Director: Andy Milligan
Video Kart

Andy Milligan fans rejoice! Here are two of the hack's (I mean director's) most notorious efforts in one double-bill package. If you're not already educated about Milligan, he was a filmmaker who in the 60s and 70s made a series of period horror films, none costing more that $10,000 to produce (according to a famous Andy quote), and none looking like they cost more than $5,000 to make. Milligan has often been referred to as the worst director of all the time, but you can decide after enduring the two features here. For the most part, Milligan worked out of Staten Island, New York, but some of his efforts--such as the two features here--were actually shot in merry old England. Andy not only directed the films, but photographed them, made the costumes, assembled the eccentric-seeming cast members, and just about everything else possible (many of the names in his films' credits were fabricated).

BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (1970) is Andy's retelling of the "Sweeney Todd" story which had already been filmed as SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET with Tod Slaughter in the 30s, and later became a popular Broadway musical. Here, Sweeney Todd (John Miranda) runs a barber shop (with black & white tiled floors) where he cuts men's' throats while shaving and steals there jewelry, sometimes lopping off a hand or a finger in the process. Body parts of the victims end up in meat pies and are sold to the locals at a bakery, while Sweeney cheats on his wife with nearly every slut in town.

Filled with talk, the dialog is exuberant and swift, so trying to assess these actors' performances seems pointless. Victorian England is represented by a few setpieces shot claustrophobically as to mask the modern-day hindrances and demonstrate Andy's "skill" with a hand-held camera. In between the talky bickering, sloppily edited gore is shown (some apparently cut before initial release), some of it goes by so fast, you'll be questioning what you just witnessed--a breast in a pie is hardly distinguishable on screen, so its legend surpasses it. All this shot on terrible film stock, with cartoonish stock music in constant loop, and the sounds of background automobiles upstaged by a person barking like a dog off screen.

1972's THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE! has one of the greatest exploitation titles of all time, but it's still an Andy Milligan film. Originally filmed as "Curse of the Full Moon," legend has it that the "rats" of the title were added due to the box office success of WILLARD. The plot concerns the Mooneys, an English family suffering from some sort of genetic lycanthropy. The youngest daughter, Diana (Jackie Skarvellis) returns from medical school with her new husband (Ian Innes) only to have their marriage disapproved by the family. The clan includes the bed-ridden father (Douglas Phair, doing a very, very poor man's Vincent Price), the wacky middle sister (Milligan regular Hope Stansbury) who toys with man-eating rats and torments her locked up, idiotic animal brother who likes to toss chickens around the room.

Shot mostly in one mansion location, the film was passed with a PG-rating and is pretty tame for Milligan. Lots of strange characters talk a lot, incest and inbreeding is implied, cars are seen in the far background, electric wall switches are not obscured, and a poor real rat is mutilated, as is a rubber one. There's lots of harsh lighting that makes the whole affair very dark, and the ending werewolf fiasco (with the expected lousy make-up) is even more disappointing than the finale of WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS. Milligan himself is credited as playing an elderly gunsmith who turns a silver cross into bullets. The familiar stock music is in check as well.

Video Kart's DVD transfers promises that these poor-looking films can't look any better, and having seen these two on 35mm in theaters, I know that they never looked too impressive in the least. Milligan shot these on 16mm, using lots of "short ends" of film and live mic sound. The footage was later blown up to 35mm for theatrical presentations. Milligan fans know what to expect here, but for the rest of you, that means lots of grain, muted colors, terrible lighting, and hissy sound in what never borderlines on professional filmmaking. Imagine your old home movies blown up to be shown as a feature film, and you can picture what Milligan's work is like.

Each feature is presented on its own separate disc. The trailers included here are not actually the original theatrical trailers, but rather newly created ones specifically for these DVDs. There is also excerpts of an essay by a representative from Video Kart who talks about meeting the late Milligan, the late Lew Mishkin (the son of late Milligan producer/distributor William Mishkin), and why these films look the way they do. There are some Easter eggs included, all related to various Video Kart DVD releases. Recommended? Of course. (George R. Reis)