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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
Nightbirds (BFI Flipside) (DVD + Blu-ray) [1970]
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£19.92+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 9 July 2014
I'm not an Andy Milligan 'fan' but I do like the BFI Flipside releases and this one caught my attention. I bit the bullet and proceeded to checkout, despite the directors reputation as a 'bad' filmmaker.

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.
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on 10 June 2012
I still can't quite believe I am reviewing a blu-ray of someone who is universally condemned as 'the worst film-maker of all time'. Hopefully this release goes some way to correcting that opinion, as first up we have Nightbirds, a film that has remained locked away unseen for years, and thanks to the generosity of Nicholas Winding Refn we finally get to see it. Well if your only experience of Milligan is The Ghastly Ones/Blood Rites (from the video nasty list) then prepare for a surprise, as we get a well acted, well shot little drama, focusing on the destructive relationship of two young 'alives' in swinging London. This would be great as a double-bill with Duffer Duffer / Moon Over the Alley [Blu-ray + DVD and feels tonally similar. It comes with the first Flipside commentary, with the wonderful Stephen Thrower interviewing Berwick Kaler, and although its not the most information-packed extra, it is great to listen to at least once.
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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on 7 November 2014
If you are interested in renting or buying this film, please be aware - it really is a student film in terms of quality. An awful performance from lead 'actor' Berwick Kaler, truly awful, but he's not helped by the script in an way, but let's not blame the writer here. A more winning and committed performance from Julie Shaw, who is nevertheless too posh to actually talk properly. It is sexually frank, commendably, but the combination of woeful sound (always the sign of the student film - rarely on a film course does anyone specialise in sound), terrible writing and a lack of any visual sense from director Andy Milligan pose real problems. I'm very pleased BFI are releasing films through their Flipside imprint and exposing people to films like Herostratus, Deep End, Privilege et al, and also understand how brave this must have seemed (if anyone actually saw it) while Britain was breaking away from the black and white monoculture of the past during the late 60s. But it's the kind of film you expect to see in a retrospective, an early experiment, poorly executed, rather than an interesting release in its own right. Why are they both such imbeciles - beyond any kind of stupidity you'll ever encounter, even for apparently countercultural characters in 60s/70s cinema? The only scene of any real worth features a couple of girls buying clothes in a shop, totally unrelated to the wider narrative. Sorry BFI, but this one could have been left in the vault...
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on 11 December 2015
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