Shoulda Called It “Jigglin’ Boobies of the Dead”

Orgy of the Dead is a 1965 American erotic horror film directed by Stephen C. Apostolof (under the alias A. C. Stephen) and written by cult film director Ed Wood, who also adapted the screenplay into a novel. The film belongs to the genre of “nudie-cuties”, defined as narrative-based films featuring female nudity that originated from earlier films featuring striptease performances and burlesque shows.

The film stars The Amazing Criswell, Fawn Silver, Pat Barringer and a host of talented titty-girls.

Pat Barrington – The Golden Girl

Orgy of the Dead is an example of a “nudie-cutie” film, a genre of narrative-based films featuring female nudity. Such films were an evolution of earlier films, which featured striptease performances and burlesque shows. These predecessors mostly depicted actual stage performances, sometimes attached to a frame story.

Apostolof was attracted to Orgy of the Dead because the film was “relatively very inexpensive” to produce and direct.

Bunny Glaser – The Indian Girl

The film’s graveyard prologue is a recreation of the opening scene from Wood’s then-unreleased 1958 film Night of the Ghouls. Originally, Wood titled the film’s script Night of the Ghouls, as he did not expect the 1958 film to ever be released. The film also had a working title, Ghoulies.

The action begins when a young couple, Bob (William Bates) and Shirley (sexploitation actress Pat Barrington, billed as Pat Barringer) survive a car crash only to find themselves tied to posts in a misty cemetery, where they are forced to watch dead spirits dance for the Emperor of the Night played by Criswell (best known for Plan 9 from Outer Space). Criswell reprises his role from the earlier film. Wood convinced Apostolof to cast his friend Criswell in the film. His lines were written on cue cards, which he had difficulty reading because he wasn’t wearing his glasses.

Colleen O’Brien – The Street Walker

Ten striptease performances by topless dancers outfitted in various motifs comprise most of this movie. The Wolf Man (wearing a very obvious mask, with the actor’s bare neck visible below the bottom of the mask) and the Mummy are also tossed in for comic relief. Barrington doubles as the blond Golden Girl (inspired by Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger) while her red-headed “Shirley” character watches her perform. The dancing has been described as awkward and wooden, probably exacerbated by Apostolof firing the dance coordinator during the shooting of the film.

Lorali Hart (credited as Texas Starr) – The Cat

Criswell’s undead consort, Black Ghoul, was allegedly written for Maila Nurmi, a.k.a. Vampira, but was instead played by Fawn Silver, who wore a black bouffant wig. The Black Ghoul appears to have “pasty white skin”, with red fingernails and lipstick. She wears a black dress, implying the role of a funerary garment. Black, red, and white are the main colors associated with her.

Barbara Nordin – Skeleton Girl

Wood served as writer, production manager, casting agent, and even held up cue cards on the film, although he did not direct. Apostolof paid Wood $400 for the script. Several gaffes typical for Wood-associated projects are present, such as day-for-night issues, poor integration of stock footage, obviously fake props and absurd dialogue (for example, at one point, Criswell declares something to be “more than a fact”).

Rene de Beau – The Fluff Dancer

Wood allegedly stole money from the film’s budget to purchase alcohol for himself. Apostolof remarked later in interviews that Wood was drinking so heavily during the production, at times he was almost unconscious with his eyes rolled up in his head. Bob Caramico the cameraman, described Wood as just “living from day to day”. He advised Wood’s friend John Andrews, “If I were you, I wouldn’t have anything to do with him.” The incident caused a falling-out between Apostolof and Wood, and the two men would not collaborate again until 1972.

An article on the making of this film was published in the June 1998 issue of Femme Fatales.

Reviews

Film journalists Andrew J. Rausch and Charles E. Pratt describe the film’s attempt at eroticism as juvenile, with a puerile focus on jiggling breasts. They write that the viewer “just has to sit back in awe and speculate how something like this could come from the mind of a grown man”.

TV Guide criticized the film’s “boring” striptease performances and music but praised Wood’s dialog as “priceless”.

Allmovie critic Mark Deming stated that the film “moves like molasses on a cold morning”, and that Orgy of the Dead “is that rare film that would have been improved if Ed Wood had directed it”.

We, however, LOVE IT.

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Orgy of the Dead is now streaming ad-free on The SCREW Channel, exclusively on Roku. Don’t have The SCREW Channel? Add it here for free.

Like this film? Hate it? Please leave your comments below.

—SM

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