Dec 6, 2014
Although the gutter auteur’s most expensive production at the time with a budget about twice as much as one of his typical features at supposedly $20,000 (Bill Landis of Sleazoid Express fame soundly speculated that the filmmaker must have spent a good portion of the money on his mortgage), the monster family melodrama Blood (1974) directed by Andy Milligan (The Body Beneath, Fleshpot on 42nd Street) runs under 60 minutes (though a 74 minute print apparently exists somewhere), was conveniently shot mostly at the filmmaker’s northern Staten Island home, and as the director’s friend Jimmy McDonough wrote in his excellent biography The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan (2001), the work “had all the requisite Milligan ingredients—sick family, domineering wives, limping servants—but the results are inert and, even for Andy, amateurish.” Somewhat strangely, I have noticed that Blood is the film that most Milligan mongers recommend to novices, which is probably owing to the film’s brief running time and fairly fast pace, especially compared to the director's more dialogue-heavy works like Guru, the Mad Monk (1970) and The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972). Maybe it is because I enjoy watching nasty films about nasty people doing nasty things after being forced into less than ideal situations, but I have yet to see a ‘bad’ Milligan movie and that certainly includes this little minimalistic and misanthropic monster movie melodrama hybrid. Milligan’s sort of angry yet autistic take on The Addams Family meets Roger Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) minus the intentional humor as channeled through the director's rather idiosyncratic misogynistic, sadomasochistic, and compulsively cockeyed lens, Blood was one of the few films that the filmmaker directed that was not produced and distributed by Semitic smut-peddler William Mishkin, as it was released by Bryanston Pictures, which is notable for releasing Paul Morrissey's Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Robert Fuest’s The Devil’s Rain (1975) featuring Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, John Carpenter's pre-Halloween sci-fi parody Dark Star (1974), and Ralph Bakshi’s racially-charged satire Coonskin (1975), as well as being founded by Guido Mafioso boss Anthony "Big Tony" Peraino with his son Lou as a way to hide the millions of illegal untaxed dollars they made off of the porn chic crossover classic Deep Throat (1972). Although Milligan was routinely screwed over by Mishkin and his all the more repellant lawyer son, he claimed to have somehow managed to get Peraino to pay him $40,000 for Blood, which was unheard of because apparently the goombah gangster was somewhat of a penny-pincher, thus making the film one of the director’s greatest financial successes. A histrionically melodramatic tale about a decidedly disharmonious marriage of monster miscegenation between the Wolfman’s cuckold scientist son and the less than charismatic queen bitch daughter of Dracula and their deleteriously loyal Christian servant who not so secretly loves the husband and hates the wife, the film will ultimately prove to be too much for most horror fiends and gorehounds due to being a minimalistic exploitation flick with an almost Gone with the Wind-esque melodramatic ‘elegance’ (notably, Milligan worked on an Antebellum era epic melodrama entitled House of Seven Belles (1979), but never finished it and the footage is now considered lost). A suburban anti-family melodrama disguised as a Victorian era Gothic horror costume piece, Blood bleeds profusely the sort of inter-family contempt that only a spiteful little sadistic sod like Mr. Milligan was capable of and considering that it was made around the time that the filmmaker’s wife/superstar Candy Hammond (Seeds of Sin, Gutter Trash) divorced him and moved back to her hometown in North Carolina, the director's signature seething hatred, misanthropy, and misogyny seems all the more audaciously authentic.
Despite being the proud progeny of the Wolfman, Dr. Lawrence Orlovsky (one-time actor Allan Berendt) is his bitch wife’s loyal bitch and he has more or less devoted his entire life trying in vain to keep his uniquely ungrateful spouse relatively comfortable. Lawrence’s wife is a crippled bloodsucking cunt named Regina Orlovsky (Milligan superstar Hope Stansbury, who penned the director’s first film Vapors (1965)) and like many mentally unhinged housewives, she spends most of the day bedridden, but it is not just because she is a manic depressive, as she is also a genetically degenerate vampire who happens to be the daughter of thee Count Dracula. Unfortunately for her, Regina lacks the cultivated charm, wit, and subtlety of her alpha-ghoul progenitor. Due to their infamous family backgrounds, the two were forced to marry as a “duty” to their famous monster fathers and now they have a childless extended anti-family comprised solely of crippled servants who have literally dedicated their lives to serving them in the most dangerous and deleterious sort of ways. Regina hates servant Carrie (played by Patricia Gaul, who went on to have small roles in mainstream films like Kasdan’s The Bill Chill (1983) and Silverado (1985)) not only because she is a practicing Christian who blesses her food each meal with a small crucifix, but also because she can tell that she and her lycanthropic hubby have a crush on one another. Orlando (Michael Fischetti, who appeared in John Huston’s Prizzi's Honor (1985) and Robert Mandel’s F/X (1986) is the least hated and most cuckolded of the servants and Carlotta (Pichulina Hempi) is certainly the most hideous, grotesque, crippled, and retarded, which is all a direct result of her parasitic masters' experiments. Indeed, Carlotta, who apparently used to be rather bright, was adopted while still just a little girl from a Budapest-based orphanage by the Orlovsky family, but when Regina used a little bit too much of her blood one day to quench her undying lust for sanguine fluids, it temporarily cut off the oxygen to her brain, henceforth causing her irreparable brain damage that has left her a blabbering buffoon who bungles everything she does and thus making her the perfect defenseless scapegoat for the rest of the family, who blame all their own failings on her. Changing the family surname from Talbot to Orlovsky and moving to Europe in 1869 after his father died to obscure the fact that he is the son of the infamous Wolfman, Lawrence has brought back the entire messed up anti-family to his east coast hometown of ‘Mortavia’ (a name Milligan previously used for the fictional medieval Slavic nation featured in Guru, the Mad Monk) because he is running out of funds and suspects that family lawyer/executioner Carl Root (rather queenish Broadway composer John Wallowitch in his first and his last film role) has been stealing his inheritance and “legacy.” Of course, little does Lawrence and the rest of the family realize that the United States is still not exactly hospitable to their curious mongrel monster kind.
