Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan

I'm probably the only girl on the planet that received exploitation filmmaker Andy Milligan's biography for Valentine's Day. I don't know many other women that like the kind of movies I do and I don't know a single other person who has even heard of Andy Milligan, let alone want to read his bio. In fact, I'm not too familiar with Milligan's oeuvre myself. But after reading The Ghastly One by Jimmy McDonough (a biographer brave enough to actually live and work with Milligan after hearing all the 'horror' stories after the man, but I'm getting ahead of myself) I'm ready, truly ready, to embark on the long, strange, incest-laden, mysogynistic, and homosexual odyssey known as the films of Andy Milligan. Oh, and there's some cannibalism, too. Can't forget about the cannibalism. And the bestiality. And S&M. 
For those uninitiated, Andy Milligan was not a nice person. I can safely say that after reading his bio. He was, to say the least, intense. Strangely, he didn't drink or do drugs, two vices that would consume his friends and colleagues for decades. He had yet another vice, and that was trolling the streets of 1960's NYC looking for anonymous sex in grindhouses, alleyways, and abandoned freight trucks. Betwixt satiating his love of rough trade, he managed a rather prolific output of exploitation and horror films, as well as writing and directing a large number of stage plays, spanning nearly three decades, before his AIDS-related death in 1988. McDonough's book does everything it can to chronicle Andy's life and those that lived, worked, and rode the exploitation train, so to speak, along with him, going as far as moving to California to live and work with Andy, and care for him right up until the very day he died. I don't know of many biographers who go to such lengths for their subjects, but McDonough's book really hit hard in this respect. He obviously had such admiration for the man, he was willing to wipe his ass, literally. 
It's fascinating stuff. At times you fucking hate Andy, he's a misogynist, he's a tyrant. His only direction to his actors, Just do it, babe. His themes in his films repeat themselves, the maniacal mother, dysfunctional families, the conniving woman, hookers, drugs, rough trade. The characters and themes of his films mirror his life. Somehow, no matter how much you think Andy is a terrible, and at times, downright evil, individual, people are drawn to him. Just when he alienates a bunch of his friends and actors, a new group will pop up to support him in whatever endeavor he was currently embarking on. It's a strange phenomenon in the bio; street people, drug addicts, male prostitutes, these people were drawn to Milligan and he put them in his movies and stage productions. He'd use them up and a new group would arrive. You know, there are people that there is just something about them, you can't put your finger on it, to sound trite, but Andy Milligan must've been one of these people. His life reads like the sleazy kind of movie 42nd street was so popular and will forever be famous for. And I think that is special. Because I can't think of a better word. Andy Milligan was gross, he had a gross, nasty life, full of abuse, sexual, mental, and otherwise, and became a personal that abused. Yet he goes down in history, well, exploitation history anyway, as a talented artist. Which I have no doubt that he was. There's some interesting commentary on art and artist in the bio, which I have no time to recount because I'm off to work in five minutes. One day I might write a halfway decent, non-rushed review of something here. One day. 
But my quickie review is this - this book absolutely oozes with sleaze, sex, and is the embodiment of sexploitation. As much as I sometimes regret being born to late to never experience the Deuce as it once was, this book made me feel safe because I hadn't. Some of this stuff is so sick, you might need shots after reading it, and I have no doubt Milligan's movies will make me feel much of the same way. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today's Post: Hosted by Dancing Meats

Sometimes I forget what a obsessive personality I am. That might be a disorder in and of itself, forgetting you're obsessive or not realizing it until the weekend is passed and then realizing all I did all weekend long was watch movies. And think about movies. And read books and magazines associated with movies.  We all gotta like somethin' and us horror movie folks tend to reeeeeeaaaallly like our horror movies, so much so that we basically lock ourselves away for days at time to devote necessary hours to movie watching. Thus the weekend unfolded. 
