USA / UK, 1970
Review by Matt Bailey
Posted on 02 October 2004
Source Video Kart DVD
features: October: 31 Days of Horror
What kind of film is as talky and as Manichean as a Victorian melodrama, exhibits a level of technical proficiency marginally more skillful than that of a Doris Wishman film, and makes absolutely no sense? If you said, “An Andy Milligan film,” you are absolutely correct.
Bloodthirsty Butchers is not necessarily Milligan’s best film (though “best” in this context is a difficult concept to define), but it is representative of his strangely compelling anti-aesthetic. A florid narrative built around a kind of riff on the legend of Sweeney Todd, the film tells the story (or tries to tell—I’m not sure how successful it actually is) of a murderous butcher whose wife stuffs her special meat pies with human body parts including, at one point, a whole boob.
What makes the films of Andy Milligan so special is that they appear to be the product of a true compulsion to make movies. Milligan did everything on his films including the costumes and sets, but he did almost none of it very well. One gets the sense, especially after reading Jimmy McDonough’s stunning biography of Milligan, The Ghastly One, that Milligan would have died if he were not making films. As it turns out, AIDS took him in 1991 as one of its many victims, but Milligan filmed up to the end.
Bloodthirsty Butchers falls between Milligan’s early diabolically sadistic sexploitation films of the 1960s and his 1980s cash-in horror films, and it combines elements of both. From his first film to his last, Milligan never gained the slightest modicum of technical skill in filmmaking, but his films are instantly identifiable in their rough and grainy strangeness. In that way, he may have been just as much an American auteurist hero as John Cassavetes.