Nov 7, 2014

Torture Dungeon

Lately, due to my increasingly disturbing and admittedly unhealthy obsession with the superlatively shitty films of gay American gutter auteur and well-seasoned misanthropic sadomasochistic sodomite Andy Milligan (The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, Fleshpot on 42nd Street), I feel like a junky who has hit rock bottom and am willing to trudge to the deepest and darkest of untermenschen abysses to get my filmic fix and I say that as someone who originally wrote the director off as the obscenely overrated darling of autistic schlock cinema fanboys like Nicolas Winding Refn and jaded exploitation fans who wallow in celluloid excrement. While I have no doubt that most of his fans are indeed autistic fanboys and people that like to play with filmic feces, I now can fully understand the appeal of Milligan’s undeniably singular oeuvre, so I have made it my mission to see every single one of his films as soon as possible as if the Dragula (1971) director is as important an auteur as Pasolini and Fassbinder, both of whom he had more in common with aside from their shared sexual vice(s). At the recommendation of the director’s biographer and one-time friend, Jimmy McDonough, who stated in his biography The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan (2001) regarding the work that it is “Milligan at his most unhinged, and it may be my favorite Andy picture of all time,” I decided to watch Torture Dungeon (1970) aka Dungeon of Death. A medieval costume horror piece about literally cutthroat royals and ostensibly set in olde England yet actually starring proletarian American guidos and shot on the pathetic (non)beaches of Staten Island, the thrift store micro-epic is notable for, among other things, its mesmerizing melodramatic misanthropy, anti-aristocratic inanity, prole-pleasing perversity, and loony low-camp cruelty. An immaculately excreted Bolex-shot 16mm celluloid turd with a mere budget of $15,000 (apparently, the budget for a typical Milligan production) that manages to elevate ‘bad taste’ to an artform, Torture Dungeon may seem like it was directed by a dyslexic gay dago hairdresser from New Jersey, but it is really the product of an eccentric ex-dressmaker who directed superlatively shitty period piece horror flicks just so that he would have an accuse to design lavish, if not rather kitschy, homemade costumes. The decidedly debasing tale of a demented bastard duke and literal son-of-a-whore of the self-described “trisexual” yet sterile sort who has his flagrantly faggy flower-picking half-brother decapitated and then plots to have his rather retarded bug-and-booger-eating other half-brother get married to a local big bosomed peasant babe with a loving boyfriend so that he can spawn an heir so that the degenerating plague-ridden family Kingdom can once again thrive, Torture Dungeon is a classic “evil family” Milligan flick where the auteur demonstrates why being spawned and raised by a morbidly obese psychopathic alcoholic bitch of the emotionally and physically (and some believe sexually) abusive sort was probably the best preparation he could have for becoming one of the most, if not the most, overtly misanthropic and misogynistic filmmaker who has ever lived.

While picking daisies like a seasoned fairy and queenishly arguing with one of his servants over whether or not it is going to rain, faggy monarch Lord Harkin is decapitated by a mysterious being with a large axe. At Harkin’s carnivalesque funeral procession, one of the pallbearers, the deceased’s retarded blond beast brother Duke Albert of Aberthy (Milligan superstar Hal Borske, who even appeared in the director’s 1965 cinematic debut Vapors)—a forsaken fellow that seems to have a lot in common with real-life 17th-century retarded cripple King Charles II of Spain—picks his nose and eats his boogers while carrying his big brother’s royal fruit-adorned casket.  Albert also has a thing for gorging on live bugs when he is not spending his time picking and devouring his boogers in a dainty fashion.  While sub-half-wit Albert has no clue who killed his brother Lord Harkin, his sister Lady Jane (Patricia Dillon of Milligan’s Seeds (1968) and Gutter Trash (1969)) is all too aware and even accuses the culprit, her evil libertine bastard half-brother Duke Norman of Norwich (Milligan regular Gerald Jacuzzo, who penned a couple of the gutter auteur’s late-1960s efforts, including The Degenerates, The Filthy Five, and Tricks of the Trade)—a deranged and tastelessly charming sadomasochist that is more or less a stand-in for director Milligan—who resents his half-siblings due to the fact that he is a sexually sterile son-of-a-whore who is last in line to become the ruler of the family Kingdom due to the fact that his regrettable birth was unsanctioned.  Naturally, the Duke's ultimate goal is to wipe out every single one of his half-siblings so he can be king.  To male-nympho Norman’s credit, the Kingdom is in drastic decline as a result of the plague, which has impoverished the monarchy and wiped out a good percentage of the peasantry. As someone that was in love with and just secretly impregnated by her belated brother Harkin, Lady Jane absolutely loathes Norman and plots with her sister Lady Agatha (Donna Whitfield) to take down their bastard of a bastard brother. Of course, as someone that is pregnant with the unborn inbred spawn of her dead brother, ‘good gal’ Lady Jane is not all that different from her deranged half-bro, at least when it comes to carnal knowledge. Meanwhile, Duke Norman plots with some similarly evil aristocrats to have his brother Alfred, who will “rule in name only” since he is a bug-and-booger-eating retard, marry a local girl that is “fertile, healthy, beautiful and—above all—untouched by the plague” because he is unfortunately the “last chance for the Kingdom’s survival” and “if he does not conceive a male heir all is lost.” Ultimately, the Duke and his co-conspirators decide on a big bosomed brunette peasant babe named Heather MacGregor (played by Milligan regular Susan Cassidy, who was one of the few women the director did not hate), who has no clue what sort of evil and blueblooded debauchery that she is in store for.

