Like the equally unseen and shameless British film Duffer (1971) directed by Joseph Despins and William Dumaresq, Nightbirds is a gloomy and gritty work depicting the peculiar perversity of the non-working urban proletariat. Neither Dee nor Dink were born in the working-class, hence their abhorrence of work and failure in regards to self-sufficiency. Unable to deal with the neurotic ramblings of his distraught widowed mommy, sweet and humble man-child Dink chooses homelessness over reasonably plush bourgeois comfort and eventually bumps into ferocious femme fatale Dee by mere chance, thus beginning their manifestly foreordained relationship. Leading desultory lives with nil goals for the foreseeable feature, the curious couple of Nightbirds sees nihilistic sex as a way of life and working and building a family as a gross pestilence. As a socially retarded would-be-romantic at heart, Dink is willing to overlook the fact that his quasi-sociopathic girlfriend is an unsentimental ice queen of the most unrelenting and thoroughly demoralized kind. In his pathetic and ultimately self-destructive naivety, Dink is willing to do anything and everything to please his idolized girlfriend as long as it does not involve working, including grovelingly kissing her feet and performing cunnilingus on Dee's command and masochistically accepting her venomous verbal reproaching, whilst totally oblivious to the fact that Dee sees him as nothing more than a momentary fling and a semi-entertaining sexual novelty. Unable to provide for himself, let alone his girlfriend, Dink relies on Dee’s crafty flirtations with other men and shoplifting to survive. Essentially, Dink and Dee – as a product of the post-WW2 generation – are an unstable couple that are totally at odds with every characteristic that was once expected of traditional and healthy western societies. Naturally, the couple would also feel at home in the sort of degenerate hipster ghetto microcosm of false values mindless sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll contained within the early cinematic works of Paul Morrissey. Unlike Morrissey’s pseudo-cinéma vérité works Flesh (1968) and Trash (1970), Nightbirds has a fairly potent, penetrating and expressive atmosphere, even if most of the film is constrained to a single and relatively unfurnished room. Originally shot on grainy greyish 16mm film stock, Nightbirds – like Duffer – is as aesthetically dispirited and decayed as it is thematically, thus near-perfectly accentuating the lifelessness of the demoralized characters and post-industrial setting the film so candidly portrays. Nightbirds also features a sometimes erratic and disjointed editing style that is analogous to the despoiled psyches of its lead characters. Needless to say, Nightbirds is a film that will appeal more to antinatalists than hopeless romantics.
Like Andy Milligan’s first film Vapors (1965), Nightbirds is considered to be one of the hysterical homo auteur filmmaker’s most personal and unprecedented efforts, sort of like Fassbinder-meets-grindhouse-kitsch. As a rabid misogynist who was raised an exceedingly cold and emotionally and physically abusive alcoholic mother, Nightbirds features one of the most naturalistic and inexorable depictions of a vicious vixen of a woman ever captured on 16mm film. Although evidence of Dee’s sadistic personality is sprinkled throughout Nightbirds, it is not until the remaining minutes of the film that one learns the true extent of her utter soullessness and sheer depravity. Like all great exploitation works, Nightbirds features a tragic conclusion that is guaranteed to fully agitate less than demanding filmgoers. Although featuring scenes of sex and nudity throughout, Nightbirds is about as erotically stimulating as a vintage Polaroid of Steven Spielberg in a bikini and as romantic as a winter season coathanger abortion. I can honestly say that Nightbirds is one of few films that has inspired me to reexamine the work of a director that I was once vehemently dismissive of, so if you're an Andy Milligan virgin, make sure that you pop your cherry with Nightbirds. For an auteur that boasted of never directing a film that cost over $10,000.00, Nightbirds is certainly no small achievement.