Andy Milligan

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Andy Milligan
Born Andrew Jackson Milligan, Jr.
(1929-02-12)February 12, 1929
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Died June 3, 1991(1991-06-03) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, California
Other names Dick Fox
Joi Gogan
Gerald Jackson
A. Milligan
Andrew Milligan
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter, cinematographer, actor, film editor, producer, and director
Years active 1951–1990
Spouse(s) Candy Hammond (1968 – divorced)

Andy Milligan (February 12, 1929 – June 3, 1991) was an American playwright, screenwriter, cinematographer, actor, film editor, producer, and director, whose work includes 27 films made between 1965 and 1988.

Biography[edit]

Andrew Jackson Milligan Jr. was born on February 12, 1929, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was a self-taught filmmaker and was responsible for much of the creative activity on his films (including cinematography and costume design). Milligan was an "army brat"; his father, Andrew Milligan Sr. (1895–1985), was a captain in the US army and moved the family around the country a lot. His mother, Marie Gladys Hull (1903–1953), was an overweight, neurotic alcoholic who served as the basis for scores of her son's characters when he began making films. Milligan's parents met and married in 1926. He was close to his father, who affectionately called him "Junior", but had a very troubled relationship with his mother, who was both physically and mentally abusive towards all her children as well as her husband. Milligan had an older half-brother named Harley LeRoy Hull (1924–1996) and a younger sister named Louise Milligan (1931–). In 1962, nine years after his mother's death, Milligan's father remarried a middle-aged Japanese woman named Taka Katayama, whom he met while he was stationed in Japan, and adopted Taka's teenage daughter Kyoko. Both of them moved to St. Paul to live with Milligan Sr. in 1964. The couple remained married until his death.

After finishing high school in 1947, Andy enlisted in the US Navy, serving for four years. After his honorable discharge in 1951 he settled in New York City, where he dabbled in acting on stage, and opened a dress shop.

Career[edit]

During the 1950s Milligan became involved in the nascent off-off-Broadway theater movement where he mounted productions of plays by Lord Dunsany and Jean Genet at the Caffe Cino, a small Greenwich Village coffeehouse that served as a hothouse for rising theater talent like Lanford Wilson, Tom Eyen and John Guare. Milligan also became involved with directing theater productions at Cafe La Mama La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. During this period he operated and designed for a clothing boutique named Ad Lib and used his dressmaking skills to costume many theatrical productions.

In the early 1960s Milligan turned to filmmaking as a change of pace. He met some of the actors for his early films at Caffe Cino. His first released film was a 30-minute black-and-white 16 mm short drama entitled Vapors (1965). The film, set on one Friday evening in the St. Mark's Baths, a gay bathhouse for men, portrays an emotionally awkward and unconsummated meeting between two strangers. Milligan was later employed by producers of exploitation films, particularly William Mishkin, to direct softcore sexploitation and horror features, many featuring actors known from the off-off Broadway theater community.

Most of his early exploitation films play like bizarre morality tales where sleazy and amoral characters get violently paid back for their excesses. All of his films often dwell on the topics of transgression and punishment, dysfunctional family relationships, repressed sexuality, homosexuality and physical deformity, and include such titles as Depraved! (1967), The Naked Witch (1967), The Promisious Sex (1967), The Degenerates (1967), The Filthy Five (1969), Gutter Trash (1969), The Ghastly Ones (1968), Seeds of Sin (1968), Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973), The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! (1973), and Guru, the Mad Monk (1970). Most of Milligan's early works are currently considered lost films.

In 1966, Milligan set up his residence in a Victorian-era mansion located on northern Staten Island in the St. George neighborhood, within walking distance of the Staten Island Ferry. The house soon became what he dubbed "Hollywood central," where he filmed several of his movies. Milligan was a one-man army—he wrote, directed, built sets and sewed costumes for nearly all of his films. His usual "stock company" was often supplemented by Staten Island locals who were dragged into performing.

Milligan's first movies were shot with a single hand-held 16-millimeter Auricon sound-on-film news camera. This technique was inspired by Andy Warhol and allowed Milligan to move the camera around at will, at times punctuating violent scenes with his "swirl camera" technique through which he would spin the camera and point it to the ground. Often working with budgets under $10,000, his movies feature very tight framing that helped cover up his very low budgets, particularly in the case of the period pieces that were most of his horror movies. His ability to make movies with such low budgets is why Mishkin often hired him and Mishkin's influence on the 42nd Street grindhouse circuit meant that Milligan's pictures played there often.

