COMPASS ROSE (1967)
NOTE: Andy Milligan's films are infamous for godawful sound, but here, due to additional technical problems that weren’t apparent during filming, it’s particularly challenging. There are sections of inaudible dialogue as well as scenes with no dialogue at all. This film is presented for its historical value.
In 1967, Andy Milligan took a break from his frantic exploitation output to undertake a satire on the Caffe Cino/Warhol scenes he’d experienced a few years earlier (you can learn the incredible Cino story from The Ghastly One excerpts featured on all three chapters of this volume). Based on a script by DeSade Illustrated playwright Josef Bush, Compass Rose was never finished, and Milligan declared the end result as “a piece of shit…too snobbish.” This is the first time the film has been transferred from the original elements (previous bootleg versions were taken from a videotape I shot of the film as it played on a flatbed moviola).
Compass Rose concerns “this lady [played by Annie Linden] who goes to a health clinic in Switzerland and has all her blood transfused for youthful treatments,” explained Hal Borske, who has two roles in the film. “There are a lot of subplots involving Andy Warhol-type people. Compass rose is a compass that floats in a sailing ship. It was originally called Hope’s Rose. During one scene Andy somehow got a bunch of freaky people to come out to Staten Island. He got me dressed up in Aunt Jemimah drag…I play Andy Warhol’s handmaiden. It ends up at the Club Orifice with a pie fight.”
The main attraction here is a rare chance to take a gander at the cramped interior of the Caffe Cino, which is shown about forty-five minutes into the film (marvel over the tiny stage they used for productions). Drag queen Minette does a tribute to Linda Darnell. There are thinly-veiled caricatures of various Off-Off Broadway denizens: Maggie Rogers as Ellen Stewart, the matriarch of La MaMa; Joe Davies as playwright H. M. Koutoukas; and John Borske as playwright Donald Kvares. Other Milligan cohorts present include Matt Baylor, Robert Service (aka Anthony Moscini), Candy Hammond, Gerry Jacuzzo, as well as Cino alumni Dean Selmier and Kenny Burgess. Service and Hammond would be coupled once more right after this in Milligan’s pungent masterpiece Seeds (1968).
Compass Rose is shown here in the only existing element on the film: a poor-quality 16mm reversal duplicate of the original, made by Andy Milligan for reference at some point in the 1960s and then forgotten. Tragically, all traces of the original materials on the film are gone forever. While the image quality survived the copying reasonably well, its optical soundtrack did not. Andy Milligan was never exactly known for the “high fidelity” of his original set recordings in the first place, but the film-to-film duplication renders several scenes of the film’s soundtrack nearly inaudible here. Many hours were spent by Red Channels studio to remaster the track and make it as listenable as possible, but you cannot always make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
– Peter Conheim, Lead Archivist at byNWR