This probably isn’t the time or place to launch into an in-depth analysis of the motivations and warped psychology behind more or less every single flick ever made by New York’s king of the celluloid gutter, Andy Milligan (and besides, Jimmy McDonough has already done that in his superb biography of Milligan, The Ghastly One — easily one of the most compelling and essential film books ever written by anyone) — suffice to say that it’s a safe bet most regular readers of this site (not that such a beast has ever actually been found in the wild, but I keep writing this shit, so I assume there’s an audience out there somewhere) are already Milligan “fans” to one degree or another and are well-aware of the fact that, to be gentle about it, the guy had issues. He had issues with women. He had issues with men. He had issues with sex. And, most glaringly obviously of all, he had issues with himself.
In much the same way that devotees of Hitchcock take their greatest pleasure in piecing together clues about the director’s own personal psychology when watching his films, the small but devoted legion of Milligan admirers (if that’s the term we’re even looking for here) aren’t watching his bargain-basement, shot-on-16mm-short-ends costume dramas so much for their stories as for what those stories are telling us about Andy himself. And while it’s never what you’d call a “pleasant” experience to spend 60 to 90 minutes wallowing in his plain-as-day, deeply-rooted sexual psychosis, it’s always, at the very least, an interesting one.
Still, once in a blue moon Andy would get a wild hair up his ass (which is probably a lot less painful than what he usually had up there) and try, for some reason known only to him at the time, to crank out a flick that might have some sort of appeal beyond his usual audience of rock-bottom 42nd Street heroin junkies, transvestite hookers, slowly-expiring derelicts, and low-rent hustlers. I know, I know — what a sellout, right?
Such an endeavor is 1974’s Blood, a decidedly “toned-down” affair by Milligan standards, but one that nevertheless can’t quite seem to find its way to being even a “normal” piece of ultra-low-budget drive-in fare despite its director’s best attempts to “just say no” to the more nagging voices in the back of his always-festering mind.
Here’s the deal : the mad-doctor son of a werewolf (Allan Berendt) is living in wedded less-than-bliss with the daughter of none other than Count Dracula himself (Milligan stalwart Hope Stansbury) and trying to work out a cure to both their conditions (lycanthropy and vampirism apparently being inherited genetic traits) from their home in rural 1930s Britain (by way, of course, Milligan being Milligan, of Staten Island). But being this is no ordinary couple, it’s no ordinary home, either — the garden is full of mutant man-eating plants, and their domestic staff appear to double as unwitting guinea pigs in their evil bosses’ schemes. Oh, And bloodthirsty rabid bats are, for some reason, plaguing the nearby town.
Okay, look, the plot doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense, but it’s noteworthy for Milligan “scholars” to see how firmly sublimated his usual psycho-sexual obsessions are in this one, and how he’s substituted genuinely effective Gothic atmospherics in their usual place in his story’s foreground. This is probably among the most atmospheric of the director’s works, and even though it’s more or less all shot in the same house (namely, his), it feels less claustrophobic, even downright suffocating, than his standard fare tends to.
The good news is that it still feels like a movie that absolutely couldn’t have been made by anybody else other than Andy, even though he’s doing his best to tone down his act here. Sure, the cellar-dwelling production values have a lot to do with that (IMDB lists the budget for this one at $25,000, but that seems exponentially generous), but I think there’s more to it than that — simply put, you just know a Milligan flick when you see one, and even with the primordial soup of his psychopathia sexualis locked away in a strong box, something still oozes and slithers out. It may not be announcing itself as loudly as usual, but it’s still fucking there, informing everything he does, like a stain that won’t wash out.
Sadly, despite the recent (and most welcome) uptick in interest for all things Milligan, Blood remains unavailable on DVD for whatever reasons(s), and copies of the VHS release are notoriously difficult to come by. Fortunately for us all, a kind and generous soul has uploaded the entire thing onto YouTube, and I’ve included a link above so that you too, dear reader, can enjoy this hard-to-come by slice of slightly-more-ready-for-prime-time Milligan “goodness.” It may not be his finest hour, but it’s interesting to see just how stubbornly inaccessible even his most purportedly accessible work is.