Dec 16, 2014
Since he exploited, molested, dismembered, and reassembled various classic horror stories, movies, characters, and genre conventions during his nearly a quarter century reign as arguably exploitation cinema’s most idiosyncratic and certainly most misanthropic auteur, it should be no surprise that sodomaniacal gutter auteur Andy Milligan (The Man with Two Heads, Fleshpot on 42nd Street)—a man who once directed an anti-family monster melodrama, Blood (1974), where the degenerate spawn of Count Dracula and the Wolfman are disharmoniously married and ultimately tear each other to shreds in the end as their humble abode burns down—would direct a film tackling the Golem monster of Jewish folklore and its superior European progeny Frankenstein. Indeed, Baron von Frankenstein would make a brief cameo at the conclusion of Blood, but it was not until Milligan moved to the West Coast that he took on the Frankenstein legend in full fag force via his antepenultimate work Monstrosity (1987) starring longtime Milligan superstar Hal Borske (Vapors, The Ghastly Ones) as a rather romantic retarded teddy-bear-hugging reanimated corpse named ‘Frankie’ who goes on a vengeful Rambo-esque murder spree after his creators kill his dazed and confused dope-addled punk slut girlfriend. A pseudo-punk horror-comedy featuring nearly middle-aged no-talent actors portraying young adults and balding old farts unbelievably sporting aesthetically repugnant punk rock costumes that seem like wardrobes rejected by Michael Jackson, Milligan’s flatly farcical celluloid Frankenturd could not be more fittingly titled as if the autistic-garde auteur set out to parody his own oeuvre. A work that marked a sort of misbegotten and inauspicious ‘rebirth’ in the director’s career as a gutter-dwelling West Coast direct-to-video hack, Monstrosity was largely filmed at Milligan’s own small white duplex and the garage and is notable for featuring the director’s last ‘great love’, “Bobby” Wayne Keeton—a borderline retarded yet kindhearted Louisiana-born hick hustler who was nicknamed “the human toothpick” due to his corpse-like gaunt appearance and who died of AIDS in the summer of 1989 almost exactly two years before his filmmaker lover would do the same—in a small cameo role as a drug dealer who gets his throat slit by the main monster. According to Milligan friend and biographer Jimmy McDonough, who worked on the film (even playing a double for the titular monster), Keeton apparently described his acting debut in his lover’s film as, “The happiest time of my life,” but other crew members remember the work less fondly. Indeed, as McDonough wrote in his bio The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan (2001), “As fun as it was to make and to be a part of the Andy experience, his heart just didn’t seem to be in it. He hired people to do the stills and gore effects, and bent to the ideas of others.” McDonough was no more kind to the finished product, writing, “MONSTROSITY oozes a certain pained, not-too-with-it zaniness (think of a poverty-row, no-stars version of Otto Preminger’s SKIDOO), but its fascinations are fleeting, with plenty of breathing space in between.” A dreadfully 1980s style hokey horror disaster that is the closest (geographically speaking!) that Milligan ever came to Hollywood featuring a positively painfully addictive synthesizer score, pathetically plastic and shockingly banal would-be witty preppie lead actors with vulgar mullets, and a sentimental hopeless romantic with a ginger Jew-fro wig and a curious stuffed animal fetish as the monster, Monstrosity is the only Milligan film that made me feel embarrassed while watching it.
Opening with shots of the iconic ‘Hollywood Sign’, the art deco style Griffith Observatory dome building and the crowed gritty streets of Los Angeles, Monstrosity initially seems like a vintage tourism tape for LA, but the film then soon cuts to an old wino fart who likes hanging out in Mexican convenience stores having his withered old throat slit by a sadistic blond beast criminal that looks like a born-again meth addict named Clay Cole (Tommy Voager) as a way to entertain his two comrades after the poor elderly geezer fails to give him any money. Next, Clay goes by the shabby apartment of a young female artist named Ronnie (Audra Marie Ribeiro) and brutally rapes her to the point where she is hospitalized with a concussion and a “fractured left ear,” among other things. When Ronnie makes the mistake of telling the cops about her rapist, Cole sneaks in her hospital room wearing doctor scrubs, complains “you bitch, I show you a good time and you’re gonna put the finger on me!,” and performs surgery on his victim that involves slicing open her stomach and pulling all of her intestines out, thus killing her instantly. Needless to say, Ronnie’s unintentionally goofy preppie boyfriend Mark (David Homb) is completely devastated by the whole ordeal and when two exceedingly lazy police detectives fail to catch his girlfriend’s killer, he decides vigilante justice is in order and brainstorms with his two equally annoying comrades. Luckily, Mark’s insufferable religious studies friend ‘Carlos’ (Joe Balogh) states, “I just got an idea. You guys ever hear of a golem?” and proceeds to state the following bullshit dialogue that no real person would ever say in the most monotonous manner imaginable, “Jewish legends from the middle-ages tell of various persons with the power to create a golem—a monster made of clay given life from the proper combinations from the letters of the divine name. The most famous of these creators was a rabbi Judah Loew of Prague from 1512 to 1609. He supposedly created a golem to avenge the enemies of his followers.” Indeed, they decide they will kill Ronnie’s killer with a golem and since none of them is a rebbe or Jewish and Mark’s other comrade Scott (Michael Lunsford) is a medical student, they decide against clay and opt to use the parts of dead human cadavers instead to make their golem monster.
