This post first appeared on my old blog. I’ve revised it and added new thoughts.
Code Red “Bryanston Pictures Double Bill” Blu-ray, ©2015, Region: A, Format: NTSC
~1 hour, 9 minutes, 17 seconds
The opening credits roll. We’re introduced to a couple of men who look like they’ve stepped out of a Sherlock Holmes novel. One of them is named Markham. He’s showing a house to the other, named Dr. Lawrence Orlofski. Markham notes how the premises would be great for gardening, to which Orlofski replies, “My wife doesn’t like the daylight hours. Rather, I should say daylight doesn’t agree with her. She has trouble with the pigmentation of her skin. Direct sunlight would be poison for her. As a matter of fact, more than five minutes of sunlight could possibly kill her. So you see, she’ll be doing very little gardening, I’m afraid. Nor shall I, for that matter, as my experiments occupy most of my daylight hours.” Orlofski proceeds to be very curt with the man, refusing a tour of the property, as well as a dinner invitation. He takes the house, then practically shoves Markham out the front door as he hands over a check for the first three months’ worth of rent, stating, “Please do not come here when the rent is due again, I shall send it to you before it is due… Good day.”
“Well. You rude bastard!”
As soon as Markham departs, Orlofski shouts for his servants to rush his wife Regina (the one with the sunlight aversion, Hope Stansbury) in from a side door. She’s wrapped head to toe in black fabric, and is apparently overdue for a daily injection of something. We get a quick look at her face here; she’s literally a rotting corpse.
The very next scene, she’s ok. Orlofski’s miracle serum, it’s later explained, is comprised of carnivorous plants from Budapest that he grows in his basement and feeds with his servants’ blood (!). The servants are an odd bunch. There’s Orlando. He’s missing his legs and shuffles around on a pair of wooden boards, or… whatever. He’s never actually shown below the waist, but he makes scraping sounds wherever he goes. Then there’s his girlfriend, Carrie (Patricia Gaul). She walks with a limp and harbors a dark secret — that she likes having sex with her brother. Dimwitted Carlotta was picked up from an orphanage in Budapest. At first, she looks feral or mentally challenged or something. It turns out, however, the poor girl was irreversibly brain-damaged when the others siphoned dangerous amounts of blood from her to feed the plants. “The brain can have blood drained from it just so often, and then it begins to malfunction.” Carrie notes in a key bit of dialogue (being drained of blood is also the reason Orlando lost his legs).
Here’s the shit of it, though, these characters all hate each other. They’re miserable, tortured people. They’re trapped in their lives and they’re going through the motions. Orlofski, who’s fallen out of love with his wife, for example, never leaves her, or files for divorce, but seeks love elsewhere, first in Carrie, then in a young secretary named Prudence Towers.
Orlofski’s resentment toward his wife is played up in one scene where he attempts to wriggle out of replying “I love you too” as the two lay in bed. His wife asks for sex. He refuses that too. She says she suspects he’s in love with Carrie. “You never please Regina anymore.” she remarks in the third person. “Oh, Lawrence, I, I hate you. I hate you… Oh go to Hell.”
“We’re there already.” the doctor laments.
Why don’t these malcontent characters pick up and leave when they hate each other so much? Well, I’m not really sure why the servants stick around, especially when they’re losing their legs. Maybe they’re masochists (you’ll have to be too to enjoy this movie). As for the husband and wife…
Thoughts (Possible Spoilers)
Plot twists reveal that Orlofski is the son of the Wolfman, and Regina is Count Dracula’s daughter. I’m guessing they not only feel an obligation to their parents (who set them up) to stay together, but also probably realize that they’ll never find anyone else understanding — or freakish — enough to accept their secret selves.
The son of the Wolfman later finds himself occupied by a Carl Root, the executor of his late father’s estate, who he fears has been dipping into his inheritance. The doctor swings by Root’s office to figure out why his checks have dried up and/or beat the dude’s ass. When confronted, the wild-eyebrowed Root admits to selling Orlofski’s father’s home and using the money to invest in several start-up companies that coincidentally went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Orlofski chokes the shyster in a fit of rage. Will he ever get his money back? Will anyone uncover his secret? Will several people and a mouse die? No, yes, and yes. P.S. A real mouse looks to have been killed for an effect. Not cool.
Like Ed Wood before him, bottom barrel “gutter auteur” Andy Milligan is considered to be one of the absolute worst directors of all time. In spite of this, he’s managed to attract a small fanbase over the years, and as a result, most of his originally rare oeuvre can now be found on home video.
Interest in Milligan peaked following the release of two posthumous biographies, Jimmy McDonough’s The Ghastly One and Rob Craig’s Gutter Auteur. These texts paint him as a less than sane individual. He was apparently an angry, misanthrope asshole who was impossible to work with and started fights. Whether or not he was, I can’t say, but a case could be made that his films reflected some manner of underlying — or maybe not so underlying — neuroses, often dealing with themes of disfigurement, self-hatred, sadism, repressed sexuality, incest, and family dysfunction. He also frequently portrayed women as needy bitches and life draining vampires.
