Orgy of the Dead (1965)
Hello all, Nate here, running solo on a weird exploitation/horror/smut movie from a script by the demented mind of the legendary Ed Wood. While there are conflicting stories about whether or not he actually had much of anything to do with the finished product, it’s pretty clear that this movie is infused with the unholy spirit of Ed Wood, if not the actual participation of his dress-wearing self. This will be a treat for us all, rest assured. I apologize in advance for the generally lousy screen caps, this movie was filmed in Blur-o-Vision in poor lighting with a camera bought from the back pages of a comic book, and the only copy I can find online looks to be a fifth-generation VHS bootleg from Mexico. If any movie screams (screams!) for a Criterion HD DVD full-treatment remaster, it’s Orgy of the Dead for all the nipply and bouncy reasons that will become apparent as this review goes on.
We open with happy couple Shirley and Bob on a late night road trip to a cemetery to get some story ideas (Bob‘s a best-selling author). They chat about stupid stuff, nuzzle a bit sans seatbelts, and then Bob drives them off the road into a drainage ditch because he’s a terrible driver. While Ed Wood movies were never known for employing credible actors, the loons playing Bob and Shirley have to be two of the worst ever. Well, ok, it’s not so much that they are bad at the whole acting thing, it’s just the audible dialogue that is sooooo cringingly bad that it blocks out any physical presence they might have had on screen, good or not. No one on this ultra-cheapass low tax bracket movie was mic’d up on set, so everything had to be added in post-production (ADR). That can work fine if you have voice actors (they don’t even have to be the same people we see on the screen) that are willing to put some effort into emoting and matching the tone of the scene. That’s not what happened here and the results are truly terrible. I recommend this movie just for the ADRs on Bob alone, they are quite possibly the worst line reads in all of recorded human history.
Learn to drive, douchebag.
On now to our movie‘s lone location, a thirty square foot dry-ice fogged ancient cemetery/sacrificial alter backlot set, resplendent in sytrofoam Greek columns and Hobby Lobby fake potted trees. Enter semi-famous celebrity medium The Amazing Criswell, dressed in a knockoff Dracula costume, and he has a seat for the rest of the movie. One wonders what compelled Criswell to give up a couple Saturday nights to act in this movie, but it couldn’t have been money (no one attached to this project had any). A pretty Goth chick accompanies him, his loyal servant of the undead that the credits call the Black Ghoul, with blood red lips and a pushup bra. On this warm and moonlit night, King of the Dead Criswell seems to want the Lost Souls under his demonic command to dance for him to save their souls from Damnation. Or something like that, whatever, literally no one cares what excuse they come up with to show us boobies.
High camp, personified.
What follows is essentially a nearly endless strip show of young white girls in themed costumes, with the general tone being one of softcore basic cable level of nudity and overt sexiness. Surely scandalous for LBJ-era 1965 but barely above a typical episode of Desperate Housewives now. Each girl takes a turn wandering around the set for 10 minutes or so, topless but with their contractually-obligated panties on, shaking their moneymakers to some off-screen canned music. You have to squint to see the goods, because all the dances are filmed through a fuzzy combination of smoke, fog, and vaseline filters. Not sure why they’d put so much effort into obscuring the ladies, it’s not like Ed Wood was planning on submitting this to the Oscars or anything.
Ok, a technical note, I've been admonished by loyal (only?) reader James that I've grown soft in my old age and have been slacking on describing in detail all the hot babes in the movies I review. Let me assure you, James, when it comes to hot babes I've certainly not "grown soft". Harharharhar, I slay me. To help with James’ tragic lack of reference material, I’m going to gauge the relative hotness of each dancing girl by placing them on a continuum, with former professional ‘rassler and incest victim Hillbilly Jim on one end, and Sofia Vergara on the other. Because it’s Sofia Vergara. Damn.
The first of the hellzone dancers is a thin white girl playing an “Indian” girl who seems like she's stoned and can't keep her mouth closed, happy to give us a short and uninspired dance while Criswell and the Black Ghoul leer at her with impure eyes. Her outfit is a pair of skimpy red bikini bottoms and canvas moccasins she bought from K-Mart, not exactly what you would call sexy, but probably all she could afford on the $15 advance she got from the production company. She’d surely be screaming “Notah!” to the heavens, but none of the dancers are allowed to speak by union rules.