After shooing away a bitchy busybody realtor named Mr. Markham (Martin Reymert, who later appeared in Milligan’s 1978 film Legacy of Blood)—a revoltingly effete über-queen if there ever was one who insists on showing his tenant the garden and rooms around his new home—and telling him to never come by the house again under any circumstances as he plans to mail the rent out in advance, childless patriarch Lawrence sneaks his entire eccentric family into their new less than humble abode via a backdoor. As a degenerate blood addict with an acute aversion to sunlight, Regina barely survives the trip and her face resembles that of a melted plastic baby doll head by the time she finds safety in darkness. To make matters worse, Regina needs weekly blood transfusions and overused guinea pig Carlotta’s once vital blood is beginning to be not very agreeable with her highly sensitive undead body. On top of having to deal with his wife’s pathological bitching and belligerent bouts of somewhat warranted jealousy, Lawrence, who has followed his father’s wishes by becoming a doctor and devotes most of his life to attempting to find a cure for the ungodly family taint, spends most his time experimenting with serums, with servants Carrie, Orlando, and Carlotta also having secondary jobs as his scientific assistants. Lycanthropic mad scientist Lawrence is also experimenting with the sap of exotic and highly dangerous carnivorous plants as he hopes it will prove to be a reliable substitute to blood that will help keep his wife’s eternal addiction to vital fluids in check. Unfortunately, the plants are growing rather vicious and attempt to eat anyone that happens to get too close to them. Possibly a side effect from the strange plants, servants Carrie and Orlando are suffering from a grotesque unmentioned ailment that makes their legs look like that of a malnourished concentration camp victim, albeit with the added bonus of perennially oozing puss. In fact, Orlando's leg is so warped that he has to waddle around on his knees, which is certainly symbolic of his sorry lot in life as the virtual serf of Count Dracula and the Wolfman's degenerate spawn. Of course, despite everything that her husband and servants do for her, Regina is still an ungrateful bitch who runs the house like a fascistic PMS-plagued whorehouse madam who hasn't had a good fuck in a decade. To Regina's minor credit, her husband refuses to have sex with her, even when she begs by throwing herself at him like a drunken teenage girl at a frat boy party. Indeed, when Regina tells her husband that she hates him and to “go to hell” after he rebuffs her rather pathetic sexual advances, Lawrence replies, “we’re already there.” Of course, compared to what he and his fucked family will experience over the next couple of days, Lawrence has yet to experience anything even remotely resembling Hades.
When Lawrence surprises his miserly lawyer Carl Root by randomly showing up at his office without notifying him that he has returned to the United States, he discovers that the swindler has sold the entire family estate without his permission and misspent the money on bad business deals, so he threatens him by remarking, “You forget that I have all my father’s traits inbred in me, so take care” and eventually tries to kill the faggy swindler with his bare hands. Luckily, Lawrence's meeting with Root is not completely bloodboiling, as he gets the opportunity to meet the scumbag lawyer’s beauteous young secretary Prudence Towers (Pamela Adams), who he virtually falls in love with at first sight. Meanwhile, servant Carrie’s young brother Johnny (David Bevans) swings by the monster manor and it becomes immediately clear that he and his sister have incestuous feelings for one another. When Johnny checks on his sister’s bad leg and sees that it is even worse than the last time he saw it, he threatens to call the authorities and demands that Carrie meet with him the next day, but of course the siblings never see each other again. Indeed, upon attempting to leave the Orlovsky home, Johnny is stopped by Regina, who kills him with a butcher knife to the noggin and subsequently melts his corpse with acid after he threatens to go to the authorities in regard to her husband's dubious experiments. When nosy realtor Markham talks to an equally nosy old obese wench in the neighborhood who mentions that the Orlovsky’s are not home and complains, “you can’t trust dem’ damn foreigners” despite the fact they’re clearly not foreigners as demonstrated by their crude hopelessly American accents, the brazen busybody decides to sneak into the house, only to discover Carrie, Orlando, and Carlotta performing experiments in a makeshift laboratory in the basement. Realizing that Markham has seen too much, Carrie and Orlando knock the realtor out and feed him to the carnivorous plants, who slowly drain the realtor of his fruity pansy blood.