In 1968, Milligan began to make horror movies featuring gore effects with The Ghastly Ones, his first color film which was produced by JER and titled by Sam Sherman. In 1969, he made his next horror movie, Torture Dungeon, after which he moved to London to make movies there after having made a deal with producer Leslie Elliot. After directing Nightbirds in London, his partnership with Elliot collapsed as he was working on The Body Beneath. Milligan then teamed up again with William Mishkin again where Mishkin produced and Milligan directed three more British pictures which were Bloodthirsty Butchers, The Man With Two Heads, and The Rats Are Coming. The Werewolves Are Here (all shot in 1969) before Milligan's return to Staten Island in 1970.

On his return to New York, Milligan directed another medieval period piece titled Guru the Mad Monk, shot for the first time with a 35mm Arriflex camera and filmed entirely inside a Chelsea, Manhattan church. This movie was released on a double feature with The Body Beneath. Through the next years, Mishkin released Milligan's British-made pictures, some with additional scenes shot in New York. The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! was one of Mishkin's films in which he had Milligan insert new killer rat scenes shot in New York, mostly at his new Staten Island house on Corson Street where Milligan lived during that time and filmed another horror period piece there in 1973 which was titled Blood.

After directing the 1972 sexploitation drama Fleshpot on 42nd Street, Milligan's output was restricted mostly to gory horror movies as he moved to the southern tip of Staten Island in the Tottenville neighborhood where he lived in and owned and operated a dilapidated hotel located at the end of Main Street right next to the southern end of Staten Island Railway (now an Italian themed restaurant). In October 1977, Milligan moved into 335 West 39th Street in Manhattan (a four-story building purchased for $50,000 by Milligan and stockholders), where he founded and ran the Troupe Theatre, a seedy but fun Off-Off Broadway venue above which he lived in a third-floor loft until he left New York City for good in early 1985. He moved to Los Angeles, California, where he shot three more horror movies in 1987 and 1988, which included Monstrosity, The Weirdo, and Surgikill as well as operated another theater, which was called Troupe West, which ran until early 1990.

In his non-fiction book about the horror genre, Danse Macabre, Stephen King gives a short assessment of one of Milligan's films: "The Ghastly Ones is the work of morons with cameras." Milligan developed a reputation as a maker of truly awful horror movies, featuring Herschell Gordon Lewis-type gore effects, both of which combined to give him a reputation as one of the worst directors of all time. The re-discovery of Fleshpot on 42nd Street—generally regarded to be his best work—in the 1990s by the Seattle-based video company Something Weird Video and the release of his biography in 2001 has made more widely known his theatrical background and the context to his work. Despite his modern-day recognition, most of Milligan's exploitation movies during the 1960s remain unseen, as all of prints were lost over time and remain so to this day.

Personal life[edit]

Apart from his unhappy childhood and adolescence, Milligan had a very troubled personal life that he often avoided talking about. In 1968 he married Candy Hammond, a North Carolina stage actress and former "erotic dancer" who starred in a few of his films. The wedding service took place on February 24, 1968, at his Staten Island house located on 7 Phelps Place, which was still decorated for a movie shoot and attended by most of the crew people working on the film as well as his father and Japanese stepmother. Almost no one took the wedding seriously because Milligan was unabashedly homosexual and an avowed misogynist. That night he was said to have cruised gay bars in New York City to celebrate. Candy divorced him the following year, apparently due to neglect as he was more focused on his filmmaking career, and she returned to her North Carolina hometown.

Milligan had a reputation throughout his life of being extremely demanding and bad-tempered, often provoking fights or arguments with actors, film producers and financiers as well as strangers he would meet on the street. He would be abusive and frequently shout and yell at actors working on his films or plays for not getting the work done fast enough and even physically assault actors and actresses often by slapping them across their faces and laughing if the women he slapped would break down and cry. A non-smoker and non-drinker, Milligan was said to throw fits and tantrums in public and private if people around him smoke, drank, or used drugs. Milligan also never had a drivers license and relied on public transportation wherever he lived.

