Greetings dear film fans and be most well come to Reaper Rick’s movie reviews. While I am immensely pleased to have been asked to contribute my reviews to this magazine, I must admit that it was rather late in the month when my invitation was received, so for this issue I do not have any reviews of New movies to share with you. However, within my somewhat extensive collection of older and admittedly questionable films I have found a few to discuss with you today.
Many of you may be familiar with or have at least heard of writer and director Ed Wood, Jr. from his films made during the 1950s. “Glen or Glenda,” “Plan 9 from Outer Space” and “Bride of the Monster” are a few of his more well-known projects. By the middle of the 1960s, however, Ed’s Hollywood star—which never burned all that brightly to begin with—was definitely fading, and he was forced into writing soft core porno books and similar screenplays to make a living. “Orgy of the Dead” was one of these titles.
Ed wrote this story and later wrote the screenplay for director Stephen C. Apostolof, who directed the movie under the name A.C. Stephens. In an interview on the DVD produced by Rhino Home Video, Apostolof recalled the first time he met with Wood to discuss their possible movie collaboration. They were to meet for lunch at the prestigious Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood. Ed, whom the director had never seen before, showed up wearing white boots, a red mini skirt and a white angora sweater, along with his mustache and three days growth of beard. What a first impression that must have been. But, while Wood was an admitted cross-dresser, he was completely heterosexual and loved the female body (and their clothes).
Regardless of Wood’s personal idiosyncrasies, Apostolof came to like Ed and not only agreed to make and direct “Orgy of the Dead,” he made Wood the Production Manager of the movie as well. It must have been difficult for Ed, who was used to being in charge of all aspects of a movie, to be relegated to a mere manager as he watched someone else direct his work. All in all, however, the resulting movie is so close to Ed’s vision and his previous work in film that it is hard to tell someone other than Wood himself even directed it.
“Orgy of the Dead” was released in 1965 and starred…well, no one of any importance. The only name one may recognize is that of Criswell, who made a name for himself in the 1940s and ‘50s by making incredibly bad predictions of the future, and then ‘starred’ in several Ed Wood movie productions. The story line revolves loosely around a young couple—Bob and Shirley—who are out one night looking for an old cemetery so Bob might get a new idea for his horror stories. They manage to crash his car on a lonely road and then discover an orgy of the dead at a nearby graveyard.
Criswell, who plays an aged Emperor of the Dead and his female sidekick, a.k.a. Blood Ghoul, like to watch dead girls dance at night, and that is basically the movie plot. Of the ninety minute flick, over sixty minutes is wasted while the viewer is forced to watch almost naked girls dance for the Emperor and his Ghoul. Oh, Bob and Shirley stumble upon this perverse show, but are discovered early on by a mummy and a wolf man (with no explanation as to who these characters are or why they are even in attendance), who drag the hapless couple over to the dirt dance floor and bind them to columns. Apparently their punishment for stumbling onto this debacle was to make them watch the women dance—and trust me, that is a serious form of punishment.
This movie is typical Ed Wood fare, even if technically not his movie. Insipid dialog, abysmal acting, cheap sets and numerous filming inconsistencies abound. At the very beginning of the film Criswell can be seen reading from cue cards during his opening monologue, and that is just the first of many errors. Bob and Shirley are seen driving on a lonely road at night, but one of the exterior scenes of the car was obviously shot during daylight hours. Eight or ten different women end up dancing in this movie, and most of them dance very poorly to very bad music. While some of them start off wearing odd bits of clothing, they quickly disrobe and spend most of their time dancing in only skimpy panties or g-strings.
As I forced myself to watch this horror I could not understand why Shirley wore such a terrible bright red wig during the movie, until I later learned that she was also one of the dancers—a blond girl who was later dipped into and covered by liquid gold. During one of the dance sequences a man’s hand can be seen holding a fog machine or some other item. And you don’t just see this one time during the dance, but on at least three occasions. Bob is bound hand and foot to a column, but just before he makes an escape attempt the rope which was around his ankles for nearly an hour suddenly disappears. The Blood Ghoul has a rusty butcher knife in her belt which she uses to threaten poor bound Shirley, but the knife only seems to be in her belt in some scenes, and is not there in others. Throughout the dancing sequences the camera flashes back to view Criswell and his minion as they smile and nod approval, and there are frequent shots of the mummy and wolf man as they bounce up and down on the sidelines and point at the naked women in feigned excitement and lust.
Toward the end of the movie (Spoiler Alert!) when Bob and Shirley are found lying unconscious on the ground, an ambulance arrives and a nurse who is wearing a long, tight white uniform of that period is also wearing white high heels in the cemetery dirt. This was not a mistake, just an interesting bit of information. And, since no evidence of the dead dancing girls or any other creatures is found in the cemetery, the entire episode may have been merely a shared nightmare for Bob and Shirley. That might be lucky for them, but not so great for the viewer of this film.
Some of the dancing girls—which this movie is really all about—are fairly pretty in a 1960s sort of way, but not all of them. However, if you are fan of bouncing boobs and bare buttocks, you may actually enjoy this movie if you just turn off the sound.
Over all, this was an excruciating movie to watch. Aside from the nearly naked dancing girls, there is some weak bondage, and two of the girls are mildly whipped. Otherwise, I could find NO redeeming quality in this film at all, other than it was written by Ed Wood. If you are a really big Ed Wood fan, you may wish to see it for that reason alone.
