Thursday, 7 March 2013


Danish film director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for the Pusher Trilogy (1996 – 2004) and the award winning American crime drama Drive (2011), is said to be a great fan of the obscure New York underground film maker Andy Milligan and it was Winding Refn who was instrumental in getting the BFI to release one of Milligan’s little seen body of work as part of the BFI Flipside series. As well as director, Milligan was a screenwriter, cinematographer; actor, film editor and producer, pretty much a ‘jack of all cinematic trades’. His oeuvre includes 27 films made between 1965 and his death from aids in 1990, mostly exploitation and horror/gore movies; he gained a reputation for being the worst filmmaker of all time, a sort of bohemian Ed Woods.   

It was in fact Winding Refn who discovered a 16mm print of one of Milligan’s many ‘lost films’ on eBay.  Nightbirds (1970) is one of the three or four films he actually made in the UK. Shot in the Spitalfields area of East London in 1968 it relates the story of Dink (Berwick Kaler) who is living rough on the streets of London’s East End. After a particularly bad night he is spotted vomiting by the beautiful but bizarre Dee (Julie Shaw). She immediately invites him to join her in her top floor room of a partly derelict house seemingly owed by an Irishman known as Ginger (Bill Clancy). Dee and Dink develop a curious sexual relationship, with Dee developing a raging jealousy should Dink as much as talk to another women but appears herself to be having an illicit relationship with her landlord. 

Dee rescues Dink from the streets or does she?

It’s publicity seemed to intimate that your are about to see an erotic movie, but believe me your not. Just to paraphrase some of the garbage that the trailer comes out with: “Nightbirds is for the turned on generation, a movie of out time, a chronicle of todays permissive youth. For young adults who don’t mind having their faces slapped. All the destructive forces of a female come together in Nightbirds. A study of moral masturbation where everyone’s private demons come alive. Nightbirds is the alternative trip. The world of Nightbirds will blow your mind. A film you will see and must see time and time again. 

They develop a strange sexual relationship!

I can assure you that the trailer bares little or no relation to the finished film, which has in reality a strange grimy feel to it. Its not about 60’s youth in general, it has more to do with a mentally disturbed young women picking up men who are living rough on the streets. I do agree with what Nicolas Winding Refn said about the filmmaker you begin to realise that (his) films were made by someone who was very tormented, and also very intelligent, a sensitive man who used film as an art form to express his views on life.” In fact tormented is a good description of this oddly compelling film.

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