Jan 1, 2013
Admittedly, when I first saw gutter-auteur Andy Milligan’s Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1972), I thought it was one of the biggest pieces of sleazy, stinking celluloid shit that I had ever had the dishonor of spending a single second on and like with most films, I am generally not someone who changes my opinion of a film over time, but that was before I caught the Milligan bug. As a socially repulsive sadomasochistic misogynist who apparently had spontaneous orgasms while literally torturing people, Mr. Milligan is not exactly the sort of person one would be at their greatest as a director of melodramas starring female and pseudo-female leads, but as his biographer and one-time collaborator Jimmy McDonough details in the Milligan bio The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan (2003), the emotionally and sexually erratic exploitation auteur was a sort of poor man’s Fassbinder of filmic filth. Like the German New Cinema giant, Milligan was a high-strung homo yet married one of his lead actresses, got his start in the world of avant-garde off-off-broadway theater, enjoyed engaging in anonymous sex in public bathrooms, churned out movies faster than most people can turn out turds, loved and loathed women, and died prematurely via his self-destructive tendencies (in both cases one could argue self-conscious suicide). Although I do not want to give the seedy serial moviemaker too much credit, Andy Milligan’s celluloid equivalent to Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) is mostly certainly Fleshpot on 42nd Street due in part to their similar themes (a woman trying to cum up in the world via her body, only to see everything topple down), as well as its relative popularity as a film the 'general' might like despite having no interest in filmmaker's overall oeuvre. Just like with Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Fleshpot on 42nd Street is the one film that people other than Milligan’s barely multiple maniacs (fans) might have heard of. His last great sexploitation melodrama, Milligan never really directed a film that was even remotely watchable after Fleshpot on 42nd Street as his biographer McDonough had to admit (despite working on his later California monster movies like the aptly titled "Monstrosity" and "Surgikill"), as he moved away from the title street depicted in the film and mostly stuck to directing monstrous gore flicks that appeal to no one, not even fans of the Ghastly One. Like most of his previous films (the majority of which are lost), Fleshpot on 42nd Street was shot (and would be the last he shot) on a single hand-held 16-millimeter Auricon sound-on-film news camera, the same crappy cam that was not meant for creating feature-length films that was also utilized by Paul Morrissey and John Waters for their early aesthetically gritty and grating exploitation works. Fleshpot on 42nd Street would also mark the last film that Milligan collaborated on with his miserly Hebrew producer Lew Mishkin as the filmmaker refused to concede with creating pornographic works with real sex, arguing, "I found it sleazy to shoot a penetration....why not just turn out a Mafia fuck film?" Known as one of the sleaziest men in the movie business, Mishkin caused Milligan hell throughout his filmmaking career, stealing every cent he could get from the mostly destitute director and butchering his films with cheap sex, stating of the filmmmaker that he was the, "most moral person I ever met doing immoral films," but he did admit, “that fleshpot is a great minor film,” which is no small compliment from a man who was apathetic towards celluloid art and inserted gratuitous nudity scenes in serious melodramas.
