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  Body Beneath, The Deadly Descendants
Year: 1970
Director: Andy Milligan
Stars: Gavin Reed, Jackie Skarvellis, Berwick Kaler, Susan Heard, Richmond Ross, Emma Jones, Colin Gordon, Judith Heard, Felicity Sentance, Susan Clark, Victor Parish
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: A woman is in London's Highgate Cemetery laying flowers on her mother's grave when she is approached by three green-faced ladies who surround her for malevolent purposes. Meanwhile, her husband has been napping at their home nearby when he is awoken by the sound of the doorbell; on investigation, a reverend calling himself Algernon Ford (Gavin Reed) is standing on the doorstep with the woman he claims is his wife and asks to be invited inside. The man, also called Ford, agrees and listens to the preacher talk, suggesting that he and his wife could join Algernon and his wife for dinner - but where is Mrs Ford?

Andy Milligan is somewhat notorious in the field of exploitation movies, considered by many to be the worst exponent of the style, but by others - not many others, granted - to be a true auteur whose transgressive vision on a tiny budget knocked all sorts of blandly mainstream fare into a cocked hat. It has to be said, the diehard fans were not too numerous and it took a particular sensibility to be willing to sit through Milligan's work, with a good few of them seeking everything he did with a cultist's fanaticism: for most others with passing interest one or two would be worth a look simply to get the measure of him.

Usually Milligan would scrape together his movies in the United States, but he did travel further afield occasionally as with this, The Body Beneath, which was shot in England, containing if nothing else the novelty of watching the director's usual techniques applied to what looked like suburban London for a point of interest. As to the plot, it concerned a group of vampires not all called something exotic like Dracula but all called Ford instead who live in England and are hitting a crisis in that they have inbred so much they are threatened with extinction. Now, you might have thought the answer to that lay in btiing more people, but the actual mechanics of their propagation are more complicated than that.

Though good luck trying to fathom the specifics, but anyway, Algernon is intent on gathering together his clan whether they knew they were part of a clan or not, and he does this by visiting a bunch of Fords in the opening act. This can be confusing, because Milligan, who penned the script, didn't make it too clear what was going on, so you would be introduced to one character called Ford then before you knew it there was another Ford, and another, and so forth. There were at least more traditional vampire movie elements, or horror movie ones at any rate, as Algernon is accompanied by some bloodsucking brides (or hangers-on?) and a hunchback named Spool (Berwick Kaler).

This eventually settles into a battle of wills between Susan Ford (Jackie Skarvellis) and Algernon as she awakens to the possibilities she never dreamed of in ordinary life on discovering she is a vampire, or has the potential to be. Or something. In the meantime you get such scenes as Algy being treated with leeches - he needs a blood tranfusion, though doesn't appear keen to go about that in the common manner of vampires or Spool being crucified, or nailed to a tree anyway, for perceived slights against the Ford line, all of which is distinguished by over the top dialogue of which Reed makes the most of out of all the cast members. As ever with Milligan, this was pretty much a one man show behind the camera, making his vision, if you wanted to call it that, singular and what attracted those intrigued by him and his bleak worldview which translated onto the screen by a bunch of characters being horrible to each other. Very slowly: the pace kills it, making its scant rewards hard won.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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