Updated: Jun 24
Andy Milligan (1929-1991)
Andy Milligan was openly gay, but made a contradictory decision in 1968: he married a woman, Candy Hammond, who was in the film he was shooting at the time, Seeds of Sin (1968.) According to fangoria.com, Milligan “usually picked up his dates in dive leather bars and the seediest stretches of the Deuce” (42nd Street in New York City, home of the grindhouse theater.) The wedding took place on the set, then he reportedly spent that night trolling gay bars and bathhouses. The marriage lasted a year and was never consummated.
Milligan’s story is not a happy one. The themes of his films (dysfunctional families, incest, homosexuality, and abuse) are believed to be largely autobiographical. He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and during his career spent time in England (where The Body Beneath was made.) He spent the last years of his life in Los Angeles where he died in 1991 of AIDS-related illness at the age of 62. He was buried in an unmarked grave.
For much of The Body Beneath (1970), I had no idea what was happening. I suppose it’s a testament to the movie that by the end, the story made any sense at all. This was the second Andy Milligan film I’ve seen, and I didn’t like it quite as much as Guru, the Mad Monk (1970), which I barely liked at all.
In that one there was at least some raw humor that caught me by surprise. This one doesn’t have that, although near the end there’s a critique of the United States when a representative of the group of vampires speaks against the plan for them to move to another continent. London has become a police state for them…
Their bloodline is deteriorating, they keep running into trouble with the police, and they’re about to be discovered. The opposing side acknowledges they need to breed a stronger bloodline, “but America? Never!” Their leader, Rev. Alexander Algernon Ford (Gavin Reed) argues that at least their “relatives” across the pond are “healthy.”
Everything that happens before this revelatory scene is less clear. It starts promising when Rev. Ford and his wife knock on the door of Graham Ford (Colin Gordon) to introduce themselves as relatives. At least, I think it’s Graham Ford… everyone is related in The Body Beneath with the surname “Ford.”
Graham’s wife, either Alicia (Susan Heard) or Candace (Emma Jones) isn’t home when their unannounced guests arrive. She’s been at Highland Cemetery surrounded by three garishly painted ghouls. He realizes later that she’s missing, but unless I’m forgetting (or dozed a bit), the couple doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the story.
The focus is on younger Susan Ford (Jackie Skarvellis) and her fiancée, Paul Donati (Richmond Ross.) She’s pregnant and the reverend wants to raise the child as one of his own. Any “action” in the film involves her abduction and imprisonment, and Paul’s efforts to rescue her. Along the way, they seem to find time for plenty of lovemaking.
This gives Milligan a chance to exercise his male gaze with slow pans down Paul’s naked back and rear end as he lies on top of Susan in bed. You can argue whether or not this gives the film a gay flavor, but when he also shows Graham wrapped in only a towel around his waist for no narrative reason, it’s pretty clear to me what’s happening.
Written by Andy Milligan
Directed by Andy Milligan
Starring Gavin Reed, Jackie Skarvellis, Berwick kaler, Susan Heard, Richmond Ross, Emma Jones, Colin Gordon
RT 82 min.
Released Sept. 29, 1970
Home Video Streaming (Paramount Plus)
Rating 4 possessed children (out of 10)