Posts Tagged ‘Irmi Millard’

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Okay, so it’s 2013 — for a few more weeks, at any rate — and we don’t seem to be hearing all that much about the so-called “War On Terrorism” anymore. Thank God. I mean, I guess technically we’re still “fighting” it — Dick Cheney assured us that it would never end “in our lifetimes” and we all know he’d never lie — but seriously, it doesn’t seem to be dominating the headlines like it once did.

There could be a million reasons for this, I suppose — we’re told that Osama Bin Laden’s dead, we’re purportedly winding down “operations” in Iraq and Afghanistan, even the right-wingers finally seem to be sick of Big Brother looking at our emails, tapping our phone lines, and busting us for no reason (not that they minded any of that shit when a Republican was in the White House) — but more than anything, I think the main reason we’re getting nothing but radio silence from the front lines (wherever they might be) of this “war” is because, quite frankly, the American public just got fucking bored with the whole thing. Okay, this “war” — like the one on drugs — will never end, will get more pointless the longer we fight it, etc. We get that. So just go do your thing, Pentagon, CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.,  and shut up about it. We all know you’ll get every single goddamn dollar you supposedly “need” to keep it going, just please don’t remind us how much of our money you’re wasting for no apparent purpose apart from keeping the Daddy Warbuckses who own the military-industrial-intelligence apparatus fat and happy.

I think we’ve achieved a type of silent consensus on the whole thing — we all know it was nothing but a hustle from the get-go, but we’ll keep feeding the hucksters who sold us this faulty bill of goods as long as they keep it all off the front pages and don’t rub our faces in it. We’ll keep on being suckers as long as we don’t have to face the fact that we’re suckers.

Or, hell, maybe you’re one of the six or seven people left who believe that “they hate us for our freedom” and “they could smuggle a ‘dirty bomb’ into America and destroy one of our major cities at any time.” In which case, please contact me ASAP about a terrific deal on a bridge I’ve got for sale. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Really. I promise.

Still, if the military juggernaut and it’s cowed and subservient stenographers in the media ever want to get folks interested in their “War On Terrorism” again, I might offer a humble suggestion — put Nick Millard in charge. The end result might not be much different, but at least it would be wort paying attention to again, if only to see the whole sow-mo train wreck for what it is clearly.

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Fair enough, Nick’s better known for his shot-on-video, straight-to-VHS horror fare (all shot in his former Pacifica, California residence) like Doctor BloodbathCemetery Sisters, and the Death Nurse movies (all of which have been reviewed on these virtual “pages” previously), but when he brought his singular style of no-budget idiosyncratic visionary aueteurship to the action genre in flicks like .357 Magnum and Gunblast, the results were equally perplexing — and equally awesome. Case in point : 1980’s The Terrorists, the subject of our little treatise today.

Hopelessly dated by the time anyone got to see it being that it sat on the shelf until 1988 when it was released on VHS by a less-than-small-time outfit called World Vision Home Video, this one’s capable of fooling you for a moment — it’s shot on actual 16mm film rather than videotape, and on location in Munich, no less! — the semi-professional trappings won’t fool you for long : this is still pure Millard all the way, with its over-riding goal being nothing more (or less) than killing 60 minutes of runtime, getting outta Dodge, and hopefully making a few bucks in the process.

It might suck, sure, but at least it’s more honest in its intentions than any ten Hollywood mega-blockbusters combined, which essentially exist to serve no other purpose than to part you from your money but have the temerity to insult your intelligence by claiming to be about something — anything — other than precisely that. “We’re here to give you a new perspective on the world!” “We’re here to enlighten and entertain you at the same time!” “We’re here to make you ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at our magnificent CGI wizardy!” “We’re here to give you a cinematic experience you’ll never forget!”