Meanwhile, Regina gets so hungry that she decapitates a mouse with her beloved butcher knife in a classically cruel Milligan-esque unsimulated rodent-killing scene and eats its head while her husband Lawrence goes on a romantic date with Prudence at the cemetery where his Wolfman father, who apparently died a violent death at the hands of a hateful redneck lynch mob, is buried. After telling Prudence, “I only wish I could have been fortunate enough to meet you before I married her” and complaining about being forced into an arranged marriage with a woman he ultimately grew to love to hate, hopeless romantic Lawrence passionately kisses his new lady friend, but the two perfectly matched lovebirds are soon interrupted by a creepy corpse-like old hag with an Eastern European accent named Petra (Eve Crosby, who later appeared in the 1999 Troma flick Terror Firmer) who rebukes them for hanging out at the graveyard after visiting hours and proclaims that the graves are “all of my children.” When Petra realizes who Lawrence really is, she warns him to go home because there will be a full moon that night, so the crypto-lycanthrope runs away as fast as he can so that he does not defile his precious new lover. Unfortunately, some other jealous monster will ultimately get to his unwitting sweetheart Prudence.
When Petra, who was apparently Lawrence’s belated father the Wolfman's mistress for 15 years, comes by the Orlovsky home and blackmails Regina by threatening to reveal their family secret(s), the bitchy bloodsucker kills her by biting her on the neck and drinking her blood, but not before sadistically chopping her hands off by abruptly slamming the top of a treasure chest onto them. Before killing Petra, Regina learns that her husband has cheated on her with Prudence and she only becomes all the more enraged when the old hag rubs it in her face by remarking, “The wife is always the last to know.” Needless to say, Regina pays poor unsuspecting Prudence a visit and kills her by draining her of her vital fluids. Meanwhile, Lawrence comes home and tells his servants to pack everything and to get ready to go back to Europe because he killed Carl Root after turning into a werewolf and losing control of his temper. When Regina finally comes back home, she brags to Lawrence about killing his mistress Prudence, berates him for cheating on her, and projects her own thoughts by accusing him of wanting to kill her, to which he replies like a true spineless cuckold, “You’re wrong, I wouldn’t desert you after all these years.” Of course, being a hysterical and innately intemperate crazed cunt, Regina attacks Lawrence and both of them subsequently transform into their respective monster forms. While husband and wife attempt to strangle one another to death, a fire breaks out that kills every single person in the house, including the servants. In a charmingly tasteless twist ending, another exceedingly gay realtor (played by Joe Downing, who fittingly appeared in Milligan’s now-lost 1973 gay vampire flick Dragula) rents out the semi-burnt down house, which is being restored, for a cheap price to a super Teutonic-looking fellow named Baron von Frankenstein.
While plagued by crude makeup, sub-childish special effects, almost silent era style histrionic acting, and spastic direction involving the director's signature ‘swirl camera’ technique taken to perversely pathological extremes, Blood is pure Milligan in the most complimentary sense and indeed a rather fitting introduction to the filmmaker’s oeuvre. Probably better than any of the gutter auteur’s other films, the film demonstrates the director’s unrivaled talent for maliciously molesting horror and monster movie genre conventions and molding them to fit his own wickedly wayward worldview. Indeed, for those who cherish Universal Monsters movies, Blood might prove to be an unnerving, if not uniquely unforgettable experience, as if a sub-literate American Jean Genet attempted to film a play about the forlorn children of Count Dracula and the Wolf Man in his damp, dark, and moldy basement using actors he cast from a thrift store while high on crystal meth and poppers. Pure and unadulterated celluloid sexual psychosis with the pleasantly perverse passion of 101 raving lovesick psychopaths, Milligan’s film is true ‘outsider art’ as a completely authentic, unadulterated, and innately intemperate expression of the filmmaker’s misbegotten anti-Oedipal being. Indeed, in many ways, Blood, like many of Milligan’s other movies, is a rather incriminating film that would offer a virtual gold mine for any half-serious psychoanalyst, but one scene that particularly stuck out to me was when protagonist Lawrence Orlovsky states after killing Carl Root while in werewolf form, “I couldn’t control my temper. I didn’t want to do it.” To me, that piece of seemingly insignificant dialogue seemed like a half-hearted attempt on Milligan's part to apologize (or at least an excuse) for his all around sadistic, bitchy, and callous behavior, which was probably the product of the emotional and physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his deranged and morbidly obese alcoholic mommy, who seemed to raise her son in such a cruel fashion that he ultimately grew up to become completely incapable of controlling his behavior or communicating with other people in any sort of rational, sensible, or respectful way. Certainly, filmmaking was a sort of therapy for his internal torment and as Greek-French playwright Antonin Artaud once wrote, “No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.” Of course, the literal and figurative monsters of Blood only get out of their personal hells after being literally burned alive, thus demonstrating the severity of Milligan’s suffering and cynicism with life. Indeed, Milligan may have been one of the most technically inept auteur filmmakers who ever lived, but he understood the archetypical roots of monsters better than the modern ‘masters of horror’ like John Landis, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, Stuart Gordon, etc.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 7:34 AM
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