Director: Stephen C. Apostolof
Rhino Home Video

Lovingly referred to as the "worst director of all time," the late great Ed Wood was mainly turning his attentions to writing at this stage in his career (the mid 60s). ORGY OF THE DEAD is apparently based on a novel(!) that he sold for a song, and the film marks the first collaboration between Wood and sexploitation great Stephen C. Apostolof (aka A.C. Stephens), an alliance that would last until Wood's untimely death in 1978. People say that Wood's directed films are purely bad, but the horror/nudie effort dubbed ORGY OF THE DEAD makes them look like Cannes award winners.

Following up his unforgettable performances in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and NIGHT OF THE GHOULS, pasty Hollywood psychic Criswell rises from his tomb to downwardly gaze at idiot cards and deliver inane dialog. He plays the Emperor of the Night (wearing one of Bela Lugosi's authentic Dracula capes) and overseas a night of perversity amidst a cemetery. His sexy companion is the Black Ghoul (Fawn Hall), a busty vampiress that was an evident influence for Elvira, right down to the bouffant-style wig and the dagger housed in her belt.

Meanwhile, young couple Bob (William Bates) and Shirley (legendary sexploitation starlet Pat Barrington, here billed as "Pat Barringer") are riding in the car, talking drearily about his career as a horror writer. Through the innovation of stock footage, their automobile crashes and they wind up lying near the cemetery and are subsequently tied up and forced to watch uninspired striptease artists. These dancers are all attractive women who sinned in life, and now in death are forced to strip down to a g-string and prance around to the upbeat tunes of Jamie Mendoza-Nava. Each girl has some kind of theme, and Pat Barrington (who looks absolutely luscious in the buff) doubles as the blond Gold Girl as her red-headed character watches her perform and get dunked in a vat of gold, being pulled out looking like Shirley Eaton in GOLDFINGER.

Originally written as "Nudie Ghoulies," ORGY OF THE DEAD is simply one of the worst, and therefore essential viewing. It's hard to figure out how Wood could have written a comprehensive script, as the screen time is mostly taken up by the ample amount of dancers who come out to strut there stuff--this film runs over 90 minutes, and Ed even manages to throw in some light whipping and flogging for the fetish crowd. The bits of dialog are naturally absurd, and the cast members read it as if they were in a grade-school pageant. Criswell's acting and reaction shots brings on too many unintentional laughs to mention, and Pat Barrington's screams of fear show why she was never cast in horror films. The whole thing takes place on one smoky graveyard set, and a wolfman and mummy are also tossed in to civilly converse on the sidelines (unfortunately, they don't get lapdances).

Rhino has quietly released ORGY OF THE DEAD on DVD to the gratitude of all the Ed Wood completists out there. The films is give a new digital transfer "supervised by the director" and looks pretty nice. The Eastman colors are bright and bold for the most part. There is a sufficient amount of speckling on the source print, but nothing at all too distracting, as detail is very sharp. It's presented full frame, but it could have used the anamorphic treatment, or at least letterboxed to mat out the abundant dead space and properly compose it to its original aspect ratio. The mono audio is surprisingly clear and complements the film perfectly.

Rhino has thankfully included a 20-minute interview with Bulgarian-born director Apostolof. He talks about how he got into filmmaking, and how he was introduced to Ed Wood, mentioning their initial meeting at the Brown Derby restaurant where he showed up in drag (try to picture Wood in angora sweater, mini-skirt and facial hair!). Apostolof states he never saw an Ed Wood film as to not hurt his friend's feeling with negative criticism--this coming from the man who directed ORGY OF THE DEAD! The interview is very entertaining, and Apostolof even reveals his intentions for a proposed sequel! Also included is the original theatrical trailer ("See the bride who murdered her husband and now must dance perpetually before his skeleton"). (George R. Reis)