Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Andy Milligan has changed my life!

I know this is a bold statement that few would dare utter, but it’s true.  After being introduced to the late filmmaker in 2020, my desire to find a DVD of FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET inspired me to shop on eBay for the very first time.  Then my full-tilt frenzy to see NIGHTBIRDS introduced me to the wonders of region-free DVD players.  Not to be outdone, the drool-worthy DUNGEON OF ANDY MILLIGAN box set dragged me into the dying gasp of the Blu-ray revolution.  Little did I know that all of these obsessive-addictive changes would culminate into a new kind of reading experiment. 

A Twitter friend made me aware of an Andy Milligan biography that was out-of-print and insanely priced.  Seriously, most copies of either the 2001 or the 2020 editions range from $100 to WAY more!  One annoying thing is there is no ebook for my tablet to read to me.  Even more annoying is that a new paperback edition of THE GHASTLY ONE by Jimmy McDonough is scheduled for release this year, but still no ebook or audiobook.  What’s a visually impaired Milligan fanatic to do?  Well, have a mini-meltdown, send a couple of somewhat bitchy tweets to the author and then engage in the dangerous act of thinking, of course. 

In one recent iOS update, my tablet gained the ability to read text in photos.  This is a neat and helpful feature when checking prices at stores or reading greeting cards.  I even tested it on the liner notes of a Compact Disc with mixed results.  The voice was the same one who reads ebooks, tweets and posts to me, but the curve of the paper sometimes caused the automated voice to read parts of sentences out of order.  So, could I really take photos of the pages of a physical book and have my tablet read them to me?  Would I have the patience for such a seemingly tedious task?  Well, the notion of learning more about Andy Milligan proved to be the perfect incentive to give this potentially frustrating process a try. 

Sure, I could’ve just pre-ordered the new paperback edition for 30-odd dollars, but my hubris had other ideas.  After all, I have a knack at finding great deals online, including some of Milligan’s movies, so I decided to poke around for a cheap copy of an older edition.  After striking out with several sites, I looked outside the box and checked Amazon UK.  


There it was!  There was a 2001 paperback of THE GHASTLY ONE by Jimmy McDonough, priced at £14.99, equaling to around $18!  As a resident of the US, I wasn’t sure I could order anything through Amazon UK, but I was sure going to try.  Well, after my initial order was painfully rejected, I made a call and learned I could shop on Amazon UK if my card had approval to make purchases outside of the US.  Thankfully, I was granted temporary approval and immediately ordered my inexpensive literary obsession, with free shipping!

The punchline is that my order arrived in a few days because it shipped from Toledo, Ohio in the US.  I don’t know why the Amazon seller was only offering the book through the UK site, but It didn’t matter.  THE GHASTLY ONE was in shockingly great condition, for being so cheap, and was finally in my eager hands!  I just needed to figure out how to proceed with “reading” this enticing biography.  

THE GHASTLY ONE (the sex-gore netherworld of filmmaker Andy Milligan)” by Jimmy McDonough…

My first idea was to take photos of each page in a chapter and then have my tablet read the entire section to me.  So, I sat on my bed, covered my lap with a cushion and placed THE GHASTLY ONE on the scenic green flatness.  I then gently opened the book and took photos of a bunch of pages and quickly learned two things.  First, this was a bad idea.  If one photo was blurry or didn’t contain all the text on a page, then I would have to figure out which page was messed up and retake photos so they would be in order.  Second, I can’t take photos of book pages while wearing my Mad Scientist Glasses.  The intense magnification makes it incredibly difficult to accurately aim my tablet to capture an entire page of text.  Even though my vision is poor without my MSG, I could perceive, in a blurry, hazy way, my tablet’s screen and the outline of a page enough to take a good photo.

