There’s merit in trash film as there are merits in art film. I often lament the fact that there is so much film I’d love to be able to watch, but not enough of a lifetime to watch it all in. So why watch trash films? Films often catch my eye because of the concept that went into producing them. Davenport’s Xtro is one of those films I’d never watch again because of the gory body horror and its convoluted plot, however, psychological layers in the film still have me thinking about it. The same could be said for an art house film like Rhomer’s Claire’s Knee, a film I found overrated, high on the creep factor, and misogynist, but understood and enjoyed the philosophical approach to the film’s existential impressions. These are films that I would posit as bad, but worth the watch if you like film and the ways artists experiment with it.
There are films you will find yourself watching not just because they are bad, (Birdemic or The Room, as examples), but because they were made in the first place. The films of Andy Milligan are an example of how independent filmmakers can go very, very wrong.
“Andy Milligan (February 12, 1929 – June 3, 1991) was an American playwright, screenwriter, actor, and filmmaker, whose work includes 27 films made between 1965 and 1988. In spite of the fact that he directed a number of films that have become cult favorites with horror movie buffs, he died in abject poverty in 1991 from AIDS and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Los Angeles, California.” – wikipedia
Milligan’s art films are hard to come by, but his horror exploitation films can be found either on VHS or on YouTube. He employed community actors or regular folk for his many project. The two films I’ve watch so far (did I say, so far?) have been Blood (1974) and Guru, The Mad Monk (1970). They are horrible. BUT….
Guru The Mad Monk is set in the fictional town of Mortavia, where a schizophrenic monk named Guru (Neil Flanagan) who heads a church. There he is assisted by Igor (Jack Spencer) and is accompanied by his mistress Olga (Jaqueline Webb). The plot involves Guru killing anyone who comes into the church while Olga collects the blood of the victims in what says is a very ingenious way (SHE’S A VAMPIRE AND USES FAKE FANGS). That’s not really a spoiler as much as it is a way me telling you that you have to see how this all plays out for you to understand the look of disbelief in my face as I watched this film. Here, have a taste (you know, so you don’t have to watch the whole thing):
Much of the film seems improvised and the sharp edits are a stuff that should be of legend. It’s set in some ancient past, you can tell from the make up and the setting that it’s really 1970s New York City. You can even here the cars in the streets outside.
The other film, Blood (1973), seems to have had a little bit of a bigger budget. I can only tell because the costumes seem a little more authentic and an effort was made (somewhat) to hide the modern real world settings. I don’t want to give away much about this film, but the plot is all over the place. There’s a werewolf, a vampire, an Igor-like figure, assistants that never question their masters, an old lady who lives in a cemetery, and so much more. What really grabbed me about this one was the need for exposition and over explanation for absolutely everything. An example (just watch five minutes):
Both films are only about an hour, but they feel like an eternity.
Me: So I gotta make lunch, isn’t this movie an hour?
Him: We’ve only seen twenty minutes of it.
I stuck it out for both films because the concept was bad, the plot was bad, the execution was worse, the special effects were atrocious, and I had to watch the eventual train wreck. Go back to Milligan’s bio on IMDB or his wikipedia and his life reads far more interesting than his films. This is obviously someone who enjoyed constantly creating work and had the ability to make it happen. None of it was a success, but what did he measure success by? We might never know, but I can at least say that some of the scenes in these two Milligan films provoked some of the greatest unintentional laughs in my living room. Who’s to say if I would come back to them? But nonetheless these films exist which is probably the best I can do in terms of reviewing or coming anywhere near to an analysis of Andy Milligan films.
Due to his extensive cinematic oeuvre, would you call Andy Milligan an auteur? Or a hack? Again, who’s to say?¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the protagonist’s dialogue consisting of mostly questions through the entirely film: “Where are we? Why is that man looking at me? Where are you going? Are you leaving?” et cetera, et cetera.