Fleshpot on 42nd Street centers around decisively degenerate dame Dusty Cole (Laura Cannon but credited as “Diana Lewis”), a lecherous lady who will do anything to not have to work, including pawn her sole personal belongings, steal from hyper-horny Judaic pawnstore owners, and even peddle her rather homely flesh for a couple ten dollar bills. After her boyfriend demands that she either obtain gainful employment or– at the very least – clean the apartment, Dusty dashes out the front door, but not before jumping the bones of her blue-collar beau one more time, and enters the urban jungle where she encounters a variety of human animals who are only interested in one thing: SEX. After conning a prissy pawnbroker named Sammy (Earle Edgerton) who believes “nice Jews don’t divorce,” hence his need pay to play with prostitutes, out of a bundle of cash after buying her flesh, Dusty is determined to begin a new life, no matter how pathetic. Luckily or unluckily, less than dainty Dusty meets up with her old friend Cherry Lane (Neil Flanagan of Milligan’s Guru, the Mad Monk); a streetwalking fag in drag who sells its prick at a cheaper price than biological women peddle their percolating pussies. More bitchy than a jaded Jewess on the rag married to a poor fag, Cherry Lane makes it quite clear to Dusty on their rather racy reunion that s/he doesn’t like women taking away her away business from her mobile whore house, but ultimately decides her friend might be able to bring in more customers with her genuine vagina. After going out to dinner together and apparently catching a double-bill horror screening of Andy Milligan's Torture Dungeon (1969) and Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970) – a cheap but charming display of self-advertisement on the Ghastly One's part - things seem to be looking up for the terrible trick-turning twosome. Ultimately, the two decide that Dusty will permanently move in and they swap semen together via screwing the same sleazy Johns. As in all Andy Milligan films, heterosexual sex is portrayed as uniquely unhealthy and decidedly disturbing as further accentuated by the sado-homo-auteur's cockeyed camera angels. In fact, when she endures her first pussy-purchaser – an intrepid tranny-chaser who her friend describes as “being a little weird” in the bedroom” – after meeting up with Cherry, she is treated to the beating of her life that might be considered a violent rape of sorts, had she not been paid for the pleasure, but it is in all in a day’s work for this 42nd street sex worker. As charming Cherry states, “America ain’t no place for old folks,” at least as far as the cum and blood-covered gutters of old school NYC are concerned. In an instance of fleeting fate, a bright light appears in Dusty’s daunting derelict life in the form of a rather “nice guy” named Bob (credited as being played by “Bob Walters” but really future Deep Throat star Harry Reems; an actor Milligan couldn't stand working with) – a wholesome fellow who believes in honesty in relationships, even when dating a whore – and falls in some sort of “love” with him, even if he is rather banal in bed as a sensitive individual who is better at making coffee than making love. Of course, being a biological man missing the flesh wound that all men want, Cherry becomes quite jealous of Dusty’s man, relative 'success', and newfound happiness, thereupon sparking a feud of fierce femmes (and faux-femmes). As with any Andy Milligan film, Fleshpot on 42nd Street concludes in a curiously cynical manner where Dusty is eventually left in the dust in a more degenerate and destitute state than she was before, but keeps on peddling that puss.
A rather reckless racist who refused to work with negroes due to his belief that they made lousy works, especially on film sets, Andy Milligan spared no one’s feelings with Fleshpot on 42nd Street; a work where a drag fag has no problem warning her gal pals with the incendiary insight of sound advice, “don’t let the niggers see you.” Naturally, the authoritarian authority of Nixon and New York's finest are also verbally assaulted in one of the best lines in the film: "You can't suck a cock without a cop looking over your shoulder." Unlike his much maligned costume horror period pieces, Fleshpot on 42nd Street is an authentic auteur work as films cum, featuring the sort of shameless street trash that Milligan reluctantly cavorted with in real-life. That being said, Candy’s line “I’m no prize package…I’m a cocksucker…I’m not even a good one…I hide from the world in this getup…It ain’t easy bein’ a freak” is probably the most autobiographically true words he had ever written. The son of an abuse obese mother who quite possibly molested him and a father who was sexually impotent (Andrew Milligan Senior later remarried a Japanese bride who he purportedly never had sex with), a ½ Jewish pedophile brother (the product of Milligan’s mother's previous ‘marriage’ to a Judaic bigamist with three wives), and a sister he seriously hated, Andy Milligan was born into a world of sadism, sexual perversion, and social dysfunction and would spend his filmmaking career creating cinematic works that reflected a similar seediness with Fleshpot on 42nd Street being his crude celluloid crowning achievement and a film that almost brings artistic merit to slums of late-1960s/early-1970s 42nd street. For a man who fondled and fucked the random flesh of thousands upon thousands of men throughout his life and inevitably paid for it by contracting AIDS and dying a slow and painful death, only to die alone in his hospital bed and have his body buried in an unmarked grave in some foreign land, what better magnum opus of misery and misanthropy than Fleshpot on 42nd Street; a work where a woman's love is literally run over with a car and forgotten the next minute.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 8:32 PM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.