Review by Doug Gibson
Stephen King, in his book Danse Macabre, trashed grindhouse filmmaker Andy Milligan. Writing of his film, "The Ghastly Ones," King said something about it being the result of morons with cameras.
King's comments lend credence to the maxim that even one of our greatest writers can be a total ass when pontificating on other subjects. Crude "The Ghastly Ones" may be, but Milligan cobbled it together on a budget of roughly $10,000, perhaps a little bit more. He also created something unique, with his signature stamp of family dysfunction leading to chaotic, deadly horror.
Ironically, Stephen King later directed a film, "Maximum Overdrive." King later accurately labeled it "a moron movie." It cost $9 million and was a derivative mess. (I wasted $5 or so watching it in a theater). Since it grossed $7.5 million, King's film ended up losing -- on a conservative guess -- about $10 million.
"The Ghastly Ones" made likely a tidy fortune for Milligan's tight-fisted producer, William Mishkin. It played drive ins and grindhouses for years. It's probable Milligan saw none of those profits. I've read rumors that Mishkin gave Milligan about $20,000 to make a film, and Milligan only spent half so he would see a healthy paycheck for himself.
With this preamble over, this post is a review of the 1974 Andy Milligan film, "Blood." For a long time it was hard to find, and then a murky, ragged 57-minute or so print was located. You can see it on YouTube. Tubi has a ragged 69-minute version. There's a complete, roughly 73-minute Blu-Ray version of the film on Severin's Andy Milligan "Dungeon" box set.
Milligan was ending his association with Mishkin around the time of "Blood." It was funded by backers of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and even "Deep Throat!" The budget is significantly bigger than for a film like "The Ghastly Ones." I'd say, maybe $30,000 was provided. Even so, "Blood" was not a high-priority project. It was meant to be a co-feature to a film called "Legacy of Satan," -- also on Tubi -- helmed by "Deep Throat" director Gerard Damiano.
Like most Milligan films, "Blood" improves upon repeat viewings. It's a Universal Studios-style monsterama, with "Day of the Triffids" thrown in. There's this wildly imaginative plot, with an added spice of deep family dysfunctions and secrets, with rage directed at sleazy lawyers, nosy real estate agents, and the requisite old crone, who haunts a creepy cemetery.
Imagine if Andy Milligan had directed Universal's "House of Dracula." It might have resembled this: Lawrence Orlovsky (Allan Berendt) rents a house in 19th century (Staten Island?). He lives with his wife, Regina (Hope Stansbury). Weird experiments are going on in the house. Also residing are research associates, Carrie, her husband Orlando, and Carlotta. Orlovsky is overseeing a host of dangerous plants, who have already mutilated the servants. Orlando is legless; Carrie has a rapidly deteriorating infection on her leg, and Carlotta has become a disabled, moronic hulk due to blood being taken from her to supply the plants. The house furniture and fixtures resemble the 1970s but that is pure Milligan.
The plants are designed to keep Regina healthy. As it turns out, she's a vampire, and needs the sustenance. One of the few terrifying moments is where we discover what Regina looks like prior to a plant infusion. After the plant treatment, she has a dark, pale beauty, but she's obviously mad as a hatter. Also, we learn that Lawrence is really the son of the Wolf Man, Lawrence Talbot. This is likely the only film in which the daughter of Dracula is married to the son of the Wolf Man. And yes, the son also suffers from dad's curse.
It's apparent very soon that there's no love between these two. He stoically endures her. She pleads for affection, but is obviously too insane to provide affection. Hope Stansbury, involved in several Milligan productions, is at her best in "Blood." She is a whiny, bitchy, angry, jealous killer, unable to feel any emotion that fails to feed her need for blood. Berendt, who only made one film, is good as the harried Wolf Man, who eventually allows his romantic eye to wander to the comely secretary of his crooked lawyer. The actor sort of resembles "Puddy" in the series "Seinfeld."
Typical Milliganisms include Carrie's long-lost brother, a globe-trotting sailor, surprising her with a visit. Their joyful greeting soon includes passionate kissing and caresses, insinuations of past incest. He's very concerned with Carrie's limp and wounded leg. Before he can leave, Regina, unbeknownst to Carrie, coaxes him downstairs on an errand, and kills him. Regina also kills the nosy real estate agent, the hag at the cemetery, and even a quivering defenseless mouse (I hope that scene was not real.) Her lycanthropic husband is also after the corrupt lawyer, who cheated him of much of his estate. His vampire wife, for her part, is lusting for revenge on the comely secretary of the lawyer, who has turned hubby's Wolf Man heart. And the plants are getting bigger, bolder and more deadly.
It's all very much in the Milligan style, with cramped settings, lots of arguments, and long talky scenes punctuated with bursts of horror and violence. There's a short but pretty good end-scene battle royale, and a witty final "bookend" scene.
If your a Milligan fan you'll enjoy "Blood" more each time you view it. If this is your introduction to Milligan, you may be pleasantly surprised, but I'd recommend watching a few of his earlier films to better get more flavor of this "gutter" auteur.