The Ghastly Ones/Seeds of Sin (1968)
By: Drexl on March 23, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English 1.0. Something Weird (USA). 72 minutes
The Movie
Director: Andy Milligan
Starring: Veronica Radburn, Hal Borske
Screenplay: Hal Sherwood, Andy Milligan
Country: USA
Tagline:Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit.
AKA: Blood Rites
Your intrepid reviewer takes his first plunge into the world of crackpot filmmaker Andy Milligan thanks to Something Weird's DVD special edition of his infamous cheese/gorefest The Ghastly Ones. Welcome to the world of 'creative' shot framing, god-awful stock music, none too subtle subtexts and bargain-basement splatter. If ever that well used phrase 'they don't make 'em like this anymore' was applicable, it's now.

Following a double murder that has not much, (or possibly too much), to do with what follows, three couples end up at their father's house (Crenshaw Manor) after the reading of his will. They have to honour their late Pop's wishes before they can get their greedy paws on whatever he has left for them. Therefore they are dumped, (or rather stranded), at the house for three days of 'sexual harmony' in the creepy company of Dad's servants - one of whom is a basketcase called Colin who sports a hump on his back (which moves around during the film) and buck teeth that all point in different directions. Colin is introduced to the viewer with his finger shoved up his nose before having a quick lunatic rant and then taking a bite or three out of a little fluffy bunny that just happens to be sat nearby. Colin is quite obviously not the full ticket. The guests and servants, unluckily for them, are not alone as someone in a five-and-dime Halloween costume (big black cloak with huge hood - very ghostface) is slowly (very slowly) hacking his or her way through the cast. The killer marks the next victim with a big, blood-red cross so as to not forget who is next on the list for dismemberment. Of course, it is the viewers job to wade through the red-herrings and try and figure out which of the "all as guilty looking as sin" characters is responsible for the butchery.

To say that Milligan was a low-budget filmmaker is, well, a very large understatement. Shooting with a prehistoric camera, (that should have been in a museum and not on a movie set), and using left-overs and off-cuts of film stock, the evidence of the loose-change budget he had to work with is right there, up on the screen, for all to see. Knocking out features for sums that wouldn't even pay the bar-bill at most productions, Milligan's movies found a home on the screens of 42nd Street's (in)famous grindhouses. The Ghastly Ones features all the Milligan trademarks: the framing is, well - unusual, as characters chins, foreheads and ears are lopped off by the edges of the frame. Shots are restricted to close-ups and very close-ups, resulting in some hilarious moments as Colin lurches into the frame, gurning as if his life depends on it, with his buck teeth virtually scratching the lens. The stock music used alternates between slow, peaceful tunes for the 'romantic' scenes and an eardrum-splitting racket when the on-screen carnage kicks off. (The music never stops. It clatters away in the background for the entire movie without ever letting up.) The dialogue is spiteful and peppered with non-too-subtle references to Milligan's private life and childhood - Milligan himself can also be heard on occasion, barking instructions to his cast. Let's just say that this isn't a masterclass in filmmaking, zero-budget or otherwise.

Technically woeful it may well be, but this doesn't mean that The Ghastly Ones is not worth tracking down. I think it's safe to say that a movie hasn't made me laugh so much for ages. It's hugely entertaining - hugely entertaining for nearly all the wrong reasons of course, but terrific fun all the same. Even when the film lags due to the poor pacing, fun is to be had from the camerawork, the acidic dialogue and the sheer tackiness of it all. Priceless moments are to be found in every scene, such as one character looking behind him after hearing a noise. He doesn't spot the killer (the killer in not-very-subtle black cloak and hood remember) who is standing two feet away from him! The next scene finds the same character sneaking around the cellar with the killer tip-toeing along behind him. The chap turns round again to make sure the coast is clear and the killer simply ducks down to avoid being spotted - his head is virtually in the fella's lap and he still doesn't see him! Utterly, utterly priceless. Mr. Notveryobservant certainly deserves a messy death and he gets one, (or rather the shop window dummy that is substituted for him does.) The costumes are good for a laugh as well - disgracefully over-the-top and supplied by Milligan from his 42nd Street dress store, as are the mannequins that are chopped and slashed during the film's 'special effects' sequences. Occasionally he does conjure up an effective shot or sequence. One scene of a character sneaking about (a lot of this happens in this film) with a lantern is actually pretty cool and almost creepy (almost!) I'm not really sure if this is a display of cinematic talent or blind luck but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. I could go on forever, listing the fun that is to be found within this movie, but I'll leave it up to those of you brave enough to check this film out to discover the rest for yourselves.
This film doesn't look good. In fact it probably didn't look good on the day it was shot but now, nearly forty years later, it looks even worse. The print it littered with damage throughout the whole of the film's runtime. Green, vertical scratches are virtually ever-present and, at times, there are more blemishes on screen than actual image. The colours are reasonably strong and the image is not overly soft. Saying that, when the no-budget nature of the film is considered, the transfer that SW have provided is perfectly acceptable and the rough-around-the-edges presentation only adds to the charm. When it is taken into consideration that there is a great deal of Milligan's work that we will probably never get to see, we should be grateful that this film is available to view at all, even in less than perfect condition.
Pretty much on a par with the video. Dialogue is muffled (but easy enough to make out) and the soundtrack is littered with noises that really shouldn't be there, (the noise of the camera, Milligan shouting at people, crashes and bangs when people fall over stuff/walk into stuff.)
Extra Features
Since this is a Something Weird release purchasers can expect to be served up a decent selection of bonus materials and this disc scores big-time with hours of goodies for the Milligan fan to trawl through.

