Boring Title, Bad Movie, Plenty of Fun — Andy Milligan’s “Blood” (1974)

Directed by Andy Milligan

Synopsis
The opening credits roll and we’re introduced to a couple of men who look like they’ve stepped out of a Sherlock Holmes novel. One of them, Markham, is showing a house to the other, a Dr. Lawrence Orlofski. Markham notes how the premises would be great for gardening, to which Orlofski replies, “My wife doesn’t like the daylight hours. Rather, I should say daylight doesn’t agree with her. She has trouble with the pigmentation of her skin. Direct sunlight would be poison for her. As a matter of fact, more than five minutes of sunlight could possibly kill her. So you see, she’ll be doing very little gardening, I’m afraid. Nor shall I, for that matter, as my experiments occupy most of my daylight hours.” Orlofski proceeds to be very curt with the man, refusing a tour of the property, as well as a dinner invitation. He takes the house, then practically shoves Markham out the front door as he hands over a check for the first three months’ worth of rent, stating, “Please do not come here when the rent is due again, I shall send it to you before it is due… Good day.” Well. The rude bastard!

As soon as Markham has left, Orlofski beckons for his offscreen servants to rush his wife with the aforementioned sunlight aversion, Regina, in from a side door. She’s wrapped head to toe in black fabric, and, it’s revealed, is overdue for her weekly injection of something or other. We get a quick look at her face here; she’s literally a rotting corpse.

The very next scene, she’s fine. Orlofski’s rejuvenation serum, it’s later explained, is composed of carnivorous, European plants that he grows in his basement and feeds with his servants’ blood. These servants are an odd bunch. Orlando is missing his legs and shuffles around on a pair of wooden skis, or something of the like (he’s never actually shown below the waist, we viewers just hear the scraping). Carrie is outwardly normal, but walks with a limp and harbors a dark, incestuous secret. Dimwitted Carlotta was plucked from an orphanage in Budapest. At first glance, she seems to be feral or mentally challenged — though, as it turns out, the poor girl was irreversibly braindamaged when the others syphoned dangerous amounts of blood from her to feed the plants. “The brain can have blood drained from it just so often, and then it begins to malfunction.” Carrie notes in a key bit of dialogue.

So here’s the shit of it, these characters hate each other. They’re all miserable. They’re all tortured. They all appear to be trapped in their lives, just going through the motions. Orlofski, who’s grown sick of his wife, for example, doesn’t leave her, or file for divorce, but seeks love elsewhere, first in Carrie, then in a young secretary named Prudence Towers.

Orlofski’s disdain for his wife is quite obvious. In one scene, he attempts to wriggle out of replying “I love you too” as the two lay in bed. His wife asks for sex, and that’s refused too. She says she suspects he’s in love with Carrie. “You never please Regina anymore.” she remarks in the third person. “Oh, Lawrence, I— I hate you. I hate you… Oh go to Hell.”

“We’re there already.” the doctor laments.

Blood 3

So why don’t these miserable malcontent characters pick up and leave if they hate each other so much? Well, I’m not really sure why the servants stick around, especially when they’re losing their legs, and their blood — maybe they’re masochists (and you’ll have to be too to enjoy this movie). As for the husband and wife…

[continued below]

Review (SPOILERS)
…Orlofski’s the son of the Wolfman and Regina’s the daughter of Dracula, so I’m guessing they not only feel an obligation to their parents (who set them up) to stay together, but likely realize they’ll never find anyone else understanding — or freakish — enough to accept their secret selves.

The son of the Wolfman later finds himself preoccupied by a Carl Root, the executor of his late father’s estate, who he fears has been dipping into his inheritance. The doc swings by Root’s office to figure out why his checks have dried up and/or fuck the dude up. When confronted, the wild-eyebrowed Root admits to selling Orlofski’s father’s home and using the money to invest in several start-up companies that coincidentally went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Orlofski chokes the shyster in a fit of rage. Will he ever get his money back? Will anyone uncover his secret? Will several people and a mouse die? No, yes and yes.

P.S. A live mouse looks to have been killed for an effect. Not cool.

