Tags

, , , , , , ,

“This is a story of those in the twilight time. Once human…now monsters, in a void between the living and the dead. Monsters to be pitied…monsters to be despised – a night with the ghouls!”

The first collaboration between director Stephen C. Apostolof and legendary schlock filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr., Orgy of the Dead is, despite its lurid title, a rather charming and silly feature more typical of Wood than its actual director.

TV “psychic” and Wood regular Criswell (Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls) brings his overwrought, absurdly declamatory delivery to his role as the leader of a cemetery gathering of the undead. Being Wood (and more particularly, Apostolof), this is no Romero/Fulci rotting zombie prelude to mayhem, but an all night strip show! 

Opening on two loincloth-wearing and well oiled manservants lifting the lid of a mausoleum coffin (from which Criswell awakens to greet the audience!), Orgy of the Dead is a nigh-plotless but highly amusing and vibrantly gel-lit affair with the slightest of framing stories.

Pat Barrington (Agony of Love, The Acid Eaters, Girl with the Hungry Eyes) and her doofy dime store writer boyfriend William Bates (whose stilted delivery of Wood’s even more stilted dialogue makes Criswell sound like Dylan Thomas) are on their way to the local cemetery, so he can overcome his writer’s block and get some inspiration for his first horror story. Given that they’re speeding on a mountain road, I’m sure the “surprise” denoument is no shocker to even the most juvenile of audience members…

With Criswell in a cut rate Dracula cape and a pale, white powdered Elvira analogue (Fawn Silver, Terror in the Jungle), we’re ordered to watch “the evening’s entertainment”, a cast of strippers and nightclub dancers including Apostolof repeat offenders Coleen O’Brien (Mondo Freudo, Motel Confidential) and Bunny Glaser (also of Motel Confidential). Barrington and Bates provide an absurdist Greek chorus and “audience identification” as they too are captured and forced to observe the proceedings by a random horny werewolf and mummy serving as both guards and enthusiastically appreciative audience…

Don’t be decieved, this is one long burlesque loop, a technicolor night at the Burly-Q, minus the baggy pants comedians. Honestly, the film could have used Little Jack Little to make it complete…but when the “acting” and dialogue are quite this hilariously awful, the girls are pretty decent looking for 50’s/early 60’s types, and the picture looks quite this good, who’s complaining?

Apostolof, whose credits contain a few entertaining “Confidential” entries (Suburbia and Motel) as well as such enjoyable early sexploiters as Office Love-In, would work with Wood on several features, inclusive of the enjoyable Drop Out Wife, the questionable Lady Godiva Rides and the loveable prison girls on the lam picture Fugitive Girls (aka Five Loose Women, starring redhead cutie Rene Bond), plus several that have not been released to DVD thus far, like The Snow Bunnies.

 

Wood himself needs little introduction, particularly after the slightly suspect Tim Burton homage a decade or two back, but for decades prior had been instantly recognizable to even the most casual of Saturday matinee B-horror and sci fi fans as the man responsible for some of what have been quite absurdly referred to as “the worst films of all time” (I’d reserve that designation for the ongoing yearly list of Oscar winners, myself…does anyone actually enjoy that pretentious crap, or do they just hang on every self-congratulatory word of Tinseltown “insiders”?) – Plan 9, Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, Night of the Ghouls.

More entertaining even than these are his 50’s JD films like The Violent Years, The Sinister Urge and a film for which, like those he’d done with Apostolof, Wood only supplied the screnplay: Jail Bait. A certified eccentric regardless of his chosen area of focus, Wood’s films are easily identifiable by both their recurring casts and sheer inanity…even when he’s only providing the source material and dialogue.

  

Orgy of the Dead is a fun, “adult” romp that feels strangely innocent and unutterably silly, particularly in this day and age…but you just know that in 1965, this was still considered hot stuff.

And that just makes the film all that much funnier.

Extras include a commentary track with Frank Henenlotter (curator of many Something Weird Video features and director of the Basket Case films) and the author of an Ed Wood bio for those so inclined, plus on camera interviews with Nadedja Dobrev (16m) and none other than fellow exploitation director Ted V. Mikels (2:27) (The Doll Squad, Blood Orgy of the She-Devils), who actually served as assistant director (or to hear him tell it, lighting coordinator and director of photography on certain portions of this film.