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  Guru the Mad Monk Religious Disorder
Year: 1970
Director: Andy Milligan
Stars: Neil Flanagan, Jaqueline Webb, Judith Israel, Jack Spencer, Frank Echols, Gerald Jacuzzo, Paul Lieber, Julia Wills, Ron Keith, Myschka, Irving Metzman, Jeffrey Isaacs, Roy Gordon, Stanley Herbert, Billy Hoffman, Tom Mullaney, Joe Pichette, Joan Durant
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Carl (Paul Lieber) is a serf on this island where prisoners are transported to be tortured or executed, but he is in for even more of a shock than he usually is in this line of work, for when he arrives in the dungeon of the church where the brutality takes place, he claps eyes on an old girlfriend. She is Nadja (Judith Israel) who has been sentenced for killing and burying her newborn baby: she says she was simply trying to give the stillborn mite a decent burial, but the authorities disagreed on the spoken evidence of one old lady witness. Carl believes her and wants to find a way out for the girl, but that will be tricky when the entire island is ruled over by the sadistic, insane monk Guru (Neil Flanagan) who relishes his position as a dealer in death - can he be persuaded to set her free?

Guru the Mad Monk was one of a rash of films writer and director (among other duties) Andy Milligan made around the cusp of the nineteen-sixties into the seventies, his output as numerous as it was shoddy. Believe it or not, this was one of his more accomplished efforts, possibly because it did not hang around much longer than an hour, so there was little padding, it simply got in, did what it had to do and got out again. But that is not to say there is no padding, and the larger portions of the action were Milligan's cast standing about talking his wordy dialogue, if they fluffed their lines, not to worry, he would not only keep the camera rolling, but would include the muffed take in the final product into the bargain, allowing audiences to see what amateurs he had recruited.

Quite why he would wish to highlight the poor standards of his work is something of a mystery - it could be that he just did not care about standards - but these shot in a couple of corners (corners of a church in this instance) flicks were not crafted to impress anyone of their artiness, they were present to make a small profit and provide a cheap thrill to anyone sitting in a grindhouse or drive-in patiently waiting (or sleeping) for a proper movie to be shown. In the days before digital cameras has democratised filmmaking, if not talent, there were auteurs dabbling in low rent projects purely to feed the appetite for schlock, not out of love but because there was money in it. Milligan on a substantial budget is an interesting prospect, but it never happened, and exclusively he was dumped in the most impoverished sex and horror items of his own manufacture.

The plot here was both too complicated to do justice in within this short space of time, and not really worth doing that anyway. But Milligan's trademarks were there nonetheless, the bleak view of human nature translated into a need to punish his characters, moral and immoral, indiscriminately, a god with no tolerance for the weaknesses of humanity, simply the relish that he could make people his playthings, not unlike Guru does here. The special effects were frankly pathetic, with shop dummy hands pressed into service when such appendages needed to be cut off or have nails hammered through them, gimmicks so obviously fake that they became a statement of the artificiality of the entire enterprise. Carl manages to free Nadja, but at what cost, as she is imprisoned in an upper room while awaiting Guru (who talks to himself in the mirror) and his promise to let her go. Meanwhile a vampire shows up, as does a one-eyed hunchback actually called Igor. The real mystery was: did Milligan care about any of this? Was he merely a hack, or a wounded artist in reduced circumstances? Many find his work too boring to contemplate, but it contained a curious, droning allure.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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