First for your viewing pleasure, extras wise, we have an additional feature entitled Seeds Of Sin - a mix of original Milligan material and soft-core sex scenes. Originally titled Seeds, this sleazy little creation was shorn of a hefty chunk of it's runtime and padded out with lame sex scenes and re-titled as above. The plot is along similar lines to the main feature - a family gathering for the festive period being the method of dragging all the characters together this time around. Seeds Of Sin is terrific fun - full of murder, vicious dialogue and Milligan's usual mix of sick and twisted characters who all seem intent on having sex with people they shouldn't really have sex with. (Just watch the movie.) The sex scenes are woeful, shot from the neck down to try and disguise the fact that the overweight, hairy bodies fumbling with each other are nothing to do with the feature itself. Thankfully, the chapter stops are appropriately placed so you can easily skip these decidedly un-erotic additions. Seeds Of Sin is presented in a fairly clean, good quality black and white transfer.

Much of Milligan's work prior to The Ghastly Ones is lost, at least at the present time, but SW have dug up 40 minutes of Milligan's workprint for Seeds and this serves as our next slice of bonus goodness. A little rough in quality and lacking parts of the audio track these two reels of footage at least give a better idea of how the film should have looked with a different opening sequence, extra characters and a different cut of the ending. I like Seeds - it's madness but oddly creepy, (the ending is really freaky IMHO), and fantastically entertaining. Hopefully a complete version of Milligan's cut will surface one day.

Next in line is an audio commentary from Milligan's friend and co-star of the main feature, Hal Borske (he who plays the bunny-chomping retard, Colin.) Basket Case Director and Milligan fan, Frank Henenlotter shows up to chat with Borske and express his admiration for Milligan movies and exploitation cinema in general. I will say that this track is, hands-down, one of the best audio commentaries I have ever had the pleasure of listening to - it's right up there with Bruce Campbell's contributions to the Evil Dead releases and is alone worth the price of the disc. The conversation flies off on various, vaguely related tangents and covers 42nd street culture and cinema, Milligan's personality and work methods and anything else that springs to mind. Borske is hugely funny, providing one witty remark after another - all wrapped up in a bombardment of four-letter words. His comment that some of the films he has worked on are 'so far underground that they stink of mole shit' had me in stitches. He also shares various snippets of information concerning various Milligan movies that have disappeared without trace. Fascinating stuff.

Rounding off the extensive bonus materials we have a bunch of promo materials, (amusingly found in a section of the disc entitled 'Milligan's Closet'), consisting of trailers for the main feature, Seeds (with yet more newly discovered footage) and a bunch of other Milligan flicks. The last on-disc feature is an artwork gallery, scored by Borske himself!

To round things off we have some interesting liner-notes that give some background on Milligan's career, private life and the production of the features included on the disc.
The Verdict
So it's safe to say that I am well pleased with this release. Something Weird has served up three-or-so hours of Grindhouse madness that had me sporting a huge, silly grin for the whole of its runtime. At this point I should mention that this recommendation is coming from someone who thinks that watching Night Of The Bloody Apes for the umpteenth time is a great way of spending 90 minutes of his life. I love my trash cinema and this release fits the bill perfectly. Anyone of similar taste (or lack of it!) should dive right into this disc without hesitation as it is truly terrific fun, with regards to both the feature and the bonus materials. Those looking for something altogether more 'serious' best look elsewhere. You have been warned!
Movie Score
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