Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Body Beneath, The (1970)

... aka: Vampire's Thirst, The

Directed by:
Andy Milligan

Graham Ford (Colin Gordon), a new arrival in London from Canada, is awoken from his nap by Reverend Alexander Algernon Ford (Gavin Reed) and his wife Alicia (Susan Heard), distant relatives who'd like to invite him and his wife Anna (Susan Clark) to dinner. Alexander has just arrived there himself from Ireland, moved into Carfax Abbey and opened a new church in the area called Old Souls Church. He's talkative, friendly, nosy and more than a little strange, and not only because priests typically don't go around quoting Oscar Wilde, but also because he seems to know much about Graham and his wife without ever having ever them. Alicia is an oddball herself. She refuses to talk to anyone and whispers everything directly into her husband's ear for him to relay to others. Regardless, Graham accepts their invitation. Anna, on the other hand, has just had an odd encounter with three blue-faced blonde women at a local cemetery. Meanwhile, Susan Ford (Jackie Skarvellis) has just told her lover of two years, artist Paul (Richmond Ross), that she's pregnant. The two decide to get married soon, so it's a good time for the Reverend to get in contact with her via letter. They could use someone to officiate their wedding.

The Reverend and his wife turn out to be centuries-old vampires, who lead a pack of similar bloodsuckers. Sunlight doesn't kill them but does weaken them and Alicia has to administer blood transfusions to her hubby in the upstairs bedroom and apply leeches to him when his blood pressure gets too high. They're assisted by a hyperactive, reluctant hunchback named Spool (Berwick Kaler), who was abandoned by his family as a child after his stepbrother pushed him in front of a bus. When Susan shows up to visit, they drug her drink and then lock her in an upstairs bedroom. The Reverend explains to her that she's their only hope in carrying on the family bloodline. Apparently, lots of inbreeding in the family has weakened them and now they need new blood, so to speak. Susan will be kept there and be forced to keep popping out one baby after another to procreate a stronger breed of Ford. Meanwhile, at Graham and Anna's home, Anna is behaving strangely. The three blue-faced ladies had bitten her on the neck in the graveyard, turning her into a vampire. She drugs her husband's tea and then lets the Reverend and the vampire ladies in to kill Graham.

Another relative - Candace Ford (Emma Jones) - is kidnapped and brought to Carfax Abbey, where they plot to use her as their personal blood supply. Spool is forbidden to speak to their prisoners and, when he's caught talking to Candace, he's taken outside and nailed against a tree! Susan's boyfriend eventually shows up looking for her and notices the Reverend doesn't cast a reflection before he's booted out. A maid tries to help him find his missing fiancé, but Alicia jams sewing needles into her eyeballs and Paul is locked up in a room with Susan, where they await their death. Eventually, a vampire gathering shot through a Vaseline-smeared lens is held, where a female vampire proclaims Americans "the scum of the Earth" and says they're all "pimps, prostitutes and religious fanatics" when the Reverend entertains the idea of them relocating to the States.

This has much in common with the director's other films from the same time period and yet seems somewhat different. The Gothic horror trappings and British setting are similar, as is the dialogue-heavy script and theatrical acting and costumes. However, this one has a modern day setting, better production values and actually (gasp!) cuts it somewhat as an actual movie. The acting, editing, costumes and photography are all better than usual for the director. However, in Milligan world, competence and restraint are both a good and a bad thing. It's good in that this will be easier to swallow to the masses and proves the widely-panned director could indeed craft a mainstream, competent film.. It's a bad thing in that it's not as wild, quirky, bizarre, funny or memorable as some of his other, rougher-around-the-edges efforts like TORTURE DUNGEON (1970) or BLOOD (1974). Perhaps the fact this was made for a different production company (Cinemedia Films) instead of William Mishkin is what made the difference. Milligan also edited (as "Gerald Jackson") and did both the costumes (as Raffine) and sound (as "Joi Gogan") for this one.

Something Weird have released a nice DVD for this one, which includes lots of Milligan trailers as well as the director's very interesting, black-and-white gay bathhouse drama Vapors (1965), which runs 32 minutes and is actually quite good itself (not to mention very daring for its time).


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