Orgy of the Dead (1965)

In addition to making 17 exploitation movies filled with sexual content, Stephen C. Apostolof was so religioys that he and several other Bulgarian immigrants founded St. George, the first Bulgarian Orthodox church in Los Angeles. The church had strong ties to Simeon II, the Bulgarian king in exile, and soon became a safe haven for Bulgarian anti-Communists and monarchists that came to settle in Los Angeles.

Yes, the same guy who made Suburbia Confidential

As for Orgy of the Dead, it’s not even a movie. I mean, it’s a movie, but by that I mean it’s just a series of scenes, like someone is throwing a bunch of reels on in the back of a smoke-filled Elk’s Club, but whatever collection of mid-60s sin films we’re watching have all been touched by the left hand path.

Then again, this movie could just stop after two men in loincloths open a coffin to reveal Criswell, who does what Criswell does best, saying “I am Criswell. For years, I have told the almost unbelievable, related the unreal and showed it to be more than a fact. Now I tell a tale of the threshold people, so astounding that some of you may faint. 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 ghouls reborn from the innermost depths of the world.”

This opening is similar to Ed Wood’s then-unreleased 1958 film Night of the Ghouls, which was the original name of this movie, as Wood didn’t think that movie would ever play anywhere. Criswell’s female companion, Ghoulita the Black Ghoul, was supposed to be Vampira, but ended up being played by Fawn Silver. Also, you may notice Criswell straining as he says his lines, as he needed glasses and was reading them from cue cards that he couldn’t see. At least he’s wearing the cape that Bela Lugosi wore in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Hey, why not some more Criswell facts? Like how his family owned he coffin that he emerges from and that he napped in it between takes? This would be his last role, after appearing in Plan 9 from Outer Space and Night of the Ghouls, so as always, he went for it.

Wood wrote this, as well as being the production manager, casting agent and the person holding the cue cards. He got paid $600 and by all accounts was continually passing out from being so drunk after stealing money and going to buy some cheap liquor.

What a story, I guess, as Bob and Shirley (Pat Barrington, who worked with Wood, Russ Meyer and Harry Novak, as well as dancing at several mob-owned gentlemen’s clubs and dating serial killer Melvin Rees) are looking for a cemetery, drive off a cliff and end up in some kind of netherworld where various women dance — not well, the dance coordinator was fired — with monsters.

First, we watch a street walker dance, played by Colleen O’Brien (Mondo Freudo). Stay tuned, because you have nine more dances to go, like a Native American woman (Bunny Glaser, Motel Confidential) who cuts a rug. A golden woman dances the night away (also Barrinton). Then, a cat woman (Lorali Hart AKA Texas Starr) puts on her dancing paws. A mummy discusses all the snakes in Egypt as he has a scene with a werewolf. A slave girl ( Bulgarian-born Nadejda Klein, who still acts to this day) is whipped to the delight of Criswell. A Day of the Dead dance by Stephanie Jones (Uncle Tomcat’s House of Kittens) follows. Then, a Polynesian dance from Mickey Jines (The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet), followed by a woman (Barbara Nordin, The Girls on F Street) strutting her stuff with the skeleton of her husband. A zombie (Dene Starnes, Down and Dirty) has two left zombie feet. And then a woman (Rene de Beau, Mondo Keyhole) who died for fashion, fur and fluff.

What is this, a mondo movie?

Then, and only then, can the Black Ghoul take Shirley for her own before the sun comes up and the monsters are destroyed, leaving writer Bob probably as inspired as he wanted to be and Shirley very confused.

How amazing is it that we live in a world where you can get this movie in the cleanest and most perfect form ever? Vinegar Syndrome, you kill my wallet but as always win my heart.

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