_________________________

Like Ed Wood before him, bottom barrel “gutter auteur” Andy Milligan is considered to be one of the absolute worst directors of all time. In spite of this, he’s managed to attract a small, yet dedicated, fanbase over the years, and as a result, most of his originally rare oeuvre can now be found on home video.

Interest in Milligan peaked following the release of two posthumous biographies, Jimmy McDonough’s The Ghastly One and Rob Craig’s Gutter Auteur. These texts paint him as less than a sane individual, read: a perpetually angry, misanthrope asshole that was impossible to work with and started fights. Whether or not he was, and did, all that, I can’t say, but a case could be made that his films reflect some manner of underlying — or maybe not so underlying — neuroses, often dealing with themes of disfigurement, sadism, women as evil, manipulative, life draining monsters, family and sexual dysfunction (sometimes both at once), and, well, blood.

That said, I was super surprised — when taking into account all the unanimously bad things I’ve read about this gay guy and his work — by how much I loved the topic of this here review:

Blood 8

Blood is one of a handful of Gothic horror period dramas Milligan churned out in the early 1970s. The whole thing was shot in and around Milligan’s then-home on Staten Island, with a cast of off-off-Broadway theatre actors, for a total of somewhere in the ballpark of $25,000. It remains, by all accounts, the director’s most accessible effort.

Now, except for the word “Werewolf”, the plot synopsis you’ll find on IMDb (below) is completely incorrect. Please refer to my breakdown above, as, I assure you, it’s much more accurate.
Blood 1Blood takes place in 1883 (give or take a year) in America. This much is stated within the film. I’m not sure where “1930s London” came from — maybe the fact that a few of its actors speak in European accents?

I, uh, don’t remember this either (underlined in red).
Blood 5Someone’s lying, or the “hordes of rabid bats” and “blood-drooling cannibals” this Ørnås guy was referring to were missing from the version I watched — in which case, damnit, that sounds really cool.

I digress.

With bargain basement production values, hilariously bad props and effects (what looks like a paper mâché face, dollar store vampire fangs, a bottle of acid with “ACID” written across it, the list goes on), jumpy, Herschell Gordon Lewis-like editing (though, as a brief note, this one’s much more dramatic and well-acted than a majority of Lewis’ efforts), endless anachronisms, and, well, you get the gist, Blood is hardly what a rational person would call a “good” movie. Still, in a weirdly weird way, it’s pure fun. The premise alone, of a werewolf and a vampire trapped in a loveless arranged marriage, the former resorting to growing and harvesting rare, blood-drinking plants to keep the latter alive, is a riot. This goofy pairing of classic, Hollywood movie monsters, coupled with an equally goofy stinger tacked on to the end, and the revelation that Orlofski’s real name is Lawrence Talbot (the same as Universal’s Wolfman character) makes the whole thing feel like a riff on the Universal monster movies of decades past. If it wasn’t intended as such, I think it’s best viewed that way.

Blood 7

No bones about it, this is delirious, poorly made crap. But like I said, it’s surprisingly watchable, and enjoyable, if not for that reason. Give it a look if your itchin’ for something that’s “so bad it’s good”.

TRIVIA
•It’s mentioned that Dr. Orlofski’s father died a “violent death” in Mortavia. Mortavia was the setting of an earlier Milligan epic, Guru, the Mad Monk.
•Patricia Gaul, the curly-haired woman who played Carrie, went on to become a successful TV actress and was married to Jeff Goldblum for six years in the 80s.
Blood was produced and distributed by Bryanston, the same corrupt, mafia-headed company that distributed Deep Throat and Andy Warhol’s Flesh For Frankenstein, and reportedly stole tens of millions of dollars in profits from the cast and crew of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

A Few Questions
•What’s the deal with the sound effects that play during the basement scenes? Those distracting, stretchy rubbing sounds, like the foley artist was trying to get comfortable in a big leather chair, or making balloon animals. I assumed these sounds were produced by the blood-drinking plants that were said to be growing out of control, but who the Hell knows. Another of the film’s charms, I suppose.

The Verdict
Blood has been uploaded to YouTube (link above), so give it a watch and decide for yourself how good or bad it really is. And have a laugh for me why don’t ya.

Recommendations
The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)
House of Frankenstein (1944)

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