No, studio big-shots, you’re not. You’re here to spoon-feed us dull, conformist, inoffensive product in order to fleece as many of us as possible out of our hard-earned dollars while forcing as few of us as possible to actually think. At least Nick Millard has enough integrity to not even try to sell us the illusion that he’s after anything other than that. That kind of honesty might be brought on more by necessity than choice, sure, given the budgets Nick’s always had to work with, but nevertheless, it still counts for something in my book.

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Anyway, the drill here goes as follows : Military (which branch is never stated, nor does it matter) Investigator James Luke (Marland Proctor, who “starred” in all of Millard’s “action” movies) is on the hunt for the the killer of a Congressman’s son in Munich , where he’s joined in his “efforts” by German “shoot first, ask questions later” cop Paul Steger (Hans Grabinger). Their sleuthing eventually (as “eventually” as you can get in a hour-long flick, at any rate) leads Luke to fall in love with a local news reporter (Nick’s wife, Irmi Millard), and for our intrepid heroes to come face-to-face with a terrorist mastermind known only as The Professor (fellow Millard regular Albert Eskinazi), who had a dastardly plan to assassinate Jimmy Carter (who was president when this thing was made, but long gone from office by the time it was released) when he hits town in a few days!

The already-scant length of the proceedings is padded with numerous pointless gunfights featuring pistols that evidently hold about 40 rounds in each magazine and a ten-minute striptease scene that was probably shot for other film altogether, but what the fuck — it all leads from Point A to Point B easily enough, the good guys win, the “intrigue” falls as flat as you’d expect given Nick had to get every scene done in one take and spend no money while doing so, and afterwards we can all get on with our lives.

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So, yeah, like I said — put Nick Millard in charge of the “War On Terrorism” now. It may not be any more interesting, it may not be any more successful, and it may not have any more of an actual point, but on the plus side it won’t cost anything and it’ll all be over with fairly quickly.

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Quick show of hands : are you pro-life or pro-choice? Maybe you’re somewhere in between, or haven’t even thought about it that much?

Honestly, I don’t care. Well, I mean, I do, since I definitely have a strong view on the subject myself (one which you can probably infer based on the obvious leftist leanings exhibited in many of my reviews), but for our purposes today, it really doesn’t matter, because no-budget auteur Nick Millard’s 1987 shot-on-video opus Doctor Bloodbath (as it’s billed on the VHS box even though the opening credits state the movie’s title as being Butcher Knife — not that the credits here actually have anything to do with the later proceedings, since they’re just cribbed from Criminally Insane) is, as our headline states, sure to be a work of  “art” that nobody wants to be associated with, whatever their leanings on the issue of reproductive rights may be.

That’s because it’s bad. In fact, it’s really bad. But it’s also insanely, addictively watchable. Seriously. Once just ain’t enough to fully absorb the depraved, sub-amateur grandeur of all that’s on display here. You need to sit through it about three or four times in a row — at least — to take it all in. Good thing it’s only 57 minutes long.

Where to begin? Well, as with most ’80s Millard (here billed as “Nick Phillips,” one of several pseudonyms he’s employed at various points in his career for reasons only he himself apparently knows) fare, the vast majority of this was shot in his Pacifica, California residence-at-the-time. The film’s only recognizable “stars” (a term always used extremely loosely in one of Nick’s productions) are his wife, his mother, and his friend Albert Eskinazi. Footage from the director’s previous efforts (Satan’s Black Wedding being the primary “lender” in this case) is liberally interspersed to pad the already-thin runtime. And the gore effects employed are enough to make the average Ed Wood flick look like a big-budget blockbuster by comparison.

Where Doctor Bloodbath deviates most from standard Millard offerings , though, is in the fact that there’s a little less time spent with Nick’s Sony betacam pointed at people sitting on couches, scooping out ice cream, pacing around tables, or digging holes in the back yard. In other words, some shit actually happens in this one.

