Nov 2, 2014
While taking a sabbatical over the pond in merry old England in part to get away from his swindling Jewish producer/distributor William Mishkin (only to be swindled by a British Jewish producer and to go crawling back to Mishkin), sadomasochistic sodomite gutter auteur Andy Milligan managed to squeeze out no less than five films, including a couple of his ‘masterpieces’ like his most avant-garde work Nightbirds (1969), as well as the Gothic vampire flick The Body Beneath (1970), which concludes with a Jack Smith-esque Bacchanalian food orgy where a bunch of fat, bitchy British bloodsucker broads complain about how America is a shithole overflowing with dipsomaniacs and bums. Mr. Milligan must have found the incessant rain, bad teeth, and urban decay in London to be quite delightfully dejecting in some way, as it was there that he also directed what is arguably his most hateful and mean-spirited work, Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970), which is a dimestore reworking of Sweeney Todd with a decidedly dickheaded nod to Dickens. Advertised with the patently preposterous puffery, “MORE SAVAGE—MORE VIOLENT than anything written by the MARQUIS de SADE” and “Their prime cuts were curiously erotic...but thoroughly brutal!,” the film was promoted as unadulterated celluloid sadomasochism of the bawdy body dismemberment-based sort, but it is really just a miserable melodrama of the majorly misanthropic and misogynistic sort featuring scheming social savages, cunty old bitches that probably haven’t eaten a cock in a decade or two, and pernicious proletarian capitalists who practice a meta-predatory form of capitalism involved killing of their customers so they can use their bodies for meat pies. Starring Milligan’s real-life bud John Miranda, who helped pay the medical bills when the director was dying of AIDS and who, quite fittingly, met the auteur when they were both cast for a Gillette commercial considering he would play a man that would slit people’s throats with a shaving razor, Bloodthirsty Butchers is a big ugly smelly celluloid turd that is ostensibly set during Victorian times but seems like a homemade play put on by mental patients in the basement of a nut ward as opposed to a period piece. Shot over a mere seven day period on a budget star Miranda described as “thirty-nine cents and a box of green stamps,” this non-adaptation of Sweeney Todd is a putrid piece of no-budget misanthropic high-sleaze celluloid poetry that is infinitely more pernicious than Tim Burton’s Johnny Depp dud Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and an excellent argument for gutter auteur Milligan being the most hateful, pessimistic, cynical, misanthropic, misogynistic, and brazenly bitchy filmmaker who has ever plagued this world.
Beginning with a horrendous, shaky handheld shot of the murderous antihero’s crypto-butcher barber shop on Fleet Street in dreary London, Bloodthirsty Butchers then introduces Sir Sweeney Todd (John Miranda, who had small roles in big budget sci-fi flicks like Innerspace (1987) starring Dennis Quaid and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) directed by Leonard Nimoy), who is cutting the hair of a pretentious young twat of a customer who reveals that he has been in the city for “about a fortnight” and “London is not what I thought it would be.” Mr. Todd begins admiring the young man’s ruby ring, which he reveals was inherited from his great-grandfather. After listening to the young man talk in a self-righteous, bitter way as if he is some sage of cynicism, Sweeney Todd puts an extra steamy shaving towel around the young man’s face, but instead of shaving the unwitting fellow’s neck, he violently slits his throat and proceeds to steal his ring, which he does the hard way by hacking the still warm corpse’s finger off. Although unhappily married to a bitchy blonde broad named Becky (Linda Driver) who regularly brutally beats him because she is a hysterical dipsomaniac who clearly cannot handle her gin and tonic, Sir Todd is a degenerate Brit Don Juan of sorts who, when not cutting up his customers and stealing their cash and prized family heirlooms, is hanging out with one of his two mistresses.