Milligan was heavily into S&M and had very few serious relationships (all with men). The few friends he did have were just as disturbed and emotionally troubled as he was. One such friend was a Vietnam veteran and ex-convict named Dennis Malvasi, who once drifted into and acted in Milligan's Troupe Theater in the late 1970s and also worked for Milligan as a crewperson, transportation driver, and even acted in one of Milligan's horror films, Carnage in 1983. Malvasi was a former U.S. Marine and demolitions expert whom was suspected for numerous abortion clinic bombings in New York state during the 1980s. After the Troupe Theater closed in 1985, Malvasi was the person who drove Milligan on a cross-country, four-day road trip during Milligan's move to Los Angeles. Later in 1987, Malvasi was arrested, convicted, and served five years in a federal prison for the attempted bombing of another abortion clinic in New York City. In March 2001, Malvasi again made news headlines when he and his wife were arrested for aiding the flight of fugitive James Kopp, the suspected murderer of a New York abortion doctor. After agreeing to a plea deal, Malvasi and his wife served 20 months in prison and both were released in 2003.

Another one of Milligan's few close friends was character actor John Miranda, who starred as Sweeny Todd in Milligan's 1970 film Bloodthirsty Butchers. Miranda later financially supported Milligan after his move to Los Angeles and assisted with any medical expenses during Milligan's final years.

One of Milligan's lovers was "human toothpick" B. "Bobby" Wayne Keeton (so-named for his gaunt physical build), who was a good-natured Louisiana-born hustler who worked as a slate man and even appeared in a small part in Monstrosity, one of Milligan's last movies, which he filmed in Los Angeles in late 1987. Keeton died from AIDS on June 20, 1989.

Death[edit]

In poor health from late 1989, Andy Milligan died of AIDS in the early morning hours of June 3, 1991, at the Queen of Angeles Medical Center in Los Angeles at age 62. He was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Los Angeles, since he was broke at the time of his death and no one who knew him could afford a burial stone or even to have his body cremated.

Filmography[edit]

Actor[edit]

Director and writer[edit]

  • Vapors (1965)
  • The Naked Witch (also known as The Naked Temptress) (1967, lost)
  • The Gay Life (1967, documentary; credited as Gerald Jackson)*
  • Compass Rose (1967, unfinished, unreleased, lost)
  • The Degenerates (also known as Sex For Kicks; working title) (1967, lost)
  • The Promiscuous Sex (also known as Liz; working title) (1967, lost)
  • Depraved! (also known as Sin Sisters 2000 AD; working title) (1967, lost)
  • Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me! (1968, lost)
  • The Ghastly Ones (also known as Blood Rites) (1968) (first color film)
  • Tricks of the Trade (1968, lost)
  • The Filthy Five (1968, lost)
  • Seeds (also known as Seeds of Sin) (1968)**
  • Gutter Trash (1968, lost)
  • The Bitch (also known as The Mongrel) (1968, unfinished, lost)
  • The Weirdo (original version) (1969, unreleased, lost)
  • Torture Dungeon (1969)
  • Nightbirds (1969, barely released, but a print exists; to be released on DVD as part of the BFI Flipside series in May 2012) (last black-and-white film)
  • Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970)
  • The Body Beneath (1970)
  • Guru, the Mad Monk (1970)
  • Dragula (1971, lost)
  • The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972) (also known as Curse of the Full Moon; working title)
  • The Man with Two Heads (1972)
  • Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1972)
  • Supercool (1973, unfinished, unreleased, lost)
  • Blood (1974)
  • Legacy of Blood (also known as Legacy of Horror) (1978) (remake of The Ghastly Ones)
  • House of Seven Belles (1979, unfinished, lost)
  • Carnage (1983)
  • Adventures of Red Rooster (1984) (Unreleased TV Sitcom; six half-hour episodes)
  • Monstrosity (1987)
  • The Weirdo (1988)
  • Surgikill (1988) (also known as Screwball Hospital Central)

*Director only
**First and last reels of the work print and hacked-up Seeds of Sin version)

References[edit]

  • Jimmy McDonough, The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan (Chicago Review Press, 2003), ISBN 1-55652-495-1.
  • Rob Craig, Gutter Auteur: The Films of Andy Milligan (McFarland, 2013), ISBN 0786465972.
  • Mallory Curley, Tales of Off Off Broadway (Randy Press, 2013).
  • Tim Lucas, Andy Milligan: Horror's Unwanted Weirdo; Video Watchdog: The Perfectionist's Guide to Fantastic Video. Volume issues 52, 53, and 54. (1999)

External links[edit]