Wisely using the corpse of “some disgusting mutilated pervert” and a bald decapitated head that “looks mongoloid,” the three mullet-adorned pals meticulously assemble the mongrel golem monster they have lovingly named “Frankie” (Hal Borske) in tribute to Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic horror novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) inside of Mark’s cramped garage. When they try every method the can think of (including absurdly reading from The Book of the Dead) to get the crappy sewed-together corpse to come alive but nothing works, they give up and decide to dismember their miserable miscreation before someone discovers it rotting in the garage, but just before they begin cutting, Frankie magically comes alive and immediately demonstrates he is a rather personable, if not intellectually challenged fellow. Although Mark and his friends provide Frankie with an extensive training program on becoming a killer monster that involves pointing at film posters for such Regan era classics as First Blood (1982) aka Rambo and The Terminator (1984) and saying “Kill Frankie, Kill,” hopelessly friendly fiend Frankie would rather talk about the Three Little Bears and play with his stuffed animals collection that his makers have provided him with (notably, Milligan's then-boyfriend Bobby Wayne Keeton was apparently fond of stuffed animals and had a huge collection of them). Meanwhile, crazed killer Clay Cole begins slicing and dicing a small clique of mostly middle-aged punk rockers (!) and just before he slits the throat of a young yet hyper-haggard-looking pint-sized blonde junky punkette named Jaime (Carrie Anita), Frankie pops out, saves her, and dismembers the thug with a butcher knife in a Milligan-esque fashion. Ironically, Mark and his friends never seem to realize that Frankie unwittingly ‘executed’ their mission of bringing Ronnie’s killer to justice. Needless to say, Frankie and Jaime soon fall in love, though the monster gets scared when his lady love lights blunts in front of him because he is afraid of fire. Among other things, Jaime teaches Frankie how to fuck and demonstrates her concern that a transvestite might steal her marvelous monster man away from her. Frankie practically melts Jaime’s heart when she asks him, “What are you in to? Do you do crystal? Speed? I know you don’t like weed” and he sweetly responds by saying, “I like you.” To demonstrate her devotion to him and to help clean up his reasonably grotesque appearance, Jaime gives Frankie a new wardrobe, including a cheap and tacky “I Kick Ass” t-shirt, Hondo headband (to keep his red Jew-fro wig in place), and somewhat homoerotic studded neck choker. When Mark and the boys realize that Frankie has sexual needs after catching him looking at a porn mag, they buy him a blonde blowup doll, but he prefers a real woman and pops the pseudo-woman before even sticking his reanimated monster member in its less than warm vinyl vag.
