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"What is America? What is it made of? Pimps, prostitutes, religious fanatics! They're the scum of the earth!" proclaims a shrieking vampire -- apparently Queen Elizabeth I herself -- in ANDY MILLIGAN's odd and eccentric The Body Beneath.
Worried that his family's "bloodline is deteriorating," prissy preacher Algernon Ford, a centuries-old bloodsucker with an uppity attitude (and played by GAVIN REED as a sort of bargain-basement Ernest Thesiger), returns to England, rents Carfax Abbey (wink, wink), and wipes out his remaining ancestors with the help of three green-faced vampire gals in chiffon dresses. Using one descendant as the main course of a vampire banquet ("Delightful meal! How old was she?"), and another as a potential breeder for a vampire baby, Reverend Al still finds time to have knitting needles plunged into a maid's eyes, and a hunchback set on fire. But at the family reunion, he abruptly changes his mind, chucks the whole baby-breeding scheme, and decides everyone should move to sunny California...
Andy Milligan is at once one of the most fascinating of low-budget directors and also one of the most difficult to deal with. Though his films revel in sex and violence, they're doomed by plots that play like soap operas from Hell and performed by seemingly amateur actors delivering incessant dialogue that's drowned out with wall-to-wall library music. Worse, the majority of his features were shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm so cheaply that the colors appear washed out and the whole screen is filled with grain the size of melons. Sitting through the average Milligan is often less fun than being in a car accident.
But The Body Beneath
is different. Set in contemporary 1970 (and dispensing with a typically godawful period setting) The Body Beneath
has better than usual production values and photography, a very welcome sense of humor, and the garishly theatrical costumes of the vampire clan (stitched together by Andy himself under the name "Raffine") actually enhances the atmosphere of decadence and decay, especially during the climactic (and surprisingly nightmarish) vampire soiree.
Even better, Something Weird has digitally remastered the film from an uncut one-of-a-kind 16mm answer print prior to its blowup to 35mm. Surprise! The Body Beneath
now looks better than it's ever looked! It certainly looks better than when it played in theaters three decades ago. The image is now astonishingly clear, the colors are vibrant, and the film lacks all of the copious grain found on its 35mm release prints. Compare any moment of this version with its theatrical trailer and you'll gasp at the difference. -- Frank Henenlotter
Jackie SkarvellisOther cast:
Berwick Kaler, Susan Heard, Richmond RossDirected by: