Nov 13, 2014
While I’m certainly no believer, I would most certainly rather listen to some sub-liberate Baptist preacher give a sermon than suffer some obnoxiously asinine anti-Christian rant given by some arrogant Christ-hating (or, should I say Christ-killing?!) left-wing Judaic, resentful cocksucking faggot who is pissed the bible rejects boy-on-boy buggery, or deracinated white liberal weakling who has merely replaced Christ with some other egomaniacal kosher conman like Marx, Trotsky, Bob Dylan, or Jon Stewart. Indeed, nothing is weaker or more conformist and banal than Christ-bashing, so it really takes a special sort of Christ-bashing to catch my attention. While I typically prefer some Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Mencken, I recently decided to endure the antichrist polemics of gay gutter auteur and seasoned sadist Andy Milligan (The Body Beneath, The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!), and his delightfully titled feature Guru, the Mad Monk (1970) aka Garu, the Mad Monk—a work that clearly borrowed its title from Don Sharp’s pseudo-biopic Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966) starring Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley—which is more or less the director’s final word on Christianity and religious institutions in general. Aside from being the mad megalomaniac Milligan’s most flagrantly anti-Christian work to date, the film also has the distinction of being the first film that the director shot on 35mm, which he managed to do on a mere $11,000, as well as the only film where he not only acted as the director, cinematographer, and editor, but also producer and distributor, thus making it, at least technically speaking, the most eclectically ‘auteurist’ work of his career. Unfortunately, due to the fact that he switched from a small Auricon 16mm sound-on-film camera, which were usually used by news reporters and recorded both picture and sound at the same, to using a 35mm camera and a Nagra recorder and having to record picture and sound separately, this also meant that Milligan had to get rid of his erratic signature handheld ‘swirl camera’ style, including his intrusive in-your-face close-ups, intentionally cockeyed shot sex scenes, and obnoxious snuff-like ultra-up-close murder scenes, among other things, thus giving the film a more ‘conventional’ yet, somewhat paradoxically, amateurish style that makes the direction seem more like that of the typical horror hack than the man who directed the pathologically gritty and almost cinéma-vérité-like romance Nightbirds (1969). Due to his technical trouble in both production (while the directer managed to shoot about twelve minutes a day on his Auricon, he only only shot about six or seven with the 35mm camera) and post-production, Milligan ultimately disowned Guru, the Mad Monk and somewhat absurdly wrote it off as his single worst film yet, as the director’s friend/biographer Jimmy McDonough wrote in his book The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan (2001) regarding the film: “although it tends to run out of steam toward the end of its hour-plus and features a rather, uh, Methody lead performance by Paul Lieber, GURU is a scream and Milligan’s most overt attack on organized religion […} Strip away the medieval costumes and canned music in GURU and everything can be viewed in terms of a street pickup. The exchanges are all so sleazy and desperate. Don’t trust anyone, every man for himself, perhaps I’ll do for you if you do for me.”
Milligan’s first film after getting back from his exodus over the pond where he shot five films in London, including classics like Nightbirds (1969), the Sweeney Todd adaptation Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970), The Body Beneath (1970), and the radically raw Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde reworking The Man with Two Heads (1972), and the first the filmmaker made through his own short-lived movie company Nova International Pictures (since Milligan had been incessantly cheated out of money by his kosher producer/distributor William Mishkin, he decided to produce and distribute his films himself, though he made the mistake of borrowing money from another kosher conman, “some character named Maibaum”), Guru, the Mad Monk is another nasty melodrama disguised as a medieval horror costume piece but what distinguishes it from the director’s other work is that it attacks traditional western religious institutions while at the same time mocking the then-trendy counterculture-based ‘new age’ and occult movements, particularly the obsession with eastern mysticism, hence the film’s initially seemingly nonsensical title. The story of a young lover that works at a corrupt church prison who agrees to procure corpses for the eponymous monk antihero in exchange for helping him to save his beloved from a very certain death via execution for the false charge of murdering a bastard child that was born stillborn, the film follows in the tradition of Bloodthirsty Butchers in that it depicts two seemingly respectable citizens, a corrupt male named ‘Guru’ and his equally amoral female accomplice ‘Olga’, using their power of authority to ruin an evil black market empire just so they can survive and possibly even thrive during a time of great economic hardship, while also killing people just for kicks. Shot in a striking and rather idiosyncratic Manhattan church with kaleidoscopic stained glass windows that members of the Black Panther Party were apparently hiding out at when Milligan began shooting that almost passes for the medieval Slavic church in which the viewer is supposed to believe it takes place, Guru, the Mad Monk is a spiritually retarded hate screen from the deep and dark abysses of Mr. Milligan’s forlorn sod soul.
