Thursday, February 06, 2020

The Adventures of Red Rooster (1984)

Sometimes you stumble across something that completely upends your view of someone or something.  For me, the name Andy Milligan meant only a director of some incredibly obscure, incredibly cheaply made horror films from the late sixties and seventies.  Generally dismissed as being irredeemably bad, the most notable thing about them seemed to be that Milligan shot them with an absolutely minimal crew, taking on everything himself, including designing and making the costumes, and the fact that the usually Staten Island based director actually came to the UK in the late sixties to shoot several of them on location in 'the graveyards of England'.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that he had also directed a sitcom (which was never aired) in the nineteen eighties.  Now, I say a sitcom, but the five episodes of The Adventures of Red Rooster shot seem to actually be an adaptation of the play of the same name by Don Tobey, (who also produced the episodes).  Whether they were originally shot with the intention of being released as a feature film, (Milligan apparently shot it all on 35mm film before transferring it to 3/4 inch video tape), but couldn't sell it, so re-edited it into TV sitcom format, I don't know.  In fact, little is known about the project.

What is known is that Milligan edited together a twenty minute 'highlights reel' of the episodes (seen above), which was hawked around TV stations as a pilot of sort.  Presumably, the intention was to use the already existing footage as the first five episodes of the series, then shoot new material to fill out the series.  In the event, however, there were no takers, so it never aired.  Which, perhaps, isn't surprising: it just doesn't come over as a typical sitcom.  Instead, it comes over as what it actually is - a filmed stage play, (it was even shot in Milligan's New York theatre).  The lack of audience doesn't help as I'm guessing that the original stage production relied on a degree of audience reaction to carry it along.  But it is fascinating, nonetheless.  The cast performances are actually not bad (in a stagey sort of way) and you can see where the script might be amusing when performed in front of a live audience.  Unfortunately, though, the cheap sets and lack of audience rob the production of any atmosphere.

As I said at the beginning, on the face of it, this seems an odd departure for a schlock explotation director like Milligan, (who, in addition to the horror flicks, lso turned out porno movies for the grindhouse circuit).  But Milligan also had a lesser known parallel career in experimental theatre, writing and producing plays.  Indeed, he eventually owned and ran the 'Troupe Theatre, the off, off Broadway venue where Red Rooster was filmed.  So, the idea of him filming an off, off Broadway play suddenly makes more sense.  Nevertheless, it is still somewhat startling to find a sitcom of sorts listed in Milligan's filmography.  Incidentally, if you are wondering what Adventures of Red Rooster is about, it follows the working lives of the employees of 'Red Rooster', a tiny New York company making and distributing a pill for erectile dysfunction.  Which alone meant that it was always unlikely to be picked up by any TV network in eighties America.  But can you imagine the pitch: "It's a crazy sitcom about the whacky folks who sell a pill to make men's cocks stiff.  Oh, and it is directed by a gay guy notorious for knocking out sex and gore films in the sixties..."

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