Taking a photo of a page, with the poster for NIGHTBIRDS  on the opposite page

My second idea was a simple one.  I would go page by page, as one does when reading a book.  I took a photo of the first page, slid two fingers down from the top of the screen (which is also how I start an ebook) and listened.  As I continued, I learned a few more things.  First, after taking a photo, I had to slip on my Mad Scientist Glasses to figure out if the photo required editing.  I needed to crop any words from connecting pages because my tablet would try to read the intruding text, causing the automated voice to sound drunk or confused.  Second, if I couldn’t easily fit an entire page onto the screen, I would take a photo of the top half and then a photo of the bottom half.  Third, if I encountered a picture on a page, it was easier to take an individual photo of the picture instead of trying to capture it with the rest of the page’s text.  Fourth, for best  results, I laid the front cover of the book flat on the cushion when taking a photo of the pages on the left and then placed the back cover down for the right pages.  

Taking a photo of a page with the poster for FLESHPOT on 42nd street on the opposite page

Overall, this system of one page at a time (sweet, Andy) worked for me.  Typically, it took me 90 minutes to read 15 pages, but I was finding my flow and improving the process with each flip of a page.  There, right there, was the magic of this reading experiment.  The holding of a book on my lap.  The turning of each page.  The sliding in of a bookmark at the end of a chapter.  These are things I hadn’t done since November of 2016.  Even though I was technically listening to my tablet’s automated voice, the physical interaction with a real book made me feel like I was actually reading again, which was a profoundly remarkable sensation.

As for “THE GHASTLY ONE (the sex-gore netherworld of filmmaker Andy Milligan)” by Jimmy McDonough…

It was everything I wanted to know about Andy Milligan but was afraid to ask, and maybe some things I didn’t want to know.  This extensive and compelling biography covers the complicated man’s childhood in Minnesota to his theatrical beginning at the Caffe Cino in New York City to his 42nd Street grindhouse films to his painfully tragic death in sunny California in 1991.  It is a fascinating emotional roller coaster that I ravenously devoured.  My favorite parts of the book focused on his films.  I was especially intrigued and saddened at learning more about his lost celluloid creations.  They sound so crazy and crazy good that it’s a filmic tragedy they are gone.  Oh, I also enjoyed hearing about the anything goes wonderland that was the Caffe Cino and I was pleasantly surprised to learn Andy Milligan once performed in a puppeteer troupe.  This makes me want to dig out my unfinished puppet-themed story I started writing years before I heard of Milligan. 

In conclusion…

If you are an Andy Milligan fanatic or enjoy reading about obscure film history, then you must experience THE GHASTLY ONE by Jimmy McDonough! 

My mad scientist glasses rest between The Ghastly One and my tablet, which displays a photo of a page from the book, with my fingers in the corner.

As for my reading experiment, it was such a success that I’ve already started reading another paperback.  This time it’s a piece of fiction about going a little mad in Tinseltown.   Plus, I have a third paperback lined up that may be connected to my recent Twitter Film Review Poll.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 


P.S. In case you’re interested in hearing more about my vision, or lack thereof…. 

Vision bent half blind poems, by john L. Harmon


  1. Wow, just wow. Your tenacity making this work is truly inspirational. Sounds like there was a lot of trial and error, but I 'm glad you stuck with it. On a different note, I really need to get this Milligan biography. It would complement my Ed Wood book nicely. Great post, John!

    1. Thank you, Barry!
      I was determined, even though initially it was very frustrating and challenging.

      Oh, you should definitely look in to this book! Plus, now that you mentioned it, the third book that I'm going to read this way is the Ed Wood biography! I am seriously looking forward to it! 🤓

  2. Just wanted to echo that your resourcefulness is inspiring! It sounds like your investment in this new method is going to open up a whole bunch of opportunities. I've read several reviews of Andy Milligan films, and a fairly lengthy biographical article, but have never actually seen one of the films. Maybe it's time! :)

    1. Thank you, brian!
      Guess I can be very determined when I set my sights on something! This new way of reading has opened a door that I thought was forever closed to me.

      As for Andy milligan, he's not for everyone, but I recommend you start with guru The mad Monk! It's short and it contains some of his best elements that are often found and many of his other films.

  3. This is cool! It's always fun finding Holy Grails, isn't it? :-)

    1. It really is, and it's even cooler to find a new way of doing something that you thought you'd never do again 🤓