Opening with the witch-like hand of a woman opening a book that features the title screen and credits on the pages in a strikingly elegant fashion typical of old school Hollywood Golden Age era masterpieces, Guru, the Mad Monk certainly strives for a little bit of cultivated class, even if it is a piece of conspicuously kitschy and campy celluloid trash. The year is 1480 and on the fictional Slavic island of Mortavia exists a church prison that was built after the “great plague” of 1438 called the ‘The Lost Souls Church of Mortavia’ that is ruled by a sinisterly self-interested and Id-driven chaplain named Father Guru (played with a sort of effortlessly effete eloquence by Milligan superstar Neil Flanagan) who gives prisoners their last rites before they are executed. When a young dame named Nadja (one-hit wonder Judith Israel) is falsely accused of infanticide by a jealous old bitch after she gives birth to a stillborn bastard boy, she is condemned to death and sent to the island where she runs into her former lover, Carl (played by Hebrew Paul Lieber, who went on to play small but more respectable roles in kosher comedies like King of California (2007) starring Michael Douglas and even Larry David’s hit show Curb Your Enthusiasm), who works there as a jailor and whose job it is to look after the prisoners and to make sure they are buried in the ostensibly holy church graveyard after they are brutally executed. Upon talking to Nadja, Carl learns that she was kidnapped by a band of ruthless rapist thieving untermensch gypsies who forced her to steal and sexually pillaged her, thus resulting in her pregnancy. Aside from getting her knocked up, the gypsies discarded her and forced her to give birth on her own, but luckily the misbegotten half-gypsy bastard was stillborn and saved her the shame of having to raise such a hated-sired beast. Hoping to save Nadja, Carl goes to his master Father Guru for help, who offers to save his beloved if he procures corpses to sell on the black market, or as the immoral religious leader states himself, “I need your help. Our church is poor…Mother Church has seen fit not to send enough money to survive on, perhaps that’s why we're looked down upon by all of Eastern Europe. The lowest of all humanity is sent to us to be executed. It’s not a very pretty island, but it’s all that we have, therefore we must make the most of it. A stench of death makes other people turn their noses up at us and, in turn, turn their backs on us. I need extra money. It is not easily come by, but there is a need for bodies…human bodies for medical study. With your help, it would be much easier for me to supply these bodies to the medical schools.” Rather reluctantly, Carl obliges and a Faustian pact is made that inspires Father Guru to somewhat sinisterly but more sardonically state, “Thank god. there are many ways to work little miracles.”
