Color, 1987, 91 mins. 4 secs.
Directed by Andy Milligan
Hal Borske, Carrie Anita, Michael Lunsford, Joe Balogh, David Homb, Carol Zarlengo Garagehouse Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Video Kart (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
Once among the most despised horror directors around thanks to his abundance of vinegar-flavored dialogue and cheap aesthetic sense, Andy Milligan has amassed a significant cult following in the past couple of decades thanks to his gory, eccentric passion projects made in Staten Island and (briefly) England. What's lesser known is that he spent the twilight of his directorial career in Los Angeles, where he passed away in 1991 after cranking out a trio of films in the area. The first of his L.A. productions, Monstrosity, is also (relatively speaking) the most widely seen over the years, offering a peculiar, bloody, and very '80s take on the Frankenstein and Golem concepts with a goofy comedic twist. The film also marked Milligan's return to the Mishkin family, William and son Lew (the latter a producer here), who had shepherded some of Milligan's more notorious efforts to audiences in the 1970s.
A gang of no-good thugs is on the loose in Hollywood preying on anyone in sight, right down to an old man who gets stabbed in the throat just for being in the wrong place. When a young girl falls afoul of their blood lust and ends up in the hospital, they even track her down to finish the job in the most brutal manner possible. Her distraught boyfriend, Mark (Homb), decides to round up med school cohorts Scott (Lunsford) and Carlos (Balogh) to stitch together an avenging monster with whatever material are available (including a simian arm). The fright-wigged result, Frankie (Milligan repertory player Borske), isn't quite the obedient killing machine they wanted (even with the influence of movie action stars), especially when a potential romance is sparked with goofball junkie Jamie (Anita). And you'll never guess how it all ends.
Milligan's decades-long affinity for the theater is very much in evidence here as the film has a stagy, artificial quality and a heavy streak of absurdist humor. The bulk of it is composed in master shots with lighting that emphasizes the theatrical feel as well, with a strangely catchy synth score adding to the, ahem, fun. It's a little odd to see Milligan indulging in comedy that's more broad than his usual pitch-black, misanthropic sense of humor, but that's balanced out with heavy splashes of gore including leering shots of bloody viscera. Definitely not for all tastes (and probably not the ideal place to start if you're new to Milligan), but it's a singular and fascinating entry from a genre director whose scrappy body of work seems to become more vital every year.
Monstrosity made its DVD debut in 2003 from Video Kart (who also issued it on VHS back in the day) as a mind-melting double feature with Graverobbers, both taken from pretty dreary old tape masters. The 2018 Garagehouse Pictures release on Blu-ray is obviously a significant upgrade, probably looking as good as this film possibly could. Like his other two L.A. films, this one was designed to satisfy the home video market demand for horror product given that films like this didn't stand a chance at getting a significant theatrical release in the late '80s. That means this is the first chance virtually anyone has had to see this film in good quality, with all of its deep blacks and stylized colors giving it a gaudy, almost comic strip feel at times. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 is certainly good enough for a film that doesn't exactly show off a ton of sonic dynamic range.
A very in-depth audio commentary with Jimmy McDonough (author of The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan, seriously one of the best books ever written about a director) and assistant editor/production coordinator Charlie Beesley is loaded with Milligan memories including anecdotes about anyone in front of or behind the camera, thoughts on the film as an intersection of sorts in Milligan's career once he switched to L.A., the deceptively small garage used for the lab, the connection to The Golden Girls, the ongoing fights between Milligan and the Mishkins, a goofy digression about Rose Marie, and far more. Great stuff. A second track with filmmaker Andrew Repasky McElhinney, Greg Giovanni and Dan Buskirk focuses more on the late '80s home video explosion, the perverse elements of the story and characters, the white roses thing, the theatrical tendencies in Milligan's writing, and clown car gut pulling. "Matsui’s Monstrosities: An Interview with a Make-Up Man, Part 1" (15m28s), which continues with Garagehouse's release of The Weirdo, covers his career beginnings as a fan of monster movies and Halloween which led to assignments like this complete with compressed air bullet blood, rubber innards, and other "Roger Corman-type" tests of his abilities. A 6-minute reel showcases some scenes released with an alternate soundtrack and other little variations
McDonough pops up again to give a fun, "freestyle" partial commentary for a massive reel (104m35s) of outtakes from the film, including a lengthy, fascinating account of how his book came about and ruffled some feathers when he first started working on it. It's a rollicking and wild track running just under an hour that any Milligan follower will definitely enjoy. (His occasional wrangling with his cat Buster provides some great entertainment value, too.) The reel can also be played with bonus commentary by McElhinney and company who essentially riff on the random insanity playing in front of them. A Milligan trailer reel kicks off with one for this film, followed by The Body Beneath and Guru the Mad Monk, The Man with Two Heads, and The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! Also included are bonus trailers for Ninja Busters, The Intruder, The Dismembered, The Satanist, Trailer Trauma, and Trailer Trauma 2. The disc comes with a striking cover design by regular Garagehouse ace Stephen Romano and appreciative liner notes by Jason Coffman, while the limited first pressing also comes with a slip sleeve designed by Justin Miller.