On top of defiling a slutty and equally cunty actress named Anna (Susan Cassidy of Milligan’s Seeds (1968), Gutter Trash (1969), and Torture Dungeon (1970)) who lives off her husky and violently jealous yet meek and cuckolded theater director/owner sugar daddy who is put in his place by a daring drag queen named Corky (George Barry, whose sole other role was in the useless 1984 Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep romance Falling in Love), Todd is partners-in-crime with a fire-crotched post-menopausal cunt named Maggie Lovett (Jane Hilary of the British 1970s TV series Poldark) who is married to a kind cuckolded cripple named John (Jonathan Holt) and who, using the some “258 people” her bad beau has butchered, sells human-based “meat pies” to unsuspecting customers at her quite quaint bakery. A redhead that looks like she could be Maggie’s strikingly more stunning daughter named Johanna Jeffrey (Annabella Wood of José Ramón Larraz’s The House That Vanished (1974) aka Scream... and Die!) also works at the bakery and is deeply in love with her seafarer fiancée Jarvis Williams (Michael Cox), who is about to return from sea. Mr. Todd and Mrs. Lovett also use a deranged bitch boy named Tobias Ragg (Berwick Kaler of Milligan’s once-lost masterpiece Nightbirds and Michael Winterbottom’s 1996 tragic celluloid turd of a romance Jude), who is discernibly more unhinged than his mass murderer employers and never misses an opportunity when he sees one, like when he catches Johanna in the back room of the business and decides to sexually ravage her despite the fact that his crazy bitch girlfriend Rosie (Ann Arrow) would kill him if she knew what he did.
When gentleman Jarvis gets back from sea, he does not waste time buying an exceedingly expensive pearl necklace for his beloved Johanna, though the jeweler warns him to flash it around lest he be the victim of a deadly theft. Of course, Jarvis does not listen and before he knows it, Tobias is stalking him. On top of that, Jarvis makes the unwitting mistake of taking a walk down Fleet Street and getting a haircut at Sweeney Todd’s bloody brutal barbershop where he brags about his upcoming marriage and the expensive necklace he has bought for his fiancé. When Todd gives Jarvis assholish marriage advice like “just screw ‘em” and laments on his nightmarish drunkard spouse, the young man says to the barber, “you sound like a cynic,” to which he eloquently replies, “well, I’m a man who’s had experience.” Unquestionably, the best advice misanthropic misogynist Todd gives Jarvis is as follows: “Women can't stand happiness for more than three days at a time. It drives them wild. So you have to know when to upset things before they do. And then - you forgive them, you screw them, and you watch out for the next three days!” When Jarvis moronically shows Todd the pearl necklace he has bought his sweetheart Johanna, Todd warns him about thieves and then hilariously proceeds to attack, with Tobias soon showing up at barbershop and helping his boss to restrain the young man. Unfortunately for Todd, he makes the mistake of imprisoning Jarvis in his cellar instead of killing him right away. When Tobias’ girlfriend Rosie reveals she is pregnant, he decides to literally and figuratively stab her in the back, but not before coercing her into writing a letter to her mother about going on an imaginary vacation and sardonically stating the following before driving the knife in her back, “I want you to remember this for the rest of your life.”
Meanwhile, a married couple is surprised to find real breast meat in one of the meat pies they bought from the bakery, so they go to the police and bump into Johanna who is pleading with the cops to find her missing fiancée. Hoping to start a new life with him after having him liquidate her crippled husband, Mrs. Lovett convinces Todd to kill his wife Becky. Luckily, Becky arrives at the bakery a couple minutes later and attempts to blackmail Mrs. Lovett regarding the corpses in the cellar, so her hubby hacks her up. Of course, considering this is a gritty misanthropic Milligan movie, Becky is not the only one who attempts blackmail, as Tobias soon shows up and demands 5000 pounds from Mrs. Lovett and Todd or else he is going to the cops regarding the murders so that he can flee town since he just liquidated his pregnant girlfriend. While Mrs. Lovett acts like he is going to give him the money, Todd gets a weapon instead, though when he attacks Tobias, he gets a butcher knife to the face. In a twist happy ending for a Milligan film, Jarvis manages to escape before he is butchered and is reunited with Johanna, with whom he plans to move to America. In a biting conclusion, a fat woman brings the couple a pie and, forgetting that Jarvis and Johanna were almost made into mince meat by a serial killer and his queen bitch baker mistress, states regarding their plans to move to America, “Won’t that be something. It’s such a new country, but you be careful now, they’ve got Indians there…I’ve heard tales…there’s cannibals. I heard they get your head off and eat you up.”