To save Nadja’s life, Carl must obtain a potion from the Guru’s crazed cunt collaborator Olga aka ‘Nosferatu’ aka ‘Soul of Darkness’ (Jacqueline Webb) that will be used by the Father during the “last rites” and make her heart temporarily stop, thus making it seem like she has already died before she is executed and thus preventing her execution. Of course, Olga—an overweight middle-aged cunt who is equally as ugly on the exterior as the interior—is secretly a vampire and she makes Paul do a literal blood pact by pricking his skin to make sure that he carries out his promise of obtaining human blood in return for the potion. While the Guru manages to spare Nadja from execution during last rites by giving her the magic potion, which is hidden in a ring on his finger, with wine, he has ulterior motives. As he tells Carl regarding his personal philosophy, “I preach that god takes care of those that believe in him, but I have discovered that all my years of believing haven’t helped me one bit. Mother Church sends me little money to exist on and even then it doesn’t arrive when it’s supposed to, so I preach one thing and continue to believe another…SELF-SURVIVAL. You will do well to remember this.” Indeed, Guru is closer to a LaVeyan satanist than a Christian monk. Aside from being monetary-motivated, Father Guru also has an unquenchable thirst for blood and brutally murders any desperate person that makes the fatal mistake of attempting to seek spiritual refuge and redemption in the church. Guru is also a schizophrenic Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-like character with at least two personalities, with his ‘good’ side oftentimes arguing with his ‘bad’ side, which has more or less taken over, while he stares in the mirror. Aside from dyke vamp Olga, the Guru’s sole company is a retarded hunchback with grotesque physical and facial deformities named Igor (Jack Spencer), to whom he states, “I can say anything to you, you ignorant bastard, and you just smile. Maybe god was kind to you when he made you this way. Maybe god knew what he was doing when he gave you to me to take care of. Maybe god knew how desolate and forsaken this place was when he gave you to me to talk to, to keep me from going out of my mind.” A two-faced schemer, the Guru tries to entice Igor to receive a “favor or two” from Nadja, who essentially becomes a prisoner of the church while Carl is away and she instantly notices the Father’s proclivity towards pernicious murder. Luckily, Igor is a kind and selfless man whose grotesque appearance and seeming mental retardation betrays his truly valiant character. Meanwhile, Carl takes a pilgrimage to a medical hospital to deliver corpses to fulfill his part of his deal with Guru, thus leaving his beloved Nadja vulnerable, Olga, and their menacing minions.
When an old queen of a church leader sporting a gigantic German Iron Cross (?!) around his neck named Bishop Kopel (played by Frank Echols, whose sole other film credit was playing a doorman in Tim Burton’s classic 1994 biopic Ed Wood) shows up with a young blond queen named Father Polanski (played by Milligan regular Gerald Jacuzzo) to replace Guru at the Lost Souls Church of Mortavia due to the fact that he is committing blasphemy by harboring evil vampiress Olga, the Mad Monk begins seeing red and plots to kill the two so that he can keep his post and marvelous underground murder empire. After Bishop Kopel comments about how the island church is used so that “the rest of middle Europe is able to get rid of their…undesirables” and discusses how the Mother Church hides the fact that even those prisoners that are not sentenced to death somehow end up dying as well, he tells Father Polanski to leave so he can begin viciously berating Guru about his decadent and flamboyant fashion sense (he sports a silk blood red robe like he is some sort of demonic drag diva out of a horror flick directed by Werner Schroeter) and lets him know that he has been fired and replaced by the younger Chaplain, so the Mad Monk states, “I’m not going anywhere and neither are you,” in a superlatively sassy fashion and subsequently decapitates him. Indeed, Father Guru is one mean and ruthless bitch and he is willing to kill anyone or anything that gets in his way, no matter how insignificant.
Meanwhile, pedo-like priest Polanski runs into Nadja, who tells him that she suspects people are being murdered by Guru and his disciples at the church. Although Polanski consoles Nadja and gives her a temporary feeling of relief after telling her that he is replacing Guru and that she will be safe soon, little does the priest realize that his comrade Bishop Kopel has already lost his head and he's next. When Polanski goes looking for the Bishop, he finds bloodsucking she-bitch Olga, who gives him the shock of his life by violently murdering him without warning, but not before showing him Kopel’s bloody decapitating dome on a platter. After that, Olga has a verbal bitch fight with Nadja and then proceeds to ‘glamour’ the poor girl, but luckily kindhearted cripple Igor breaks the vampire’s mind-control powers over the little lady and saves her life. When Guru learns of Igor’s betrayal, he wastes no time ruthlessly punishing the kindly monster by crucifying him on a large door with the help of Olga. When Guru tells Olga that he plans to run away and live in complete secrecy by himself, and that he wants nothing to do with her and has no use for her anymore, the vampire’s innate female hysteria and jealousy gets the best of her and she attempts murdering the Mad Monk, but he swiftly grabs her knife and kills her with it. Meanwhile, Carl finally gets back from his Jonathan Harker-esque journey (which is never actually depicted in the film) and Nadja tells him about everything that has happened. Although Igor manages to free himself and attack Guru, the Mad Monk manages to grab his knife and, to add insult to injury, murders him by repeatedly stabbing him in his deformed hunchback. While Guru attempts to escape from Carl, the lapsed jailor merely grabs him and ties the rope of the church bell around his neck, thus lynching the murderously schizophrenic monk, whose dangling corpse hilariously rings the bell. In the end, Carl and Nadja leave the church and assumedly live happily ever after in a rare Milligan flick like it’s brother film Bloodthirsty Butchers where a rampantly heterosexual couple proves that love conquers all, even exceedingly effete killer holy men.