With that said, I was kind of surprised by how much I loved this movie.
Blood is one of a handful of Gothic horror period dramas Milligan churned out in the early 1970s. The whole thing was shot in and around his then-home on Staten Island, with a cast of off-off-Broadway theatre actors, for a total of somewhere in the ballpark of $25,000. It remains, by most accounts, one of the
gay’s guy’s most accessible efforts.
For whatever reason, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there concerning the movie’s plot. Except for the word “Werewolf”, the plot synopsis you’ll find on IMDb (below) is completely incorrect. Please refer to my breakdown above. It’s much more accurate.
Blood takes place in 1883 (give or take a year) in America. This much is stated within the film. I’m not sure where “1930s London” came from — maybe the fact that one or two of its actors have European accents?
I, uh, don’t remember this either.
The plot involves one Dr. Orlovski (Allan Berendt), who is afflicted with lycanthropy, and who maintains a garden filled with man-eating plants and settles down to play house with the daughter of Dracula.
As if this weren’t enough for their neighbors, there are also hordes of rabid bats flying the city, turning the locals into blood-drooling cannibals with severe complexion problems.
It comes from the “story” section of IMDb. The underlined portion was there when I first watched the movie in 2014, but now it’s gone. Either its author was joking, or mistaken, or lying, or the “hordes of rabid bats” and “blood-drooling cannibals” he wrote about were missing from every version I’ve watched — in which case, damnit, that sounds really cool.
What’s weird is that even the blurb on the (now defunct) streaming service Exploitation TV made reference to bats, but there weren’t any in that version either.
Enough about that. Let’s get to the movie. I’ll start with the positives. The acting here is alright. This is where Milligan’s background in theatre comes through. The costuming, dialogue, and the way everyone speaks in his movies make them feel more like stage productions that just so happened to be captured on film than “actual” movies, if that makes any sense, and it’s very unique.
Pretty much everything else here is abysmal.
With bargain basement production values, hilariously bad props and effects (what looks like a paper mâché face, dollar store vampire fangs, a bottle of acid with “ACID” written across it, the list goes on) amateur camera work, jumpy edits, anachronisms, and, well, you get the gist, Blood is hardly what a rational person would call a “good” movie. Still, in a weird way, it’s fun. The premise alone, of a werewolf and a vampire trapped in a loveless arranged marriage, cracks me up. The kicker about the werewolf resorting to growing and harvesting blood-drinking plants to keep the vampire alive is just icing on the cake. This goofy pairing of classic, Hollywood movie monsters, coupled with an equally goofy stinger tacked on to the end, and the revelation that Orlofski’s real name is Lawrence Talbot (the same as Universal’s Wolfman character) make the whole thing feel like a riff on the Universal monster movies of decades past. If it wasn’t intended as such, I think it’s best viewed that way.
No bones about it, this is delirious, poorly made crap. But like I said, it’s surprisingly watchable and enjoyable for that reason. Give it a look if your itchin’ for something that’s “so bad it’s good”. Blood is on YouTube, so decide for yourself how good or bad it really is. And have a laugh for me why don’t ya.
Keep an ear out for the stretchy, rubbing noises that overpower the basement scenes. They might be the weirdest part of the movie. It sounds like the foley artist was making balloon animals while trying to get comfortable in a big leather chair. My first thought was that all the commotion was caused by the blood-drinking plants that are said to be growing out of control, but who the Hell knows.
Another WTF moment to watch out for is Carl Root’s rampant unibrow. It looks like someone just picked up a fistful of rabbit hair from the carpet and mashed it into his forehead. The actor here is a cabaret pianist by the name of John Wallowitch. I’ve Googled pictures of him, and he doesn’t actually have one of these. In this high-def screen shot from Exploitation TV, you can even make out Mr. Wallowitch’s real eyebrows underneath the hot mess. My question is whose idea was this, and what did they think it would add to the movie? Like, why?
There are no extras on the disc. The picture looks good, but there’s lots of noise and the colors are off. For instance, the blue walls of the living room are a pink-purple. On the back cover, Code Red explains, “Due to extremely high demand and complaint by kids on the web, this is presented without DNR to fix the scratches, and the white dots and the grain remain intact!” I love their enthusiasm. Everything ends with an exclamation mark. I grabbed my screen shots from Exploitation TV before it shut down. The version they streamed was the best one I’ve seen. It was like staring at boobs. Pure pulchritude.
•It’s mentioned that Dr. Orlofski’s father died a “violent death” in Mortavia. Mortavia is the setting of an earlier Milligan epic, Guru, the Mad Monk.
•Patricia Gaul went on to become a successful TV actress and was married to Jeff Goldblum for six years in the 80s.
•Blood was produced and distributed by Bryanston, the same corrupt, mafia-headed company that distributed Deep Throat and Andy Warhol’s Flesh For Frankenstein and reportedly stole tens of millions of dollars in profits from the cast and crew of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
5 people, 1 mouse.
4 bottles of acid with “ACID” written across them out of 5.
I Got My Copy From
Codereddvd.com for $17.95.
House of Frankenstein (1944)
Guru, the Mad Monk (1970)
The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)