Legacy Of Blood (Andy Milligan, 1978)

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by jacksmith1983, Nov 15, 2008.

  1. jacksmith1983

    jacksmith1983 Active Member

    Throughout the late sixties and on through to the mid seventies Staten Island’s trash filmmaker Andy Milligan was one of the most prolific directors operating within the field of the no-budget gore opus. While bereft of an real filmmaking talent Milligan knew how to turn finance deprived horrors out quickly and economically and thus carved a gory niche for himself with the likes of The Ghastly Ones (1968), Torture Dungeon, Bloodthirsty Butchers (both 1970) and the hilariously monikered The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972). While more or less unwatchable on any conventional level Milligan invariably served up enough unconvincing gore effects and oddball characterisation (often as an expression of his own infamous closeted homosexuality and sexual deviance) to give his films an engaging quality despite their technical ineptitude. Against the odds Milligan’s films became a staple of New York City’s famed 42nd Street Grindhouse circuit – quite a feat for a Staten Island misanthrope who made the unorthodox journey from New York based dressmaker, to theatre director before finally finding his true vocation as Staten Island’s own answer to Herschel Gordon Lewis.

    Despite the modest grassroots popularity of his films Milligan usually never saw much (if anything) in the way of financial returns for his work, usually due to the nefarious, self-serving activities of infamous characters such as William Mishkin and distributors Bryanston (who also famously diddled Tobe Hooper and company out of the fortune they should have earned for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). After years of dealing with the crooks that doubled up as distributors of exploitation films Milligan, by the late seventies, had become weary and disenchanted with filmmaking. Running low on creativity Milligan eventually resorted to regurgitation in 1978 when he churned out a sanitised remake of his own 1968 effort The Ghastly Ones entitled Legacy Of Blood seemingly in the hope of recapturing the effect of the film that had in many ways first enamoured him with the Grindhouse horror crowd to begin with.

    Legacy Of Blood follows the plot of The Ghastly Ones almost to the letter opening with the three adult Hanley sisters, together with their respective husbands gathering for the reading of their deceased fathers last will and testament. The will states that before the details of their fathers estate and its distribution can be revealed all three sisters together with their spouses, must spend a period of three days living together in “sexual harmony” at the family mansion located on a remote private island.

    Once the three couples arrive on Hanley Island they instantly make the acquaintance of the two quaint sisters who act as the mansions housekeepers together with their aggressive, mentally handicapped brother who spends most of his time locked up in the cellar. Before the guests have barely had time to get their feet under the table terror strikes as one by one the late Mr Hanley’s would-be benefactors are savagely murdered by a mysterious black clad figure stalking the shadowy recesses of the house. Could it be that another aggrieved party is attempting to violently stake their own claim to the Hanley fortune?


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    To be completely frank Legacy Of Blood is essentially little more than The Ghastly Ones with its balls hacked off, unfolding in near bloodless fashion and devoid of anything in the way of the offbeat personal flourishes that made Milligan’s “best” work worthwhile. The films budget while obviously a very low one seems positively upscale compared with Milligan’s usual poverty row enterprises, boasting costume design that is actually halfway accurate in conforming to the films early twentieth century period setting. In addition while most Milligan cheapie's boast shaky, misframed camera work likely to induce seasickness, here the camera remains soberly positioned and static throughout. In short Legacy Of Blood actually resembles not a typical Milligan opus but a conventional low budget horror film. However, this proves not to be a blessing but the films undoing. While his penchant for complete and utter technical ineptitude has attracted Milligan more than a bit of mockery down the years, one would seldom use the term mundane to describe his work, but unfortunately this reviewer would struggle to find a better single adjective to describe Legacy Of Blood. Milligan’s disillusionment positively radiates off the screen throughout the whole course of the films running length. Bereft of any sense of pace or energy Legacy Of Blood plods along lethargically with the painfully longwinded exposition used to get the Hanley’s at the family mansion taking what seems like an age to unravel.


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    Most interest in a Milligan film tends to stem invariably from bizarre instances of characterisation which was invariably accentuated by the motley assortment of talentless amateurs, gonzo NYC eccentrics and oddball acquaintances Milligan usually peppered his cast with. However, Legacy Of Blood sees Milligan returning from a four year period of inactivity and working in a different climate to that of his homegrown Grindhouse heyday. Thus Legacy Of Blood is acted not by the usual Milligan crew of screwy ye endearingly colourful non-thespians but by a jobbing, colourless cast of amateur dramatics (who barely registered another feature between them incidentally) who give conventional, unremarkable turns. As a result the performances are neither hilariously bad or commendably impassioned but merely competent and devoid of all colour or eccentricity.

