cut in half with a meat cleaver that looks pretty realistic (fair warning to those sensitive to animal violence).

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan – Blu-ray Review:

    Both films are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Carnage is framed at 1.85.1 and takes up 19GBS on the 50GB disc and it looks the best of all the films in this collection, scanned in 2k from its original 35mm negative. There’s a little bit of print damage here and there but only a little bit and the vast majority of the film is very clean. Colors look really good and black levels are pretty solid as well. Blood, which is framed at 1.78.1 and takes up 14.6GBs on the disc, also looks very good, scanned in 2k from a 35mm answer print. The opening credits show more print damage than you might want but it gets quite a bit cleaner after that. There are some noticeable scratches around the reel changes but they don’t too long. Overall this one is fairly clean as well and also boasts pretty strong color reproduction and black levels. Neither film suffers from any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement, everything is always very filmic and compression is pretty solid here.

    As far as the audio goes, Carnage gets a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track that generally sounds fine. You’ll have no trouble making out every time that DAMNED INVISIBLE DOG KEEPS BARKING and the dialogue is always pretty easy to understand. There’s some flatness inherent in the original mix that obviously carries over but there aren’t any problems here. Blood gets a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono and there’s a bit more flatness here as well as the occasional instance of hiss but it too generally sounds pretty good. Both films come with optional English subtitles.

    The main extra on this disc is Toga Party, an eighty-four-minute feature film from 1975 that was originally released as Pelvis. The deal with this film is that Lew Mishkin, wanting to recoup as much as they could from their investments, were creating spicier versions of some of their properties and re-releasing them under alternate titles to make some easy money. Case in point, 1977's Pelvis, a musical comedy that hardly set the box office on fire. Milligan was hired to shoot some inserts for the film, which would be re-released to theaters to cash in on the success of movies like Animal House. Reportedly this screened in 1979 where cast members who were upset with the inserts freaked out, sending the film into completely obscurity.... until now. The movie was originally directed by Robert T. Megginson, the same name who wrote the two F/X films and the TV series that came after it.

    Porn star Bobby Astyr starts things as a character named Snake. He addresses a recent batch of graduates at his old alma mater, which turns into a rant about Pelvis (Luther 'Bud' Whaney), 'the greatest rock singer in the entire world' and then a raunchy party involving some pot smoking and a lot of topless ladies, some body painting and a guy swinging around like Tarzan, much to the dismay of the two old ladies watching.

    A few minutes later and we're introduced to a Southern girl named Betty Lou (Mary Jenifer Mitchell) as she sits in a confessional booth who tells the priest (Billy Padgett) about disrespecting her parents by walking in on her father spanking her father. She also talks about indulging in sins of the flesh herself, describing her sex life to the priest. It turns out that the man responsible for this was, of course, Pelvis, a well-endowed man who she can't control herself around.

    The confessional turns out to be a two-door outhouse, and we're off! We get a musical number as Pelvis shows up and fools around with Betty Lou in the barn while The Battle Hymn Of The Republic plays in the background. Pelvis hitches his way to New York to make it big, and 'hilarity' ensues. While on the bus he meets a pretty roller girl and he woos her by singing her a song about a man who screwed a chicken. He makes it to NYC and gets conned in Times Square a few times, tries getting hired at a few bars and then gets the idea to play as a street musician. Eventually he gets an audition for an agent that leads into an amazing musical bit where, quite literally, we see cast members singing and dancing on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. If you don't know NYC that probably doesn't mean a thing but if you do, you know that this highway is never not busy. How they got the BQE cleared out long enough to shoot even a brief dance number is anyone's guess, but they did it. Pelvis works on a few new tracks, like 'Suck My Way To The Top,' and gets sexually harassed by his landlady, and then he does start working his way through the club scene where topless women grope him on stage. We get a 'follow the bouncing ball' performance where Pelvis where he sings about the son of a Jew falling in love with the daughter of a Nazi ("He wants to storm.... the border of your love! Nothing' says lovin' like something from the oven, and that's why I call you HUN"). As he starts moving up the ladder and hooks up with a drummer named Godzilla (porn star Mike De Marco),, his performances intensify and get more complex and dramatic. Backstage parties also intensify, as do Pelvis' substance abuse issues. As Pelvis' act gets stranger and stranger (you could say it gets Bowie-esque or Iggy-esque), Betty Lou comes back into the scene and before it's over everyone has a big ol' pie fight (no, really).

    The movie goes back and forth between the original footage and the newly show scenes with Astyr that Milligan was surely responsible for. The old ladies start smoking some giant spliffs and the party intensifies. At one point Bobby judges a talent show of some sort. It’s bonkers. The whole thing is bonkers. It’s never good but it is frequently fascinating in a train wreck sort of way. It’s…. terrible, but watchable? You’ve got to be in the right frame of mind for. Political correctness is never a factor here, nor does it need to be, but the movie is very definitely a product of its time. 'Bud' Whaney doesn’t look anything like Elvis, which makes him kind of an odd casting choice, but it is what it is.

    Toga Party is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition as well. Scanned in2k from a fairly battered print, the film takes up 14.4GBs of space on the disc and features a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound mix. There are no subtitles provided. It isn’t the best presentation, the print damage can occasionally wreak havoc with the film, but it is the only presentation and it is what it is.

    The only other extra included is a trailer for Milligan’s 1987 feature, Monstrosity, currently available on Blu-ray from Garagehouse Pictures.

    It’s also worth mentioning the ninth disc in this set, which is an audio CD entitled The Bearded Lady’s Wake, a collection of music created by frequent Milligan collaborator Hal Borkse. This is divided into two tracks running just over thirty-minutes each but each of those two tracks is kind of cut into a few other shorter tracks. This is all very synth-heavy stuff and it’s a wonky but enjoyable selection of Borske’s original compositions. Oddly enough, it doesn’t really suit any of Milligan’s movies at all. You couldn’t possibly use any of this music as a soundtrack to any of the films included here, but it has its own goofy charm and is a nice and completely unique inclusion in the boxed set. Give it more than one listen, it’ll start to grow on you even if it sometimes sounds like background music from a late eighties video game.

    Lastly, we have to cover the packaging and the included book from Stephan Thrower. The packaging is beautiful, replicating the Midnight Video packaging that brought the world VHS releases of The Man With Two Heads, The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, Bloodthirsty Butchers and Torture Dungeon, which is a nice touch. It presents nicely and it looks great, though it does place the discs inside the cardboard pages. This isn’t a problem except for the CD, which is the last disc, and which can be a bit tough to get out of the sleeve/page.

    As to Thrower’s book? It proves an excellent resource and the perfect accompaniment to the movies in the set. It gives a concise yet detailed biography of the director before then doing fairly deep dives into the different periods of his career, covering the films that make up those periods in as much detail as possible and offering a nice history of each picture. The book closes out with a detailed selection of footnotes for Thrower’s work as well as a comprehensive filmography that offers up information not only on the films that appear in this boxed set but also those that do not, providing cast and crew info, release dates, alternate titles and quite a bit more. Be sure to take the time to go through this book and appreciate the effort that has been put into it, as it is, in many ways, the most important supplement included in this collection.

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan - The Final Word:

    The Dungeon Of Andy Milligan Collection is an excellent representation of the late director’s work. It’s as erratic and unhinged as the Milligan himself was, but despite the idiosyncrasies with the man’s cinematic output even his lesser efforts are somehow very watchable. This set mixes the good with the bad, but you want that with Milligan, right? Overall, it’s a great release that offers up a fine selection of the man’s work in as reasonably good shape as we can realistically expect and a nice array of extra feature as well. Highly recommended, so long as you know what you’re getting into…

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