Here’s to another Naschy epic. Where to start? Our opening shot is of a funeral whilst a Goth like girl prowls around. Loud music plays and a bearded Paul Naschy bites his nails. When a storm begins, the mourners scamper away leaving the priest, who after hearing a scary noise performs the most unbelievable run away in film history, with an umbrella. Trust me, its solid gold. The Goth girl lets herself into the crypt and is killed by an unseen creature that snarls like a dog. Meanwhile, Serge Chekof (Stelvio Rosi as Stan Cooper) is a stranger in town, who wanders around a bit then heads for the cemetery; turns out he’s arrived to claim his inheritance from the dead man. “I have no fear of the dead, as for the living”… he shows a gun then proceeds past the cemetery. After hearing noises from the dark, he ventures in, “If you’re not a spirit now, you soon will be.” His lines are simply amazing. He finds the Goth hanging from a tree, and right on cue, the title flashes onto the screen to spoon-feed us.
Looking for help, he meets Ivan and family who happen to be related to the girl. The crime is reported and a standard crimson autopsy follows. A pipe smoking Inspector with a pervert beard arrives to smirk at everyone. Naschy, let’s not forget him, spends a lot of the film being chased around the graveyard almost Benny Hill style for being called Igor (again), and for being a necrophilliac gravedigger. He even has a box of used knickers! “The scum,” comments the Inspector; Paul Naschy is number 1 suspect. Perhaps the weirdest thing in this movie is the announcement of the Goth girl’s cause of death; the cast have been discussing possible murder when they find out she died of a heart attack BEFORE being hanged, ruling out foul play until a comment about fear in her eyes. So, corpses just go about hanging themselves for a laugh around there.
The film has a great old gothic feel, and for the first half can be mixed into the giallo genre. Then it suddenly changes into something else with elements of magic, spirits, and a few rather creepy zombies similar to the ones in Horror Express… those ones scared me as a kid, trust me. There’s brief gore including a nifty beheading with Argento like bright blood, and a lot of zombie action including Naschy walking around with a big knife fixed into his chest. The trouble is the film is just so dull; the cast are bland and euro hairy and the plot muddles itself so badly it cries in a corner.
La orgía de los muertos, a Spanish/Italian production directed by José Luis Merino, has had many titles – Orgy of the Dead, Beyond the Living Dead, Return of the Zombies, and Troma have released it as The Hanging Woman. The disc also has a bonus film called The Sweet Sound of Death; after five minutes of this, my eyes simply refused to watch more, threatening to blind me forever, but it did have a b/w Something Weird Video feel to it. Extras are lacking Lloyd Kaufman and his usual antics with Toxie and nude women; instead, we have cast interviews and a 10-minute overview of Paul Naschy’s career. In Naschy’s interview, he clearly doesn’t like the film, but points out he wrote in the more interesting elements, i.e. zombie Igor and necrophilia.
Can I be unfair to the memory of Paul Naschy, and simply say don’t waste your time with this movie? It isn’t up there in the ranks of say Horror Rises from the Tomb or Werewolf Shadow, but has one or two interesting ideas dotted about. Perhaps if it had been better written, directed, acted, and scored… hang on, that’s not leaving much in its favour is it? Well, the zombies are cool.
©2010 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.