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To wit : a number of young(ish) ladies get murdered. The aforementioned Albert Eskinazi plays the titular doctor here, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. He spends his free time hacking up the women who have come to his clinic to terminate their pregnancies, for reasons that are never defined. Is he getting revenge on them in the name of their unborn fetuses? If so, why does he even provide abortion services in the first place? Is he an anal-retentive completist who feels he’s left a job half-done by only “killing” one of the parties involved in an abortion? If so, wouldn’t he need to kill himself at some point to finish his grim task once and for all? Or is he just plain nuts and that’s all there is to it?

My money is on the latter. Anyway, the red Karo syrup flows pretty freely for a time, and then we’re handed a couple of diversionary sub-plots — 1. the cops are investigating the case, and even though the murderer uses different weapons and no connection between the victims appears to have been established in the course of their detective work, they somehow instinctively know all these crimes are the work of a lone madman; and 2. Doc Bloodbath’s wife (played by Nick’s real-life spouse, Irmi Millard — his mom is on hand as the clinic nurse/maid, in case you were wondering) , who’s having an affair with a broke Polish poet, find herself knocked up by her paramour (who she then refers to as a no-good Polack) and turns to her husband for his medical expertise in ending her pregnancy. Here’s the end result —

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But the medical inaccuracies don’t end with using plastic dolls as stand-ins for fetuses, as the good Doctor is seen on several occasions employing a water-filled turkey baster as his primary tool of the trade! In other words, this is not a movie being shown in any OB/GYN -related college courses. Anyway — there’s definitely some  pure time-wasting on display here, most notably in the form of numerous close-ups of the killer’s eyeballs and even more numerous shots of him sitting around nervously twiddling this thumbs, but all in all things move along at a pretty brisk (compared to, say, the Death Nurse flicks) pace, and before you know it our “hero” has killed his wife, killed their maid/nurse (cue the Satan’s Black Wedding footage), has called the cops to turn himself in, and is sitting in a cell in the bughouse. The end.

I’ll sit through any Nick Millard movie you care to send my way (and thanks to the loyal reader who dropped this into my inbox, it’s much appreciated!),  but strangely enough this one wasn’t even a chore. That’s because Doctor Bloodbath represent the director in (again, I use this term very loosely) top form. This is Cinema Du Millard refined to its purest essence — a laughably cheap and haphazard production with no goal apart from killing an hour’s worth of videotape that somehow exudes both heartfelt earnestness and a commitment to craft in spite an agonizingly clear lack of any resources or ability. This movie probably wants to be more than it is but honestly doesn’t even have the slightest clue as to how to go about doing so. You can call that delusional, confused, hopeless, or all of the above, but fuck it — I choose to call it genius.

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Somewhere in here there’s probably some attempt at commentary on the subject of abortion itself, I suppose, but it’s hard to divine what that might be, or where it’s hidden. “Why don’t we make a cheap slasher flick tomorrow afternoon about an abortion doctor” seems to be the extent to which the repercussions of the issue were even considered, and as a result Doctor Bloodbath ends up being able to successfully alienate both the broadly-defined “pro-life” and “pro-choice” camps with an equal amount of ease — assuming anyone were foolish enough to take it seriously, which is frankly impossible.

All of which means, of course, that this is something you need to see immediately. If you can. It’s not available on DVD as of yet, but here’s to hoping that Jesus Teran at Slasher Video or some other generous soul sees fit to change that in the very near future. This is the pinnacle of Nick Millard’s “slasher phase,”  and desperately deserves — nay, needs — to be seen by a wider audience.

Would a “special edition” that comes packaged with a cheap plastic doll and a turkey baster be too much to ask for?

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You have to hand it to Nick Millard : long after the point where you or I would have retired our Sony Betacams and looked for work selling power tools, cleaning offices overnight, or digging ditches, he kept on making direct-to-video horror flicks. Heck, I’m friends with him on facebook and I can tell you for a fact that he’s still at it to this day. Whether or not the projects he’s currently working on will ever see the light of day only time, I suppose, will tell, but I’ll say this much — I’d never bet against Nick. Sheer determination has kept him in the game this long, and will probably keep him in it for some time to come, provided his health co-operates (which thankfully, so far, seems to be the case).