I began Friday evening after my 12-hour waitressing shift with Jan Svankmajer's latest, albeit from 2006, Lunacy. I'm pretty much a casual Svankmajer fan. I enjoy the stop motion stuff because it looks kewl, and I marvel at the patience the stop motion artist must possess, myself  possessing little to no patience really. I can hardly do a paint by numbers that I bought at the craft store to inspire myself to be more 'crafty' without abandoning for something else, so I am amazed at the things a guy like Svankmajer can do with inanimate objects making them seem animate. Stop motion seems like such a grueling, time consuming process, I can hardly blog post on a weekly basis. I like his stuff though, and have seen and enjoyed Alice and Faust. I really enjoyed Little Otik a few years back, as well, and figured it was time to get around to Lunacy. I can sum it up as follows: Dancing meat mimicking human interactions interspliced with a real time story about Jean, a guy that gets mixed up with a sort of Marquis de Sade type character who has overthrown a mental asylum to enact his perversions with another dude and a pretty girl named Charlotte. There's some Poe in there, too, namely Premature Burial, and some other weirdness, dream imagery, and set pieces. And a little perverted sex type things too. Voila, Svankmajer. If we're going to get all philosophical and whathaveyou, you could say, oh, well, aren't we all meat? Which brings us to the next endeavor of the weekend German outing, Otto; or Up with Dead People. 
Yeah, yeah, I get it, Otto is an unapologetically campy riff on zombie movies, offering us gay zombies, gay sex, a movie within a movie, and an attempt to make fun of pretentious art-house type filmmakers. It's an irreverent take on zombies that is ambitious and never really quite succumbs to the level of movie in which it is spoofing, however it wasn't really all that entertaining. I feel sorry for Otto, the undead protagonist searching for someone to love, rather than someone to eat, but I only feel sorry for him for so long. At an hour and a half running time, I don't know, something about it just falls short. It's funny at times, poignant at others, yet boring nonetheless. Antony and the Johnsons is on the soundtrack though. 
Then we left the house, but it was only to see Friday the 13th in the theatre. I had some drinks before we went, and I had some drinks whilst in the theatre, don't tell, so by the time it was over, I was yelling about how we all need to go home and watch a GOOD Jason movie (namely Jason Goes to Hell, my personal fave) and WTF was THAT! but I really didn't hate it all that much. I did have a problem with the fact that Jason kept a hostage. To my knowledge, Jason never was one to keep a hostage. He was always all off with their heads, next victim please. He has no reason to keep a hostage. Revenge killing and quick killing at that. Yeah, he might stalk ya through the woods for a pace, but he's gonna kill you when he gets close to you, lest you kill him first. So I thought that was a little weird and a little out of character. At times, it's a great movie, you do feel like it's 1987 and you're watching the same shit, but at other times, it's just stupid. And Jason moves really really fast in this one. He doesn't lumber, he's leaner, and he can seemingly be in two places almost at once. This was Christian's main prob with the movie, and I wouldn't hasten to agree with him. Fun times were had nevertheless. I always love to see my beloved genre movies in the theatre, sucky or not, and this was no exception. 
Then, no weekend, or couple of days, or truly, every few hours, would be complete without seeing Paul Naschy's mean little face in some sort of cinematic atrocity. Let's face it, Paul Naschy movies are at times wonderful, wonderful bits of Spanish horror movie history, but the plot lines are often effin' terrible. So we sat down to continue our education in all things Naschy with Horror Rises From the Tomb. And while I will have to cut this kinda short because I need to wash the dye from my hair, let's just say this, I hope I am not becoming tired of Paul Naschy movies because I love the man, sometimes Christian thinks I love him more than I love him, we
ve seriously had that discussion more than one time, but I was so bored by this movie. There isn't really any horror rising from any tombs, at least not enough to warrant calling the movie that, and when it does start to rise, I was in the kitchen freshening our cocktails. Quick, Christian says, Zombies. Do they look cool, I asked. Yeah, they look alright. Do they
 as good as that one in Night of the Werewolf? No, not really. Okay, I 'll be right in. Please tell me this is just a one-off and the next Naschy vacation I take off on will be better. I mean, this one was more boring than Crimson, and at least there's a vampire and satan-worshipping going on here. Naschy is playing like three different characters and one of them is a severed head returned from the grave and it sounds cooler than it actually is. I wouldn't say Naschy is phoning it in in this one, he's not, but something about it didn't peak my interest. Maybe it was the cocktail consumption or something else. But I hope it passes. I don't like talk smack about my man. 
