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Nightbirds (BFI Flipside) (DVD + Blu-ray) 
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BFI Flipside presents
NIGHTBIRDS (DVD + Blu-ray)
A Film by Andy Milligan
THE FLIPSIDE: rescuing weird and wonderful British films from obscurity and presenting them in new high-quality editions.
While living rough on the streets of London's East End, a young man, Dink (Berwick Kaler, Coronation Street), encounters the mysterious Dee (Julie Shaw, The Big Switch) and they begin a relationship. When tenderness gives way to cruelty they become consumed by darkness.
Previously thought lost, this extraordinary film has been remastered to HD from the only surviving film materials, and is presented here with Milligan's British horror feature, The Body Beneath.
- Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
- Audio commentary with Berwick Kaler (2011): the stalwart of British stage and screen in conversation with film expert Stephen Thrower
- The Body Beneath (Andy Milligan, 1970, 82 mins): ghoulish horror in which a young woman comes to visit her distant relative, the Reverend Algernon Ford, only to discover that he is a vampire
- Optional dialogue-only tracks for Nightbirds and The Body Beneath
- Original trailers for Nightbirds and The Body Beneath
- Extensive booklet with contributions from filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough, and cult cinema authorities Stephen Thrower and Tim Lucas
UK | 1970 | black and white | English language, with optional English hard-of-hearing subtitles | 78 minutes | Original aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Disc 1: BD50 | 1080p | 24fps | PCM mono audio (48k/16-bit)
Disc 2: DVD9 | PAL | Dolby Digital mono audio (320kbps)
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I'm glad I did.
Despite the obvious limitations (budget, or lack of, being the main one), the director and the two fine leads provide what has turned out to be one of the darkest, downbeat, nasty, yet thoroughly compelling films I have ever seen.
'Nightbirds' resides in the strangest of netherworlds, a weird place somewhere between 'art house' and 'trash' , sailing so far from the mainstream it's lost all hope of spotting land ever again. Yet at its core its simplicity and honesty makes it potentially accessible to all.
The directors world view is there for all to see, and is what ultimately means that very few people will see this film. A grim depiction of the world (in this case the East End of London, post Jack the Ripper, pre- City overspill gentrification) the squalor, the psychological torture, the bitterness, the contempt, the bullying, the (at times) outright evil that eminates out of this simple tale, all add to a whole that can make for a harrowing watch.
It's a world view that is not pretty, but I thank him for making it, and the BFI for releasing it to the world. This will not be to everyone's taste, but I personally found it refreshing to see a work by someone who actually had 'something to say', even if that something reeks of contempt and anger.
It apparently stands apart from his other work, and personally, after watching only 20 minutes of the accompanying 'The Body Beneath' before growing bored, I'm happy to go along with that. I'm loathe to try and seek out other films by Milligan, for two reasons, the first being that even the staunchest Milligan followers happily admit that they're not up to much.
But mostly because they might spoil my opinion of this great, bitter, hateful yet valid, truthful and genuine little film. Nightbirds doesn't try to cheat its audience, doesn't hide behind clever tricks or turns or complex characterisation. It's honest, direct, in your face, unflinching.
Quite rare attributes in today's climate, but Nightbirds had it all in abundance when made over 40 years ago and I'll always thank Andy Milligan, Berwick Kaler, and Julie Shaw for that.
The other feature is The Body Beneath, much more Milligan-esque in execution, although well acted at times. This nonsense tale about vampires in 'the graveyards of London' is best watched with a bellyful of wine, as is a definite midnight movie experience! Moments of bizarre gore and the last 15 mins seeming to have been lifted from The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda make this a real...experience! Do note the picture quality is much worse, but for me that simply adds to the charm.
Hopefully BFI will release the other three UK based Milligan films to delight us with, they really deserve a high-def makeover.
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Nightbirds is from his British phase. Milligan basically moved out of the off Broadway theater movement he helped create into film where he started out with a bang with Vapors but discovered that money was better. It meant cranking out sex and violence films for theaters where everything was sticky. He eventually got tired of the producers there and headed out to England where he was to work for the "film clubs" that were really places where a man could watch porno without getting thrown in jail, which the British claim to be so progressive but in reality they got a prudish side. The main attraction for Milligan is that he could make whatever he felt like instead of just another horror movie as long as a woman got naked. He doesn't make a horror film but it's definitely somewhere in the thriller mold.
Going to England seems to have gotten Andy interested in hitting the local flavor and I don't just mean his inveterate cruising. Harold Pinter ended up being the flavor he was looking for. Cryptic and creepy statements, possible ill intent, and everyone hating each other are exactly the sort of Pinterisms that Milligan would gravitate towards. He latches on and doesn't let go for the 75 minute run time. It's the best Pinter adaptation ever mostly cause Pinter wasn't involved. It also takes a form close to the play/film Sleuth. It's a 2 hander and it increases the claustrophobia and sense everything is about to go wrong. Andy even manages to get in the sex and violence to satisfy his producers.
One last bit of interest is Julie Shaw. IMDB list 4 films for her. Seems she got out quick. It's a shame cause she's got an interesting screen presence and plays her part well, which by all accounts was an impersonation of Andy himself. Despite only making 4 films, 2 of them are this and Peter Walker's The Big Switch. It's not a bad resume and she worked with 2 of the greatest b-film artists of that time, which seriously both those guys were artists.
The DVD is a steal too. It even comes with an extra Milligan movie with the Body Beneath and while it's not as good as Nightbirds it certainly has it charms. It's definitely got his hilarious costuming that is oddly affecting in a highschool play sort of way. If anything, you'll learn vampires hate America. You also get some fun essays from Nicolas Winding Refn, who between this and Pete Walker's Man of Violence DVD has done more to preserve low art cinema than anyone else, and even some people that actually knew Andy. It's a lot of material and all of it is presented well. If you're a trashy movie lover or interested in guys cranking out art as best they can on the fringes, it's a hard DVD combo pack to pass up.
For those wondering, YES this WILL play on a Playstation 3. I had no problem with that. No surprise, Sony don't make junk.