Next up is the Street Walker, a slutty redhead with a feathered boa and a gonorrhea limp, because nothing says “male masturbatory fantasy“ like soulless hookers (excuse me, undead hookers). Like the Indian girl before her, I'm almost 99% sure this one is completely hammered on room temperature whiskey and maryjane, and her "dance" is more like a Friday night sloshed stumble on the corner of 83rd and State. Cash only, boys, cash only.
Next up on the I-Need-Confessional parade is the surprisingly buxom Golddigger Girl, who might be some homage to The Man With the Golden Gun or even a jab at that most famous ore miner Marilyn Monroe. Or maybe she's just here to shuck off that tacky gold bridesmaid dress and jiggle those lovemuffins around for a bit before slinking off set to weep softly and curse her casting agent. Golddigger Girl might be sortakinda sober-ish as she's able to do some slow toe-spins and shallow one-leg kicks without falling flat on her face, moves which are made all the more ridiculous by the fact that she's topless and wearing a bad platinum wig. In the end she's dunked in a cauldron of gold paint and hauled off by two beefcake goons wearing loincloths to hide their boners. I cannot make this stuff up.
To break things up a bit, we revisit Bob and Shirley, who, having survived their car wreck, have snuck into the area to watch the peep show and cast Puritanical tisks of disgust at it all. Criswell sees them and conjures up the Mummy and the Wolfman (really) to capture Bob and Shirley and tie them to posts so they can get a better view of the nekkid chicks. The costumes for the two monsters are store-bought latex masks and gloves with fur hot-glued on them and actually look even worse than I’m describing. They are also dubbed in post by two guys who had clearly just found out that their paychecks bounced.
Next girl! Up now is the Cat Girl, who is wearing a pair of ill-fitting baggy leopard print full-body pajamas with a Powergirl-style chest cut-out to expose her boobs. She eventually ditches the cat costume and does some gyrating on the dirty ground in a g-string before mercifully exiting with her metaphorical tail tucked between her legs. This might be the most ludicrous of the dances yet, with the cover-band be-bop music and the disinterested loincloth guy flailing weakly at her with a prop whip not helping at all. On a personal note, Furries truly frighten me.
Barely before the cat dander can settle, entering stage right is the Slave Girl, who starts out in a surprisingly modest ankle-length orange dress and does some fairly well-done dance steps for longer than expected (theater major fallen on hard times?). Of course, this movie being what it is, it's sadly inevitable that she ditches the Amish dress for some late 1980’s Cinemax skin and paltry paycheck shame. She actually looks better with the dress on, which is something I can say about a lot of the girls in this movie. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that I find somewhat revealing clothing often gives just enough hint of what’s beneath them to be far sexier than plain old bare flesh. Not sure why I typed that.
Meanwhile, Bob and Shirley are still tied up to posts in the background and we occasionally cut to them for some meaningless dialogue (howl with laughter some more at Bob‘s ADR). In each successive cut-back, the buttons on Shirley's blouse gets looser and looser, until her ample cleavage is bursting at the seams of her lacy balconette unmentionables. This catches the attention of the sultry Black Ghoul who makes to lesbian stab her (it‘s a thing) before her boss calls her down. There's clearly some tension between the Black Ghoul and Criswell because she feels like he‘s a terrible Lord of the Underworld or something, though this never goes anywhere other than a few cold death stares from the Black Ghoul.
Hard to find good help these days.
Yawn, back to the boobs! Up next is the chunky-thighed Mexican Skeleton Girl, who flamenco's her way through the billowing dry-ice fog to the generic strings and horns of a Spanish quartet. She’s wearing a wedding dress for some reason (Mexican Day of the Dead?) but it doesn’t do her figure any favors. Keep the veil, girl, but ditch the dress, we need some titillation (harharhar). Although, to be perfectly honest with you, by this point any appeal of seeing nearly nekkid girls flouncing around for our/my pleasure is fading fast. You can have sexy and you can have exploitive, but you can rarely have both, and right around the Skeleton Girl‘s timeslot it hit me that this movie is neither sexy nor exploitative, it‘s just kinda boring in an anatomically correct sorta way. She does kiss a plastic skull, though, extra credit for that.
I keep glancing at the film’s timer icon, hoping that it’s over soon, I really need to finish my pizza before it gets cold. But, alas, there's a few more aspiring young actresses trapped outside the studio system that need to make a quick buck to supplement their waitress tips, so let's bring out the Island Girl with her huge bouffant hair and off-airport stripclub lapdance moves to wiggle along to a knock-off Beach Boys instrumental while a stock footage rattlesnake bares its fangs in embarrassment. Where did they find these girls, anyway? Traditional casting call or did they just drive around that skeevy area of Long Beach down by the docks with some $20 bills and a stack of liability waivers? Hard to tell some times. This girl's butt is in a class all its own, by the way, which helps to renew my enthusiasm for this movie a bit.
So Bob and Shirley are fighting now because he's a dick and she's a shrew and they‘re only in this mess because Bob can‘t drive and Shirley‘s mother was right about him all along. Bob's also almost got his ropes off and is formulating an escape plan (which may or may not include Shirley). But hold that thought because the Bride Girl just got her cue from the director and is now wandering onto the leaf-covered stage to do her best impression of a raging drunk bridezilla at her own Vegas reception. While all the other girls had some sort of dancing ability to various degrees, this poor blonde with the terrible tan lines and the hollow eyes seems content to just stand in one spot and shake her rack around like a turkey gobbler. It's a whole lot less sexy than it sounds and it doesn't really sound that sexy to begin with. It's never more apparently that a woman’s breasts are just loose lumps of flesh than when the Bride Girl is flopping them around like mounds of Jell-O. I must look away.
Luckily for me, Bride Girl takes her leave before completely destroying all that is right and pure in the world (re: boobs). Behind her comes the Zombie Girl, a skinny A-cup brunette whose stage direction for "being a Zombie" seems to have been "just hold your arms out and walk slowly". I don't know what this girl is doing, maybe some sort of interpretive dance of the geriatric turtle or something, but she‘s either a real honest-to-god zombie or she‘s so blinkered on pot that she can‘t do much more than weakly wave her arms around a bit and shuffle her feet. I cannot believe I'm actually considering fast-forwarding through a scene with a half-naked 20-year old girl in it, what has become of me?
And lastly (finally!) we have the way-too-scrawny Fluff Girl, who starts out in a flowing proto-hippy dress before it magically disappears and it's all skin for the next nine thousand and two minutes. This girl also appears to be drunk and in serious need of a cheeseburger and two weeks in a Betty Ford Clinic, but since she‘s supposed to represent the nascent hippy movement of 1965, she‘s totally in-character. And she just won't stop dancing, god, just stop already, we get it, you have boobs, they are perky, they move independently of your torso, fine, whatever. I'm completely out of things to say about topless girls, it's as if that horny, manly part of my soul has shriveled up and died because of this movie's incessant unsexyfying displays of jiggly boobs. Ha, someone just bumped the camera tripod during her dance but they just kept rolling and it ended up in the final print, that's so priceless. Maybe Ed Wood really was on set for this?
Alright, let's tie up some loose ends here. The Black Ghoul has been eyeing the sexy Shirley all night long with some seriously rapey eyes and Shirley is getting pretty antsy about it. It seems the undead queen wants to stab poor twitchy Shirley to death so they can live together in whatever purgatory all these monsters and weird women are trapped in. So, pulling a long dagger out, the Black Ghoul makes her move on Shirley. But just when the escalating music cue tells us the blade is about to bite, the sun comes up and the Black Ghoul, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and even Criswell instantly turn into cheap dollar store plastic skeletons. Yep, just like that. I know.
“I have a no-nudity clause.”
Oiy, that‘s funny.
The stinger is a doozy as we see some policemen and EMTs checking out Shirley and Bob after their car accident, and it seems like they haven‘t moved since then. Hey, was this all a dream? Which one of them was dreaming about boobs and the Wolfman? Bob, hopefully. Are they actually dead, is this all a Lost-like trapped-in-purgatory story? It’s beginning to seem that way, but maybe not, who knows, who cares, not me anymore. Amazing Criswell, take us to the credits with some fourth wall-breaking set-up for a sequel that thankfully never happened. Go!
Reusing actors, nice.
Bonus Time! Wherein I rate sexy flame-haired Shirley and the unfairly modest Black Ghoul on my scale, because I know James would call me out on this if I didn’t.
Superawesome Bonus Time! Wherein I cave and rate Bob because Pam is already disappointed in me enough… (reference points helpfully changed to mostly-naked Danny Diveto on one end and a cute lab puppy on the other)
Written in November 2013 by Nathan Decker.
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