Okay, then we tried to watch the Blood of Fu Manchu, with Christopher Lee (!) but I passed the eff out. It happens. I watch too many movies, become drunk with their power, and pass out. That or I felt imminent doom on having to return to work the following day. I think we may have watched something else, but now the hair dye might be effecting my delicious brains. More later, I hope, if I'm not too lazy. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

La Carnivale de la Bestia

I love the Spanish titles for movies. I love them more than the English titles, that's for sure. So this particular title in English is Human Beasts. Sounds okay, but doesn't quite have the allure of La Carnivale de la Bestia, you know. I like to translate all the titles of movies into my elementary Spanish. It's a fun activity for me. I know, I don't have a whole lot going on.
Anyway, Human Beasts. I'll admit, I only recently began my adoration of Paul Naschy. It was nary a few months ago that I saw Frankenstein's Bloody Terror for the first time. The pitting of movie monster against movie monster, the absurdity of the title, and Naschy's beautiful werewolf makeup, I was smitten. So I've slowly been making my way through all of Paul's (yes, we're on a first name basis now) Daninsky movies. So when I rented Human Beasts, knowing it wasn't a Daninsky, I was still expecting goodness in pretty much the same vein. What I got was a convoluted plot involving a diamond heist, a jilted Japanese lover, a scheming veternarian, and a strange doctor living in a chateau in the woods with his equally strange, but quite lovely, daughters. Yes, of course I expect a certain amount of convolusion from a Nasch movie. But this one was a definite head scratcher, although not so much so that I wasn't able to follow it.
For instance, the movie begins so abruptly, you think the dvd started on the wrong chapter. We are instantly met with Meiko who has sought out Bruno's (Naschy) services to help her 'organization' obtain diamonds, illegally of course. It seems Meiko and her 'organization' (basically herself and her brother) abhor physical violence, but they don't mind employing someone else to perpetrate that violence for their own means. No info is given on the background of the characters, how Meiko sought out Bruno, how Bruno has come to be the best of the best in the diamond heisting game, nada. Next thing you know, Meiko is knocked up and totally in love with Bruno (well, duh, it's Paul Naschy) and Meiko's brother wants Bruno to marry her and settle down, after the robbery, natch. Of course, since Bruno is played by Naschy and is undoubtedly a ladykiller, this info doesn't sit well, and during the crime, Bruno guns everyone down except Meiko and makes off with the diamonds.
Meiko, loosing her abhorrence of weapons, shoots Bruno and wounds him terribly, but he escapes, buries the diamonds for safekeeping, and passes out, after thwarting a scorpion attack. An inordinate amount of time passes and Bruno awakens in a chalet surrounded by two beautiful ladies and their father, Don Simon. The trio has been caring for Bruno, being as how Simon is a (conveniently) a doctor, and he has been slowly regaining his strength. So much so in fact, that he's able to be both daughters, natch again, one before he even is supposed to get out of bed. The man can't walk, but he can sure get it on!
Because anyone that has carnal relations with Naschy falls in love with him, one of the daughters stakes him as her claim. Oh, and Don Simon has an S&M flared affair with the maid. And the vet that tends to Simon's pigs, who is also conspiring with Meiko, because you see, she's still hot on Bruno's trail after shooting him in revenge for her brother's killing, gets eaten by the very pigs he is supposed to innoculate, in a very strange scene interspliced with Bruno and the daughter making sweet, sweet love. It's the only real 'horror' scene in the movie and the intersplice is a weird editorial choice, but hey, we like our horror and we like our sex, we can have them together, surewhynot?
Oh, and there's a feast Don Simon's hosts for the local yokels of the town that is perhaps some sort of social commentary? And there's another sister that has remained to be seen until the final, final act of the movie. And the Japanese people in the movie speak perfect Spanish. Perfect. And in the end, we find out who the real beasts are, which you can discern from the title, are, yes, HUMAN! The twist! The irony!
Now I have a class and can't properly finish discussing this right now. But let's leave it at that this wasn't a total waste of my time, in fact, quite the opposite. While more boring than a Daninsky movie, Human Beasts had enough goofy moments and WTF moments to keep this watcher entertained. And the ladies love Paul Naschy. That is for sure. And he looks rather dapper dressed as Napolean for the feast, of which he did not intend because Meiko's presence is likely stressing him out. I probably won't add Human Beasts to my permanent archives, but as I strive to be a completist, this wasn't an entirely wasted effort. I've been completist about other director's work and been sorely disappointed. Romero's There's Always Vanilla? Anyone?