Surely a piece of obscenely outmoded celluloid sewage, Bloodthirsty Butchers is also one of the various examples as to why Andy Milligan was the greatest director of so-bad-it’s-good movies who has ever lived. Indeed, only from Mr. Milligan could one expect for his most hateful and misanthropic films to also feature one of his rather rare ‘happy endings.’ Apparently, the film was a huge hit with the perverts, hustlers, drag queens, black prostitutes, cruising cocksuckers, and other related urban bottomfeeders that used to lurk around 42nd Street in Manhattan, New York City, because it fueled their visceral hatred and disillusionment with life, or as Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford noted in their classic text on exploitation fair, Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square (2002), regarding the work: “A film called BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS was a frequent replay at the Lyric. A threadbare version of SWEENEY TODD that first appeared in 1970, it kicked around for years, and the Lyric audience always got a charge out of its aggressive, insistently mean tone and jack-in-the-box gore scenes. When SWEENEY TODD itself opened as a Broadway play in the late 1970s, BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS played at the Lyric one chilly Friday night, with the same title slapped on as a draw for a less affluent theater district crowd. When a sadistic Sweeney is about to slit the throat of an unlucky customer in his barber’s chair, a bad splice appears and the film jumps—the gore scene had been chopped out by its distributor to get the film an official MPAA “R” rating. The Lyric didn’t generally attract troublemakers, but the audience had loved this film in its uncut version and felt cheated out of its gruesome kicks. The crowd became agitated. Suddenly, a small refrigerator was hurled from the balcony, hitting the screen amid a mass of jeers, laughs, and boos.” Certainly, Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street nor any of the other Sweeney Todd adaptation ever received such an ‘enthusiastic’ response.
Andy Milligan's good friend and the star of the film, John Miranda, thought the film was more or less trash and would never be released, or as he stated in an interview featured in Jimmy McDonough’s masterful Milligan bio The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Miligan (2001) regarding the production: “I thought this was all madness; it was ridiculous, nobody's ever gonna go see this and he's not gonna be able to sell it - and here I am with my head split open, holding the axe by the handle, blood was dripping down and Andy was saying, 'Good! Good!' […] When it played on Broadway I had to stand in line.” Even the master himself, Milligan, was not too keen on the conspicuously cruel and callous piece of superlatively seedy pseudo-Victorian celluloid crud, stating that it was, “very claustrophobic, it doesn't have quality to it ... the reason you work so close in low budget is there's no sets, you can't show anything.” When it comes down to it, the real ‘bloodthirsty butcher’ of the film is auteur Milligan himself, who more or less used the film to malevolently metaphysically ‘murder’ filmgoers with his perversely and perniciously pessimistic view of humanity, seemingly murderous misogyny/misanthropy (indeed, everyone killed in the film deserves it and their deaths serve as a sort of ‘therapy’ for more misanthropic viewers), and rather ridiculous portrayal of heterosexual love affairs to the point where the viewer laughs like it is a big fat stupid joke in regard to the plastic engaged couple surviving in the end. For better or worse, Milligan was a serious auteur with a distinct vision that bleeds through every grueling second of his fiercely fucked films. Indeed, when one watches Bloodthirsty Butchers they probably would not be startled to realize that its director was a deranged dude who celebrated his sham marriage to one of his actors by spending their honeymoon by himself cruising gay bars, laughed in the faces of actresses who cried after he slapped them in the face for giving bad performances (Milligan was a “one take” kind of guy who would include a scene in a film even if it was botched), was friends with abortion clinic bomber Dennis Malvasi, regularly brutally beat underage twinks during sadomasochistic sod sex, and was ultimately buried in an unmarked grave after burning all the bridges in his life and succumbing to AIDS in 1991. If you ever wondered what an Ed Wood flick would be like had the auteur been a raging sadomasochist queen with seemingly serial killer-like tendencies and not a goofy cross-dressing drunk who thought he was the next Orson Welles, bask in the brazen banality of Bloodthirsty Butchers.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 7:04 AM
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