As Milligan would reveal in McDonough’s bio regarding his innate heretical character even as a young boy, “I went to German Lutheran School. I was forced to believe. The first class was religion. We had a nasty old German guy with gout, big red nose, must’ve drank. Used to hit your knuckles with a ruler. He’d go on about Adam and Eve and they had two sons and I’d raise my hand and say, “If they had two sons, well, who did they marry and have kids by?” Whack! I’d always ask about the holes in the Bible. “If the ark was only a hundred-something feet long and they had all the animals in the world, how could they all get on the ark?” Whack! Hee Hee. I was always in the corner. Always asking questions.” Indeed, unlike similarly themed Hebraic Hollywood celluloid swill, Guru, The Mad Monk does not attempt to obscure its seething hatred for organized religion and all that it stands for, while at the same time making the eponymous ‘Mad Monk’ seem more intriguing, complex, and ‘human’ than the typical filmic priest. Also, unlike Hollywood films, Milligan's virtual anti-church manifesto gives reasons for the Mad Monk's hypocritical behavior. Notably, at various points in the film, Guru and his partner Olga say hypocritical things like, “you can’t trust people these days” to the point of unnerving repetition, but this is also a major theme of the film and a glaring element of the Andy Milligan Weltanschauung. Indeed, the eponymous villain/antihero is a sort of stand-in for Milligan who's personal philosophy is pretty much exactly the same as Guru as demonstrated by his remark in McDonough’s bio while talking about himself and his films in the third-person: “Milligan pictures are very moral pictures, actually. Extremely moral. They show what happens if you fuck around. Even Elmer Gantry—if you get hooked on religion it becomes a drug and you become destroyed by it, too […] The answer is to go back to the basics of religion—try to be as nice as you can be daily. That’s what it comes down to. But if you get crass, nasty people, you can’t turn the other cheek to them, you have to kick them in the other cheek. You have to be as low and depraved as they are. They don’t understand anything else.” Notably, when Milligan was in the hospital in mid-1991 dying from AIDS, McDonough visited him daily and recorded him stating the following, “Everybody has religion, everybody...I wish I could believe. Life is so full of emptiness.” Like Guru, Milligan lost the faith long ago, which basically gave him the license to become an insanely intemperate sexual sadist and one of the most hateful and morally curious filmmakers who has ever lived, but unlike the sort of fat, weak, and impotent atheistic Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens fanboys who pride themselves on senselessly attempting to make people feel as miserable and nihilistic as they are and who probably spend 24/7 trying to artificially boost their fragile egos by pointlessly and ultimately fruitlessly attacking true believer Christian evangelists on the internet while lurking in their grandmother's basement, the gutter auteur was at least man enough and rational enough to recognize the value and purpose that religion gives to certain people's lives. Of course, if Guru, The Mad Monk was made today in Hebraic Hollywood, the eponymous villain would be portrayed as a deranged dude drunk on Christ as opposed to a schizophrenic charlatan who lost his faith. Indeed, more than anything, Guru, The Mad Monk, like much of the director's work, is a semi-cryptic celluloid confession as to why Milligan became the raging sadistic queen, godless misanthropic misfit, and mad micro-budget moviemaker that he was.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 2:37 AM
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