The Body Beneath/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< The Body Beneath
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Reverend Algernon Ford (Gavin Reed) is a centuries old vampire who has been masquerading in his current incarnation as the head priest of Carfax Abbey. Ford has noted as of recently that his pure blood line is beginning to thin out and it won't be long before his particular "family" is no more. Interested in rejuvenating his blood line and moving his clan to the USA, Ford decides to track down all of his pure blood non-vampire descendants and convert them to his "religion". This leads him to Susan Ford (Jackie Skarvellis), a young woman who is on the eve of being married to a young man named Paul (Richmond Ross). When Susan is abducted by the Reverend during a visit, Paul comes to search for her and Rev. Ford learns that his plan may not hold up as well as he had first envisioned.

For the uninitiated, The Body Beneath was directed by Andy Milligan, who is probably one of the least heard of low budget filmmakers in existence. Milligan made films all the way up until his AIDS related death in 1991 and was generally considered to be an even more low budget filmmaker than Ed Wood. I had never heard of Andy Milligan the director (though I had heard of his 1970 film The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!) until I read a wonderful three part article (which appeared in issues 52-54 of the excellent film magazine Video Watchdog) that detailed the life and career of this odd little filmmaker. Upon reading the article, I decided that I should try and track down some of the better films I had read about and see what they were like. Considering that they are for the most part unavailable on home video, I thought that my task was going to be a relatively hard one and never thought that I would actually be sitting down to watch one as soon as I did. Having finally sampled some of his work though, I'm a little reluctant to venture further.

Video Watchdog cites The Body Beneath as being "one of Milligan's most accomplished efforts". On a technical level, the film does certainly show a little more proficiency over other low budget fare. Unfortunately, the film seems to suffer from being slightly muddled and a habit of over-talking its narrative. One would imagine that vampires would prefer to drain the blood of their victims as a way of disposing of them, but the vampires in this film like to talk their victims to death (they also use chloroform, as well, which is a vampire trait I was not aware of).

Despite the slowness of the film, the performances are actually quite good for a low budget film. While the supporting cast made up of a trio of green-skinned vampire women that have very little to do other that stalk around, most of the rest of the Ford household have quite a bit to do. Ford's assistant Spool is played perfectly by Berwick Kaler and manages to evoke images of Frankenstein's assistant Igor while bringing something of his own to the character. Gavin Reed as the regal Reverend Ford essays his role superbly and really gives an air of aristocracy to his character. Reed's performance actually helps to anchor the film slightly and helps in keeping the film from getting too outlandish.

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DVD Review

The Body Beneath (a title which is never really explained) has been released on DVD through Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment. The film is presented in the full frame format and, though the source print is slightly dark and has reels that contain a little bit of what looks like water damage, looks remarkably good for what they had to work with. The disc includes several trailers for other Milligan films, such as The Ghastly Ones, Guru the Mad Monk, Seeds of Sin, and the short film Vapors (which, for some reason, seemed to lack a soundtrack).

As an extra "treat", the entire short film Vapors has been included on the disc. Running 32 minutes, the 1963 black and white short centers around a homosexual man and another man looking to escape from his wife for a while. The two exchange their hard luck stories while lounging around in a bath house. Though this short does show some technical adeptness, the subject matter was just something that I could not relate to. There are some decent performances in this short though, and show that Milligan at least had access to some better actors than Ed Wood did.

The coolest feature on the disc though, is the gallery of exploitation art. While I'm not big on art galleries, what makes this one different is the fact that Something Weird has included radio spots for the bizarre low budget films that make up some of their releases. These radio spots are really cool, especially if you are into collecting old film memorabilia (and I think that radio spots are the most underused special feature on DVD's). Of special note with the exploitation art gallery though is that the Beatles are mentioned on the same page with films like Monsters a Go-Go, mainly because a particular theater would run specialized popular features that would be promoted alongside lesser known fare. Although they were not widely produced, these localized ads are still interesting to see (especially since it's hard to imagine a theater promoting something like the next Subspecies movie alongside Star Wars Episode 2).

Review by Pockets of Sanity

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