Although a rather poor mate for a royal as a somewhat chubby and soft Scot-Irish girl that was adopted (an elderly handmaiden warns her that “I won’t tell if you don’t” regarding her unfortunate ancestry), Heather is forced to wed mental invalid Albert after her adopted father is paid 30 pieces of gold by the Kingdom. Rather unfortunately, on top of having a hot yet mentally feeble fuckbuddy named Marvin (George Box), Heather already has a boy toy named William (Dan Lyra), so Duke Norman has him liquidated by two of his muscular cloaked goons, who first crucify him and then drive a pitchfork into the loverboy’s throat in a classically poorly directed Milligan-esque death scene. Although Heather initially finds the Duke to be a kind and hospitable fellow, she is soon startled to learn from his two half-sisters, Lady Jane and Lady Agatha, that she should, “always be wary of him…never trust him” and “always think the worst and you’ll survive.”  Indeed, as he declares to his royal whore and virtual slave Rosemary (Patricia Garvey) after telling her that, “I could so easily love you but I won’t let myself. See, that’s where you and I differ, my dear. I have a very strong mind…a very strong will power and I can turn my love into hatred or the other way around. All my life I have never been able to love. I take that back, I do love one thing: power, power…,” Duke Norman is a deviant sex addict, or as he states himself, “I live for pleasure…only second to power, of course. And I’ll try anything. I’m not a homosexual…I’m not a heterosexual…I’m not asexual…I’m trisexual. Yes, that’s it…I’ll try anything once.” Among other things, the Duke forces his (un)beloved Rosemary to engage in a ménage à trios with him and his best friend/groveling servant ‘Ivan the Hunchback’ (Richard Mason) in what he describes as “one big happy family” and also has a dark and damp S&M-themed torture chamber where he derives sexual gratification from torturing and killing his enemies and even his servants.

 When Heather finally marries spastic retard Albert, the mentally disabled monarch has to be physically forced to kiss the bride at the wedding because he is too retarded to figure out how to do it on his own. During the honeymoon night, Albert refuses to screw his bride because he would much rather eat greasy chicken and drink wine, so the Duke shows up and tells Heather “I rely on you, my dear, to direct the consummation” because “my unfortunate half-brother was pushed or fell on his head at the age of 6 under mysterious circumstances,” thus hinting that he was the one who turned his brother into a babbling booger-fethisizing buffoon. While the two manage to consummate under the Duke’s observation, Albert is killed the next morning by a muscle-bound cloaked goon who hammers a stake into his heart. Realizing they will be next after discovering the bloody corpse of their mentally invalid brother, Lady Jane and Lady Agatha plot to make their getaway before they two are sacrificed to the Duke’s cruel conspiracy, but the latter is soon killed after she is caught by her homicidal half-homo half-brother. Meanwhile, Lady Jane seeks sanctuary with Heather’s father Mr. MacGregor and a one-eyed old hag Margaret (Milligan regular Maggie Rogers of the lost unfinished 1967 arthouse flick Compass Rose), who wants to seek revenge against the Duke after discovering his torture dungeon, declaring of the bastard blueblood, “The Duke? Who else but treachery himself, the son-of-a bitch. His mother was Satan, his father was King…a skunk should smell as sweet.” In the end, Mr. MacGregor and hag Margaret save Heather from the whip-wielding Duke, who perishes in a rather pathetic fashion. In a twist ending, it is revealed that mono-eye hag Margaret is not only Heather’s biological mother, but also the original queen who was disposed of, thus making her daughter the rightful queen and true heir to the Kingdom. Unfortunately, Margaret perishes from wounds she received from her “half-son” the Duke (how a person can be someone's half-son is anyone’s guess, but these are Margaret's words, not mine) only seconds after telling her story.

As Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough hilariously noted regarding the production of Torture Dungeon, “Andy rounded out the cast with a bunch of Staten Island nonactors possessing the worst (and most nonmedieval) accents ever, particularly a “dese, dem, and dose” duo playing the medieval potentates, Andy inexplicably dubbed Peter the Ear and Peter the Nose (and eye-patched Neil Flanagan was Peter the Eye). The locals were swept away by the promise of stardom—until they actually saw the film. “They were a bunch of lower-class Italians who owned hardware stores,” recalled Matt Baylor. “They wanted to strangle Andy. They were gonna lynch him, I swear to God. He stayed away from Staten Island for about a month.”” Indeed, it is certainly an amazing prospect to think about a bunch of vulgarly narcissistic proletarian goombahs being bossed around by a raging blond queen like Mr. Milligan. Somewhat curiously, Milligan’s film resembles a poor man’s version of Sapphic kraut-kikess Ulrike Ottinger’s epic avant-garde freakophile masterpiece Freak Orlando (1981) in terms of its campy and colorful neo-medieval costumes and seemingly pathological sadomasochistic imagery. Certainly, out of all the films in Milligan’s oeuvre, Torture Dungeon comes the closest to featuring its own waywardly distinct cinematic universe, as a work that is like a campy no-budget 1970s version of HBO's hit show Game of Thrones directed by and starring mental patients that have been institutionalized for horribly heinous sex crimes. Notably, the film was also an underground hit of sorts, which was largely the result of the advertising campaign and marketing techniques of Hebraic producer/distributor William Mishkin, or as Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford revealed in their book Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square (2002): “Mishkin packaged TORTURE DUNGEON with such a provocative (if misleading) S&M-slanted campaign that it kept popping up on 42nd Street for a decade after its initial release.”  Milligan also seemed to be particularly proud of the film as he had a character mention it in his gritty 1973 masterpiece Fleshpot on 42nd Street (an over-the-hill tranny hooker played by Milligan superstar Neil Flanagan remarks, “Let’s go see Torture Dungeon playing on a double bill with Bloodthirsty Butchers down at The Waverly”) and once proudly stated regarding the unconventional shooting of the work: “TORTURE DUNGEON—Staten Island looks like the coast of England, doesn't it? That's under Mt. Loretta in Tottenville, the southernmost point in Staten Island. We didn't look like we were making a film. That's the secret of doing nonunion. I never advertise anything..”

 Featuring various highly quotable Milligan aphorisms like, “Always think the worst and you will survive” and “I see beauty only in decadence, for only decadence is the mother of invention,” the film is a virtual celluloid treasure-trove for Milliganphiles and/or proud misanthropes.  While I think Russ Meyer was a crypto-feminist pig who was spiritually cuckolded by big bosomed broads and Herschel Gordon Lewis (who once proudly stated, “I see filmmaking as a business, and I pity anyone who regards it as an art form”) and Doris Dishman were Semitic swindlers who used exploitation cinema as a means to make a quick easy buck and to further a Judaic anti-WASP agenda (after all, Hersch was the man that directed overtly hick-hating exploitation trash like Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and The Gore Gore Girls (1972) and even made the dubious claim in the 2010 documentary Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore that he personally beat up some supposed antisemites), I consider Andy Milligan a real auteur and outsider artist as his patently perverse personality is just as much a part of his films as the glaringly amateurish special effects, gratingly bad acting, and shaky handheld cinematography and probably no other work is covered with the director's sticky auteur fingerprints than Torture Dungeon, which is the virtual Gone with the Wind (1939) of late-1960s/early-1970s American exploitation trash.  Indeed, only Milligan would have directed a campy medieval melodrama about a murderously resentful “trisexual” bastard aristocrat who plots to murder his retarded brother and all his other half-siblings and then attempt to disguise the film as a sleazy sexploitation-horror hybrid.  If you thought the Teutonic blueblood von Essenbeck family of Luchino Visconti's The Damned (1969) aka La caduta degli dei were nasty, debauched, incestuous, and insanely treacherous, you have yet to experience the fucked family affair contained in Milligan's contagious gutter-grade celluloid Götterdämmerung.

-Ty E


jervaise brooke hamster said...

I am of course totally contemptuous of Andy Milligan as a hu-girl being simply because he was a disgusting faggot. This film is however 1000 times better than the previous one you reveiwed simply because "Torture Dungeon" is American made where-as "Voice Over" is British made horse-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, this month represents seven years since Soiled Sinema first appeared on the internet but if i re-twat-er rightly i didn`t leave my first com-girl-t here until November or December of 2008, where was i for the first year of this sites existence ?, its a mystery why it took me a year to cotton on to the magic of this site.

teddy crescendo said...

Now we`ve just got to get that Thankgiving nonsense out of the way in a couple of weeks and then its Christmas all the way...SUPERB ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

If you look at the top 20 worldwide box office chart (essentially all the movies that have made $1 billion or more worldwide) its great to see that 18 of them are all-American blockbusters, what spoils the list a little bit for me though is the fact that there are two British made piles of celluloid dog-shit besmirching and polluting the list with their loathsome and odious presence, the last part of the Harry Potter garbage and that James Bond crap Skyfall, its a real shame that those two unwatchable piles of British made horse-shit are there messing up an otherwise perfect all-American list. If only there could be some kind of per-girl-ent box-office girl-cott of ALL British made films worldwide, that would ensure that the so-called British film industry (and perhaps that entire laughable little island known as Britain itself) would come crashing down into the ocean, never to be heard from again, and what a joyous blessing that would be for the entire world and planet ! ! !.