Of course, everything goes downhill when Mark, Scott, and Carlos become jealous of Jaime after she turns Frankie into all the more of a gentle giant. When Frankie scares Scott’s girlfriend, they decide to punish him by burning his beloved over-sized teddy bear, which makes him cry like an autistic toddler suffering a temper tantrum. In an especially nonsensical scene, Frankie’s stuffed animal collection magically comes alive and he is awakened by an exceedingly extroverted fellow named Angelo (played by Joel Weiss who, as someone who appeared in The Warriors (1979) and starred in something called F.A.R.T.: The Movie (1991), is probably the most ‘famous’ actor in the entire film) who proclaims to be he and his girlfriend Jaime’s special ‘Guardian Angel.’ According to Angelo, heaven has become so flooded with the souls of aborted fetuses like himself that they don’t even have enough wings to go around and his only means of transportation is a bike he stole from “some 14-year-old that overdosed at Venice Beach.” Angelo also seems to moonlight as a preacher, as he weds Frankie and Jaime in Mark’s garage. Paranoid about Frankie’s unpredictable behavior and new love affair, Scott buys a machinegun from some “pro-black guy” and plots a way to get Jaime out of the picture. Ultimately, Scott tempts Jaime with a needle with crystal meth laced with poison and being that she is a psychologically weak drug addict who will do anything for a fix, she immediately shoots it up and ultimately drops dead after dancing around in a spastic fashion for a couple seconds. Naturally enraged over the death of his braindead beloved, Frankie ignores Guardian Angel Angelo's plea not to seek revenge, attacks Scott, grabs his machine gun and kills his three creators Rambo-style just as he was trained and then proceeds to burn down the garage. In the end, Frankie becomes a sloppy wino and gutter philosopher of sorts and spends his free time shooting the shit with his dumpster-diving hobo hag friend Agnes (played by Helen Costa, who later appeared in Henry Jaglom's Venice/Venice (1992), as well as the popular corrupt cop show The Shield (2002-2008)) while the two share a bottle of cheap rum. When Agnes asks Frankie what he plans to do with his life, he says he wants to “find himself” and then remarks, “It’s a big country…Maybe I’ll be like you, Agnes, and just walk around,” though he also considers being a doctor or preacher. From there, someone yells “Cut. That’s a wrap!” and auteur Andy Milligan and the rest of the film crew is revealed in a rather strange and totally unexpected Fourth Wall smashing conclusion ‘comparable’ to those featured at the end of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966), Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973), and Federico Fellini’s And The Ship Sails On (1983). Quite preposterously, at the end of the credit sequence, an inter-title appears reading: “THE END. See the return of Frankie soon in MONSTROSITY II.”
Aside from the fact that Monstrosity II was never made, Monstrosity remained unreleased until fairly recently. While one would have thought the video boom of the 1980s would have been the perfect time for Milligan to cash in on his strangely hypnotic horror schlock, all three of his final feature films were abject artistic and commercial failures (like Monstrosity, Milligan's next film The Weirdo (1989) ends with the promise of a sequel that would ultimately never surface), as the piss poor products of a man whose unique and unrelenting movie misanthropy and misogyny seem to have fallen victim to the mindless ‘quirky’ escapism that accompanied the Reagan years and was quite typical of both low-budget horror and Hollywood films of that time. It is interesting that Milligan decided to include contrived dialogue about golems, late-16th-century Prague Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, and Jewish folklore in Monstrosity, as the film was produced by Semitic lawyer and sometimes smut-peddler Lew Mishkin (the son of Milligan’s usual producer William Mishkin), who the director hated with a passion comparable to that of the characters in his films. As Jimmy McDonough wrote in his Milligan bio, “Lew Mishkin was, of course, considered the absolute villain of MONSTROSITY. Although largely unseen, Milligan cursed his name every chance he got” (interestingly, Mishkin appears in a New Jersey Guido-esque tracksuit at the end of the film where all the cast members appear). Indeed, Milligan’s miscreation of a Frankenstein reworking is probably the closest thing to an ‘anti-Semitic’ horror-comedy, but I doubt that was the director’s conscious objective with the work. Unfortunately, Monstrosity was not Milligan’s only crap-covered pseudo-kosher celluloid excursion in vaudevillian Hebraic horror, as his final work Surgikill (1989) aka Screwball Hospital Central was penned by a Hebrew hack screenwriter named Sherman Hirsh (who has written negative reviews for the film on both amazon.com and imdb.com) and is plagued by hopelessly juvenile Jewish frat boy humor that would even embarrass Eli Roth. As McDonough somewhat fairly wrote regarding the film, “MONSTROSITY may be Andy’s best released picture since 1972’s FLESHPOT, but that’s not saying much. Milligan’s eager but faceless Hollywood SAG misfits were no substitute for his hand-picked New York eccentrics, and his stuffy, old-school theatricality and aged-in-wood slapstick add up to little more than frumpiness in the end.” Despite its abject failure in almost every regard, Monstrosity is notable for having an overt anti-Reaganite essence that lampoons the stupidity of 1980s action films and depicts young preppies as two-faced sadists and psychopaths who do not think twice about shooting up poor proletarian punk girls with tainted meth and consider movies like First Blood educational, as a sort of Repo Man (1984) of retarded horror comedies. In its graphic depiction of violence against women, Monstrosity also features classic Milliganian misogyny, though the film lacks the sort of scenes typical of the director's work where some conspicuously cunty chick unleashes a tidal wave of verbal venom. If you ever wondered what it might be like if the Frankenstein monster had a slutty junky punkette girlfriend or how gay gutter auteur Andy Milligan might defile Jewish folklore, Monstrosity might be for you, but otherwise steer well clear of this shamelessly schlocky celluloid abomination.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 7:50 PM
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