Another weird thing about The Ghastly Ones that attempts (weakly) to set it aside from other exploitation flicks of its ilk is the fact that this one is a "period piece" set somewhere in the late Victorian age (though most of the characters are said to be from New York). To show you just how well-done this is, I had very little clue that this was intended to be a period piece until at least 20 minutes into the damned thing. Part of this, however, may be related to the fact that "setting" is often denoted by "costuming" and our three lead actresses are introduced either naked or nearly-naked. And "Birthday Costumes" aren't that good for determining era. Throughout most of the rest of the movie they're either wearing skimpy lingerie or outfits that would be considered racy today, and would certainly have been taboo under Queen Victoria. Not that I'm complaining... about that part.
The rest of it... well, even considering that this was a low-budget exploitation flick that does its best with what its got, The Ghastly Ones is still a really bad movie. The violence is lame, the sex is gratuitous and the story is obvious in most ways.
You ever see one of those movies where the "Boom Mic" is visible, usually right above the actors' heads? Well, in The Ghastly Ones, the Boom Mic actually pops up from the bottom of the screen and bounces like one of those lyric indicators in a sing-along. It almost hit one of the actresses in the crotch. That's a microcosm of this movie on the whole.
After a scene-setting murder of a picnicking couple in front of a lavish mansion, we're introduced to our three Protagonist sisters in various stages of undress. First there's the eldest, redheaded Victoria (Anne Linden from Depraved!, Two Girls for a Madman and The Filthy Five, all of which I'm sure you've seen); then you've got Veronica (Eileen Hayes, who recently broke her 38 year career dry spell with two episodes of Channel 5 Television's The Wright Stuff in 2006 and 2007) and Elizabeth (Carol Vogel also of Depraved! as well as Automan, CHiPS and Bonanza in which she wasn't naked).
Soon the trio is summoned to the office of famed Lawyer Dobbs (Neil Flanagan) who tells them that in order to inherit the wealth of their departed absentee father they must spend the weekend in that same creepy mansion on death island (and I quote) "in sexual harmony" with their husbands.
Seeing as how we're introduced to each lady either before, during or after such "harmony", I don't think that's going to be a problem. Vicky's Richard (Fib La Blaque), Ronnie's William (Don Williams) and Liz' Donald (Richard Romanus) all look remarkably unperturbed by the idea.
It's once they arrive that the proverbial excrement is introduced to the electric oscillator. The three servants/ caretakers of the place are there waiting for them and they're so weird they make the Addams Family look like Ozzie and Harriet! First you've got Colin Trask (Hal Borske also of The Filthy Five and The Naked Witch), a violent and mentally disabled man-child, his older sister Hattie (Maggie Rogers also of The Filthy Five and The Naked Witch), who looks like a blended and regurgitated Liza Minnelli and the eldest and most normal of the three weirdoes Martha (Veronica Radburn, who went on to play "Annie's Psychiatrist" in Annie Hall).
Soon bunny rabbits are dying, followed by people, often in their post-coital bliss. Humorously (or depressingly) enough, none of the actors show the emotional range needed to express any sadness or remorse over the deaths, nor is the script (by Hal Sherwood and Andy Milligan, who also directed) well-written enough to evoke such emotion. It almost seems that the mourning characters are feeling down about the fact that someone in their ranks had to stay home from work with a mild temperature, rather than having been gutted with a sickle in the woodshed.
Even the really intense moments give way to unintentional comedy. In a "dramatic" scene in which Veronica and Bill are arguing, actor Don Williams unceremoniously reaches forth and cups Eileen Hayes' breast while attempting to talk sense into her... and leaves it there. I guess he was hoping Milligan wouldn't yell "CUT!", which he, of course, didn't. That's just one example of the ridiculousness of this movie. The special effects lack specialty or effect and the acting is completely melodramatic and evocative of scenes from The Brady Bunch Season One that ended up on the cutting room floor... but, you know, without the Timeless Fashion Sense that show demonstrated.
The Ghastly Ones (or, as it was known, and banned, in England: Blood Rites) doesn't have that familiar feel of an "unfinished film". It's too inept to make that grandiose statement. Instead this scab-of-unhealed-canker-sore feels like a movie that was so uncaringly fabricated that every spliced frame of this thing feels like a bad joke. It's almost as if some folks with some loose story all got together with a camera on and did some crap and the resulting footage was put together in some vague order by a guy who had somewhere better to be. By the way, although the editing is credited to "Gerald Jackson", that's smilin' Andy Milligan again. As to the revealing "Victorian" costuming credited to a "Raffine"... that was Andy too.
Andy, Andy, Andy.
How ironic that the only scenes worth watching are Costume Free!
Speaking of Irony, do you notice any symmetry in the list of Credited Cast and Characters? How interesting that Veronica wasn't played by Veronica, Richard wasn't played by Richard, Don wasn't played by Don... but... Ada was played by Ada McAllister. Don't quote me on any of that, though, seeing as how the credits were so filled with typographical errors that a third of the cast had their name spelled wrong. I wonder if "Fib" was really "Fib" even. Folks... they just didn't care at all!
And that's only one of the many reasons that The Ghastly Ones gets a Ghastly DOG! Some of you (okay, probably a whole butt load of you) out there are thinking you might watch this just for the nudity, which, I admit, is pretty nice for the time it's on. If you're thinking you might want to watch this anyway, I invite you to undergo the following experiment: First, peel a Lemon, preferably one of those really small ones that are extra sour. Stuff the whole thing in your mouth, but try hard not to bite down or gag. Then stand in front of a mirror and have someone tickle you in that harsh way that does evoke the involuntary laughter, but also hurts, possibly due to the depth at which their nails have pressed into your flesh. Then bite down on the extra-sour lemon and watch your face twist up in the mirror. Then have someone show you the centerfold of Miss April 2004, which you can barely see through your tear-welling scrunched-up eyes. Sound worth it? Then you've got an idea of what it's like to watch The Ghastly Ones. Go and do likewise. Me... I'm kind of liking that Miss April '04 idea. Goodnight and good luck!
74 Nasties and what do you get?
A lot more cynnical and maybe a tad more in debt!
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