Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English 1.0. Something Weird (USA). 72 minutes
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,
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.)
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
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.
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!
Digital Retribution aims to bring you the latest news and reviews from the local genre scene. If you see or hear something that might be of interest to our readers, please get in touch!
For promotional and advertising inquiries, feedback, requests, threats or anything else, visit our Contact Page.
About Digital Retribution
Originally born unto this world as Terror Australis.net back in March 2002, Digital Retribution is a proudly Australian website devoted to all things horror, cult, and exploitation that strives to promote Australian films and filmmakers while sharing its questionable taste in ultra-violent smut-laden local and international offerings with the rest of the world.