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Something Weird Video presents
The Ghastly Ones & Seeds of Sin (1968)

"You're a bunch of bad seeds. Well, you've ruined my life and now I've just ruined your dinner."
- Claris Manning (Maggie Rogers)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 25, 2004

Stars: Veronica Radburn, Maggie Rogers, Hal Broske, Eileen Hayes, Candy Hammond
Other Stars: Anne Linden, Fib La Blaque, Carol Vogel, Richard Romanos, Don Williams, Robert Service, Paul Eden, Helena Velos, Neil Flanagan
Director: Andy Milligan

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, gore, sexuality, nudity, incest, swirling and nausea-inducing camerawork)
Run Time: 02h:29m:43s
Release Date: January 13, 2004
UPC: 014381003024
Genre: cult


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
D- DC-C- B+

DVD Review

Michael Whedon once notoriously observed, in connection with The Ghastly Ones, that if you're an Andy Milligan fan, there's no hope for you. While that may be the case, it's undeniable that Milligan has undergone a fairly amazing renaissance in the last few years. Half a dozen of his cheaply-made underground exploitation pictures have reached DVD (more than say the films of Ernst Lubitsch, which probably means something I'd rather not think about), and Milligan's biography, The Ghastly One by Jimmy McDonough, recently appeared to significant critical acclaim. Something Weird brings two of his earliest-surviving features (both from 1968) to disc on this offering. The first of these, under the UK title Blood Rites, was one of the notorious "video nasties" and was banned in Britain for nearly 20 years, even though it's really not all that nasty.

In The Ghastly Ones, Milligan's first color feature, his frequent theme of the disturbed family is front and center. Three sisters, Veronia (Eileen Hayes), Victoria (Anne Linden) and Elizabeth (Carol Vogel) are required by the terms of their father's will to spend three days at Crenshaw House, a mansion on an isolated island. The requirement is that they spend it "in sexual harmony" with their husbands. Along for the ride are a pair of sinister housekeepers, Martha (Veronica Redburn) and Hattie (Maggie Rogers), as well as the rabbit-eating moron Colin (Hal Borske). But before long the family is being picked off one by one through dismemberment, decapitation and random hatchets in the forehead.

This is a pretty decent introduction to Milligan; if you don't like this one, you probably won't like anything from this wildly bizarre creator. Milligan not only acted as director and writer, but manned his own camera (poorly) and designed and made the costumes himself. As the liner notes point out, even Ed Wood had an actual cameraman on his legendarily terrible films, so Milligan is really in a league of his own here. Whenever anything interesting starts to happen, the camera goes berserk, flailing around madly and making it difficult to follow the action. The effects are laughably bad for the most part, and even though the costuming and candlelight indicate an Edwardian time setting, the characters also wear 1960s underwear, which doesn't help the credibility any.

What interest there is here comes from Milligan's deeply warped psyche and the bizarre characters and their odd interactions. For example, in a bit of exposition he manages to include a subplot about one of the husbands having had an incestuous affair with one of his own brothers, but in typical Milligan fashion it goes nowhere. The beginning sequence (which contradicts the finale) was not, however, Milligan's fault, but was imposed by the producer, who felt that the film ran too short. No doubt in rebellion, Milligan used a blonde body double for the brunette woman seen in this opening, but apparently the producers never noticed. The endless parade of weirdness does have a certain fascination to it, which will no doubt be the main selling point for Something Weird collectors.

Seeds of Sin features another dysfunctional family, this time headed by the bitter and crippled old woman Claris Manning (Maggie Rogers again). Tended by servant Mortimer (Jesse Bigelow) and daughter Carol (Candy Hammond), Claris is controlling and despises her many children. Unfortunately for her, Carol has taken it upon herself to invite her brethren to the house for Christmas dinner. Carol wastes no time in firing up her incestuous relationship with brother Michael (Robert Service), but that's cut short by someone again picking off the family members.

This was another victim of the producers, but even moreso than The Ghastly Ones. Even though Milligan included some extraneous sex scenes, they apparently weren't enough and a ton of sex footage was inserted. The characters don't match the cast in the least, and the opening precredits sequence involves an orgy with no participants that show up anywhere else. Since many of them are shot in 35mm instead of the usual 16mm, they're almost certainly not Milligan's work. Not only were these scenes inserted, but at least half an hour of Milligan's original was shorn, and the result is not surprisingly incomprehensible. Something Weird has fun with the inserts, giving the chapter stops for them such titles as "Obligatory Sex Scene," "Required Nudity" and the to-the-point "More Sex." Maggie Rogers is fairly entertaining as a very-low-rent Bette Davis substitute. The family weirdness on display is again the primary attraction here, however. The relationships are all delightfully deranged, and everyone onscreen richly deserves the terrible fates that befall them, making it enjoyable on some lizard-brain level even though the story doesn't make any sense at all.

Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: These films were shot in 16mm sound-on-film by Milligan, so the full-frame version is pretty close to the original. Print quality is pretty sad overall, though that's not exactly a detraction for these picture; they probably never looked very good on their original grindhouse runs either. The color in The Ghastly Ones is surprisingly good, with very little fading or turning pink, which is pretty unusual for 1960s cheap color. The source prints are full of green scratches. This is essentially an OK transfer of seriously problematic source material.

Seeds of Sin is in the original black and white, but it's fairly dupey and overly contrasty. Most shots have a jittery up-and-down shake every few seconds, but since that also appears in the workprint that apparently happened as the film was being shot and will never look any better. The workprint and the 35mm inserts do, however, look appreciably better.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono sounds about as poor as you'd expect for films made for less than $5,000. It's echoey and highly dated. Both tracks are hissy and rather murky, other than the 35mm inserts on Seeds of Sin, which are surprisingly clean. Long segments of both films are silent, as a result of the need to synchronize the sound and Milligan's penchant for using spare garbage bits of footage from other productions. Again, it probably never sounded any better.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Body Beneath, Guru, the Mad Monk, The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here!, Vapors
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by actor Hal Borske
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Workprint version of Seeds of Sin (fragmentary)
  2. Gallery of stills from Milligan films
Extras Review: The best part of this disc is the commentary on The Ghastly Ones by frequent Milligan star (and longtime roommate and friend) Hal Borske. Interviewed by cult director Frank Henenlotter, Borske provides a good deal of background information on Milligan and his work, not to mention his difficulties with producers. Both films are covered, as well as other Milligan works. Henenlotter's knowledgeable and brings the quiet Borske out well. Trailers for five Milligan pictures are also present here, as are stills from The Ghastly Ones, The Body Beneath and Torture Dungeon. A lengthy set of production notes in the accompanying booklet makes for an interesting read.

The other gem on the disc is the surviving portions of Milligan's workprint version of Seeds of Sin, though the picture was just titled Seeds while it was in his hands. There's still some sex, but not the jarring overly-long inserts that are found in the release version. The segments here total 40m:21s, which would be just a bit under half the film. These appear to be more or less four reels: the first two, one from the middle, and the last reel. The beginning, though slow, is much more coherent here. Several characters are greatly beefed up, including a priest, Matthew (Neil Flanagan), who barely appears in the release version, but who gets his own death scene here. There's also an unfinished trailer for the film that includes three more short scenes not in the film. The result still isn't polished by any means, but it does have a much better narrative flow and indicates the extent to which Milligan's work was abused by his producers.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Family strangeness is in the cards on this double feature from ultra-low-budget goremeister Andy Milligan. There are some worthwhile extras, and anyone interested in Milligan's career will certainly want to own this disc, but those liking mainstream fare will want to stay far, far away.

 


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