US director Andy Milligan (1929 – 1991) is something of a legend in exploitation circles, a sort of mod Ed Wood. His films, half of which are lost, veer crazily between sex and horror and sleaze and are characterised by low budgets, poor acting and the stilted awfulness that signals the disconnect between ambition and talent. But he made about thirty films, and you have to applaud his resolve, not to mention his sheer bloody nerve.
‘The Body Beneath’ (1970) was one of several films Milligan made in London in the late sixties. It’s basically a retelling of ‘Dracula’ but with some very soft porn elements and an interesting twist: the vampires all belong to the same family, and the head vampire is obsessed with refreshing the degenerating blood line. It isn’t what you’d call a good film but I’ve seen a lot worse. A lot, lot worse. The basics are there: some fantastic locations (‘filmed in the graveyards of England’), occasionally interesting camera angles and some halfway decent performances (Gavin Reed is particularly notable as Algernon Ford, the chief blood sucker, although he does remind me a lot of Reece Shearsmith from ‘The League of Gentlemen’). There’s a bit of sex, a splash of gore and a hunchback has his hands nailed to a post before being set on fire.
Strangely for this sort of film it isn’t at all boring (it’s too choppy for that), although the script makes no sense and the climactic party of the undead is rendered fairly incomprehensible by an optical effect that detracts from the action. The green faced vampires are nice, however, and, overall, it’s an interesting attempt at reinterpreting the vampire mythology on a shoestring budget and a soupcon of talent.