    Perhaps more disappointingly Milligan’s trademark flamboyantly camp stereotypes are nowhere to be found, which just goes to show how little passion Milligan invested in this particular picture. Most exploitation fans who have been treated to a viewing of The Ghastly Ones will no doubt fondly recall Milligan regular Hal Borske’s memorable role as the hunchbacked, live rabbit-eating simpleton Colin. In the mirror role in Legacy Of Blood the same character (now dubbed Clive) is reduced to a simpering, teddy-bear clutching halfwit. The sole exception to the disheartening bland characterisation comes in the bizarre form of the hippie-like fortune teller Baba who is visited by the Hanley sisters. Speaking with a comically faked effeminate lisp and clad in blue mascara and a bed flannel toga the outlandish Baba is just about the only clue we are given to suggest that we are actually watching an Andy Milligan film.


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    Those expecting business to pick up somewhat when the bodies finally start mounting up are in for a disappointment especially if they approach Legacy Of Blood with expectations based on its predecessor The Ghastly Ones, which certainly delivered ample levels of gore and mutilation, albeit very unconvincingly. Legacy Of Blood sees Milligan reprising more or less the same set piece death scenes as found in The Ghastly Ones albeit this time round in tame, near bloodless fashion and flatly handled to boot, bereft on any sense of suspense or trepidation. One particularly guilty offender is an anaemic reprisal of The Ghastly Ones famous giant handsaw bisection which is reenacted here through the use of shadow silhouette. If done rightly this could have been quite suggestively macabre but in Milligan’s typically inept hands it instead winds up having an unintentionally cartoonish, slapstick effect.


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    Approached as casual viewing fare Legacy Of Blood is in all fairness actually a fairly inoffensive if rather dry and bland low budget period horror. For Milligan fans however, Legacy Of Blood actually makes for a very disappointing and in some respects rather sad viewing experience, proving a raw, painful expose of just how completely disillusioned he was at this point in his career, unable to muster the drive or spirit to enliven this weary (and it must be said unnecessary) reprisal of former glories with any of his trademark idiosyncrasies. My advice to trash movie aficionados who wish to avoid disappointment would be to give Legacy Of Blood a miss as it is a film remarkable only for achieving the impossible feat of being a completely dull Andy Milligan film.

    Perhaps of some interest to die-hard Milligan fans, but anyone else is advised to give it a miss.

    Following the disappointment of Legacy Of Blood the weary Staten Island auteur would go on a long sabbatical from filmmaking and would not direct another film until six years later when he reemerged in 1984 with the enjoyably crazed (and altogether more typically Milligan) straight to video haunted house movie Carnage.


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    At present Legacy Of Blood is unavailable on DVD. While there is a film entitled Legacy Of Blood available on US R1 DVD as part of Shout Factory's Elvira's Movie Macabre, this is actually a similarly plotted yet unrelated 1971 film directed by Carl Monson and starring John Carradine, which just happens to share the same title. Those who wish to see Milligan's Legacy Of Blood can always track down the rare and fairly sought after UK pre cert VHS tape on the Replay label, which was released under the films alternate title Legacy Of Horror.



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  2. tobiaswragg

    tobiaswragg The 'Head' Butcher

    Nice work, Jack. I have to say that this was the film that got me into Milligan, I watched it three or four nights in a row after getting my claws on the pre-cert 7 years ago, really wasn't looking forward to watching it and was pleasantly surprised.

    According to Peter Barcia, who is the fellow who rather calmly endures a pitchfork through the neck, the film was originally a lot gorier but was cut. Alas the uncut version will probably never surface.
     
  3. jacksmith1983

    jacksmith1983 Active Member

    Yes, the killings on the Replay tape do look clipped to be honest, at least to me. With Milligan it could just as easily just be bad editing though... ;)

    Glad you enjoyed my review Tobias and equally glad that you enjoyed Legacy Of Blood more than what I did.

    For what it's worth it's the only Andy Milligan film which I've ever found dull. Nevertheless, even a lacklustre Milligan flick is something to get excited about in my eyes and I'm pleased to own it.
     
  4. MarcMorris

    MarcMorris Head Honcho Staff Member

    Nice review there jack - I say let's have some more Milligan reviewed ;)
     
  5. tobiaswragg

    tobiaswragg The 'Head' Butcher

    Too right, Marc. To paraphrase Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog fame, you can't have enough Andy handy.
     
  6. Someone Weird

    Someone Weird An Odious Little Runt

    This is my least favourite Milligan that I've seen. Also, the cuts hurt it badly (I have the Gorgon VHS).
     
  7. tobiaswragg

    tobiaswragg The 'Head' Butcher

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