Do not be alarmed by the title of this month’s Full Moon Feature: Orgy of the Dead was made in 1965, so it’s nowhere near as risque at it sounds. It was also written by Edward D. Wood, Jr., based on his own novel, so there’s little chance of anyone finding it at all erotic in spite of the bevy of nearly naked women that are made to dance for the pleasure of Criswell, the Emperor of the Night (and allegedly the audience).
It all starts out innocently enough with young couple Bob and Shirley (William Bates and Pat Barrington) driving out to a cemetery because, being a horror writer, Bob’s looking for inspiration for one of his extremely popular monster stories. Shirley’s not so keen on the idea, but she does exchange a chaste kiss with him, prompting him to remark, “Your puritan upbringing holds you back from my monsters, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your art of kissing.” Soon after, he loses control and crashes the car, from which they are thrown clear. That’s the cue for Criswell to beckon forth the “princes of darkness” — or maybe he says “princess.” It’s really hard to tell. I’m leaning toward the latter because only one darkness-dweller comes forth, the Black Ghoul (Fawn Silver), who gets things started by summoning a Native American girl who died in flame to… dance topless near a flame. This she does for a long time, setting the precedent for all of the acts to follow.
While this is going on, director Stephen C. Apostolof (credited as A.C. Stephen) cuts away to Bob and Shirley as they come to and decide to investigate the music coming from the cemetery. They miss most of the next act, a streetwalker, but watch in an unconvincing approximation of horror from the treeline as a girl who worshiped gold in life (also played by Barrington) is put through her paces. Her routine ends with Criswell imploring her two hunky helpers to “Throw gold on her” and “More gold” and “More gold” and “More gold!” It’s only after she gets deposited in a boiling cauldron of gold and emerges looking like she ran afoul of Auric Goldfinger that the two interlopers are caught by a Werewolf (John Andrews) and Mummy (Louis Ojena) and tied up so they can have a better view of the proceedings. Incidentally, when the Mummy speaks his voice is dubbed in a way that’s oddly muffled, which makes it really strange when he banters with the Werewolf, who only howls and growls. They also stand off to the side for the rest of the picture and seem to get a lot more into it than the other four spectators, who can’t work up the energy to look even slightly enthused to be there.
And it’s hard to blame them, really, since the balance of the picture is taken up by half a dozen mostly interchangeable dance numbers punctuated by the occasional Wood-ism. (My favorite: “A pussycat is born to be whipped.”) Apart from the cat woman, who wears a full-body costume and is whipped throughout her number (a reference to the Ann-Margret vehicle Kitten With a Whip, maybe?), the others can only be distinguished by their outfits (which always disappear during a cutaway — it’s like the filmmakers were specifically prohibited from showing any actual stripping) and maybe a thematic prop or two. (For example, the bride who strangled her husband on their wedding night gets to keep her veil on the whole time.) Finally, the whole shebang comes to an end with the sunrise, which causes the creatures of the night to turn into skeletons (yes, the Werewolf, too), but as Criswell warns, they’ll return with the next full moon. Me, I don’t plan on waiting around to see if they do.