So yeah — Nick’s not done making movies (at least in his mind and/or on paper), but his 1980s straight-to-video (and shot on video) numbers will probably always be what he’s best remembered for, and it pleases me no end to see something of a small-scale revival going on in terms of fan interest in those flicks. Jesus Teran over at Slasher Video has enjoyed some modest success and garnered rave critical reviews for his DVD releases of Millard’s Death Nurse films, and with 2013 marking the 25th anniversary of  yet another production shot for the most part in Nick’s former Pacifica, California condo, namely 1987’s Cemetery Sisters, giving that film the full Slasher treatment in celebration of its silver jubilee seemed a no-brainer.

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I guess there’s not much point in deluding ourselves — “no-brainer” is a fairly apt description of the film itself, as well, but as with all Millard projects, it’s brainlessness pursued with a kind of earnest integrity and heart that sets Cemetery Sisters apart from much of the ’80s SOV pack. Sure, the primary goal here seems to be filling up 60 minutes of videotape at minimal (if any) cost, but if Nick’s gonna kill an hour of our lives so he can make his mortgage for the next couple of months, at least he’s gonna do it his way.

Our story here revolves around two sisters, Joan and Leslie (played by real-life sisters — wait for it — Joan and Leslie Simon), who grew up in a family-owned mortuary and now, as adults,  long to open a funeral parlor of their own. And what the hell — they’ve already got their first set of customers lined up because the two have been serially marrying lonely middle-aged guys, convincing them to take out hefty insurance policies, and then bumping them off for their cash (bilking the system by means of murder also being the central plot conceit employed in the Death Nurse series). It takes real dedication to resort to killing in order to start up a business working with the deceased, it seems to me, so give our two deadly dames credit for getting some practice in ahead of time prior to their hoped-for grand opening.

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Apart from the Simon siblings, the cast here is primarily composed of Millard (unpaid, I’m guessing) mainstays like Albert Eskinazi, Nick’s wife Irmi, and yes, the writer/director himself even makes an appearance, so we’re in pretty familiar territory all the way around here — in fact, be on the lookout for the same rehashed clips from Criminally Insane that were used to pad out  the runtime in both Death Nurse  movies being employed for the same ends here (although they’re presented as dreams rather than flashbacks, thus ensuring that their inclusion makes even less actual sense here). Yup, folks , we’ve seen this all before — and I do mean that literally.

Still, there’s no denying that Cemetery Sisters entertains even as it kills more brain cells than a fifth of cheap bourbon downed in a single sitting, and Jesus has, as we’ve come to expect, pulled out all the stops as far as assembling a genuinely comprehensive package goes — the full-frame picture and mono sound are both culled from Millard’s personal master videotape copy, and while it all looks and sounds as crummy as it deserves to, it’s not gonna get any better than this, so sit back and enjoy. On the extras front, we’ve got a full-length commentary with Nick and Irmi moderated by Teran, a short video production from the mind of Millard called Death Sisters that treads more or less the exact same ground as the feature itself, an on-camera interview with the Millards, a gallery of production stills, the original trailer (as well as trailers for a handful of other Slasher titles), a couple  of nifty little hidden “easter eggs” that are worth searching out, and a slide-show-style gallery featuring the art of up-and-coming horror illustrator Jazmin Martinez, who also provides the all-new cover artwork for this release.

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You definitely get the abiding sense that Nick Millard knows he wasn’t making Citizen Kane with this or any of his productions, but he still takes a certain amount of professional pride in knowing that he did the best he could with what he had. And why not? It beats punching a time clock and people are still paying good money to add his films to their DVD shelves, so the man has plenty to be proud of. His cinematic legacy may not be one of enduring quality,  and to those not “on the same page” with what he’s tried to do it may not even be a particularly interesting one, but shit — it is a legacy (of something, at any rate), and that right there is a lot more than many of us will ever leave behind.

Here’s to hoping that he’s very far from finished.