The Body Beneath (1970)

Director: Andy Milligan

The BFI Flipside disc of Nightbirds includes this other piece of comparatively “trad” Milligan—his second British film, Nightbirds having been the first—as a bonus feature; one day I really must invest in a Blu-Ray player so I can watch the damn thing that way. Still, even in standard definition, I’d hesitate to say it looks good, cos I don’t know if that could ever be said of any of Milligan’s films, but it probably looks as good as a film probably shot at the end of 1968 on 16mm colour reversal stock by Andy Milligan could be expected to. I say “probably” because that’s what the DVD booklet says… at which time ye olde gothic mode was still riding fairly high, and so a vampire film would’ve had pretty good commercial potential. If only Andy’s production deal hadn’t collapsed and the film didn’t actually appear until the end of 1970… anyway, the resulting film was far from your traditional vampire movie; a modern-day tale of vampires not terribly troubled by sunlight or other “normal” vampire problems. Indeed, we’re not just dealing with vampires, we’re dealing with a goddamn tribe of them, which has persisted over the centuries but which is in rather literal need of “new blood” to keep going. This blogger finds quite a deal of charm in this frankly peculiar film, rightly noting the centrality of Gavin Reed as the leader of the vampire clan. Reed’s screen career seems to have been oddly limited; only three other films and a handful of TV roles, and none of them seem to have been as big as this one. He seems exactly right for this role somehow, and a lesser performer would likely have cast the film really adrift. I don’t really know what else to say about The Body Beneath, other than that I probably find it more watchable than most people would. Maybe the film makes most sense (?) if you remember Milligan was basically an experimental theatre man who fell into exploitation filmmaking more or less by accident; maybe it’s kind of oddly fascinating because Milligan was himself…

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