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LA ORGIA DE LOS MUERTOS (ORGY OF THE DEAD) (1972)
[aka La Orgia Dei Morti aka Dracula The Terror Of The Living Dead]

"One must definitely take into consideration the place of death."
"According to legend, the dead hold orgies there…."

Director: Jose Luis Merino
Starring: Stan Cooper (Stelvio Rosi), Maria Pia Conte, Dianick Zorakowska, Gerard Tichy, Paul Naschy (Jacinto Molina), Pasquale Pasile, Aurora de Alba, Charles Quiney
Screenplay: Jose Luis Merino and Enrico Colombo

Synopsis: After the funeral of Count Miguel Mihaly, his daughter Mary returns to the family crypt to retrieve a letter from her father’s pocket, but is attacked by something that terrifies her. The count’s nephew, Serge Cekov (Stan Cooper), arrives too late for the funeral, and cannot get anyone to drive him past the cemetery. Serge decides to walk. He hears strange noises coming from the cemetery, then finds a dead woman’s body hanging from a tree outside. Serge runs for help, but no-one will open their doors to him until he reaches the Mihaly house, where he is admitted by the housekeeper, Doris Droila (Maria Pia Conte). A portrait on the wall reveals that the dead woman is Mary Mihaly. An investigation discovers that Mary did not kill herself, nor was murdered, but died of fright. With Mary dead, Serge is now the sole heir, much to the fury of Nadia (Dianick Zorakowska), the count’s young widow. During Mary’s funeral, the suspicious behaviour of Igor (Paul Naschy), the sexton, draws the attention of the police. A search of Igor’s cottage reveals that he is a necrophiliac who photographs his victims. The police and Serge pursue Igor, but he vanishes inside the cemetery. Trying to convince Serge to sell his inheritance – and share it with her – Nadia drugs and seduces him. The next day, Dr Leon Droila (Gerard Tichy), who is Doris’ father and the count’s ex-partner, shows Serge his laboratory and his scientific experiments, which the count funded, and often took credit for. Though shocked by the discovery that his uncle was a fraud, Serge is impressed by the work and agrees not to sell the house. Doris and Serge read Mary’s diary, where a note from the count indicates that he took a letter revealing the truth about his death to his grave. Believing that this letter was what Mary was searching for when she died, Serge and Doris break into the count’s tomb. Not only is the letter missing, so is the count’s body. Serge swears he will never leave until he discovers the truth. Nadia, who practices spiritualism and black magic, proposes a sťance, which proves all too successful when the dead Count Mihaly appears from the shadows, his hands reaching for Nadia’s throat….

Comments: Anyone wanting an introduction to seventies Euro-horror could do a lot worse than Orgy Of The Dead, which manages to encapsulate almost all of the themes that dominated that very strange sub-genre of film. Set in an unidentified 19th century European village, the action features some highly suspect aristocrats, much running around in secret passages, sex, violence, and lots and lots of highly exploitable elements that ultimately prove to have little if anything to do with the plot. First and foremost amongst these is Mr Euro-Horror himself, Paul Naschy, aka Jacinto Molina, stepping away from his endless portrayals of werewolves to play Igor the necrophiliac. Igor’s dark doings in the cemetery contribute nothing to the actual story, but they allow the film-makers to combine gross-out scenes with totally hypocritical moral outrage: the characters can’t bear to look at Igor’s photo collection, but the camera makes sure the viewer gets a nice long look. Exploitable element number two is the presence of women who have a great deal of trouble keeping their clothes on. Even death can’t protect poor Mary Mihaly, who first gets forcibly stripped for a perfectly gratuitous autopsy scene, then ends up as one of Igor’s "friends". (The film’s title is a little misleading; the dead don’t have an orgy so much as…. Well, you get the idea.) Next comes Doris Droila. In order to preserve her father’s work, Doris offers herself to Serge, who forces her to strip so that he can, so to speak, inspect the goods. After the humiliated girl has struggled out of her clothes, Serge calls her stupid, reveals that he’s already told her father his work his safe, and orders her to dress and not to "make me sorry I respected you". After which Doris, naturally, falls in love with him. (Anyone who thinks American horror films are misogynistic simply hasn’t seen enough European horror films.) Nadia, the wicked countess, at least takes her clothes off voluntarily – and surprise, surprise, ends up dead. Not, however, before a sex scene with Serge in which she’s totally naked and he keeps his pants on; and also not before a kinky little encounter with Igor in which she dresses up in a shroud and pretends to be dead. With all these distractions around, the viewer might well forget the real story, but that’s okay, because so do the film-makers. It’s up to Serge, every ten minutes or so, to exclaim, "I’m not leaving until I discover the truth about Mary’s death!" and remind us all why we’re supposed to be here. That truth is revealed in a scene that is unquestionably the comic highlight of the film, and that somehow escaped the Medved brothers in their search for the "Least Convincing Scientific Explanation Of All Time" (see "Immortal Dialogue" for a complete transcription – it deserved it!) The result of this weird science is a crowd of murderous zombies who are actually quite convincingly nasty – although for some reason, while the male zombies are all fully clothed, the female zombies are all naked (do I detect a pattern here?). The identity of the film’s real villain shouldn’t be much of a surprise. For one thing, nearly everyone else is dead by then. For another – well, just think about it! However, the last scene of the film does contain a real surprise and, considering what’s gone before, a remarkably satisfying one.