My movie rating system works like this: Good movies get from one to five Howls of Pleasure, while Bad movies receive from one to five Hangman’s Nooses. The better the movie, the more howls of pleasure they receive. The worse a movie is the more hangman nooses they get. Not surprisingly, I give “Orgy of the Dead” Four Hangman Nooses . There may be worse movies out there, but fortunately I haven’t seen them yet. Sorry, Ed.
I was able to recently view the DVD version of “Resident Evil: After Life,” and for some reason was rather disappointed in this movie. There were some scenes in which being able to view the movie in 3D might have been advantageous, but even that was not enough to have made me want to spend several dollars to watch this film in a theatre. Inconsistencies, a weak plot line and not enough zombies may have played a part in my disappointment. The big dude with the axe/hammer was one problem I could not wrap my head around. Who and what was it, and why was it even in the script, except to break down the front gate and allow the milling zombies to enter the prison? I realize that the big dude was a character in the video game, but for any who are not familiar with the game itself he was merely another inconsistency and in my opinion only managed to muddle the plot.
The writers may be having trouble coming up with new and fresh ideas for this franchise, but the end of the movie obviously left room for yet another sequel. The tentacled zombie faces were a nice touch, but we didn’t get to see enough of them, and I just do not like zombies who run. There were some nice action sequences, but not enough of them to keep me interested for the whole movie.
I have to give “Resident Evil: After Life” a mere Two and a Half Howls of Pleasure for a few nice effects and overall carnage, but I doubt if I will need to watch this chapter a second time.
A little-known movie called “Ed and His Dead Mother” is from 1993 and stars Steve Buscemi (currently a Golden Globe winner in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”), Ned Beatty, John Glover and Jon Gries. Right up front let me say that this is a Dark Horror Comedy and is an exceedingly odd movie.
The movie opens in black and white, the reason for which I still do not understand, and Ed is on trial for killing his mother. He professes his innocence, however, by explaining that she was already dead when he cut off her head. Flashback to three months previously and the movie is now in color (perhaps it is a takeoff on “The Wizard of Oz” or something). Ed (Steve Buscemi) misses his dead mother and wishes he could have her back. He runs an old family-owned Hardware Store, and one day an unusual salesman enters the establishment.
Mr. Paddle works for a company called ‘Happy People Limited’ and offers to reanimate Ed’s mother—for a price. Ed received a $60,000 insurance payment after his mother died, and ‘Happy People Limited’ is somehow aware of his monetary windfall and plans to relieve him of a large chunk of it. So, for only $1,000 (to start with) they will bring his mother back from the dead. After only a few seconds of contemplation, Ed writes out a check and two nights later his mother shows up at his front door, apparently as good as new.
Ned Beatty is Ed’s uncle (and the dead mother’s brother) who lives in a house with Ed. Imagine the uncle’s surprise when he gets up the next morning to find his dead sister in the refrigerator peeling potatoes. Yes, I said she is in the fridge peeling potatoes. Ed explains what has happened, but the uncle finds the entire situation somewhat unsettling and wants Ed to put her back in the ground. Naturally enough, Ed refuses. Later that day the mother collapses and is found unconscious by Ed. He wants to take her to the doctor, but she is after all dead, so what could a doctor do for her?
Fortunately Mr. Paddle shows up with a solution. Ed must feed his mother a special formula every night to keep her…well, reanimated, and this will only cost him $349.99 (it is on Sale). It turns out the box of ‘formula’ consists of nothing more than live cockroaches, and Ed must not feed her more than two every night. The next morning Ed comes downstairs to find the kitchen repainted and that his mother has baked a few hundred pies. He then discovers that she ate the entire box of cockroaches during the night and is now so energized she hungers for flesh, but initially her cravings are only for neighborhood pets.
Across the street from Ed’s home lives a young woman who likes to undress in front of open windows. Go figure. Beatty keeps his telescope trained on her windows every evening so he can watch her. Shortly after Ed’s mother arrives back home, the girl from across the street comes over to meet Ed and shows him quite plainly that she is interested in him. But, every time they come close to having sex something happens with his mother and Ed must beat a hasty retreat (no pun intended).
A man now enters the movie who was sent to prison years ago by Ed’s mother when she caught him stealing from the store. He is bent on revenge and wants to kill the woman. He hears on the street that she is already dead, but Ed assures him that she is very much alive, since Ed does not know about his plans for murder. This guy stops by the house one evening and finds Ed’s mother there. She offers him tea and cookies, but he becomes upset when she brings him coffee instead of the promised tea. So, Ed’s mother chops the guy up with a chain saw and proceeds to eat most of him.
When Ed comes home to discover the carnage, he finally realizes that he must do something and do it quickly, but he has no idea how to go about removing his mother from his life once again.
Enter Mr. Paddle, who sells Ed the solution to his problem. He is instructed to decapitate his mother and bury her head and body in different parts of the cemetery just after midnight. Ed barely manages to dispose of her head on time, but then the police discover her body in his car and thus we return to his trial.
Now, I obviously left a lot of the plot twists out of this review, as I didn’t want to spoil it for any who may wish to rent the flick. Aside from some minor blood splatter, there are a few brief scenes of nudity in the movie, just in case that may bother (or entice) some viewers. This movie had a budget of over a million dollars and from what I could find, it only took in about $670 on its opening weekend, with a total of only about $2,000 during the entire American screening. That is incredibly Bad for any movie. It is full of inconsistencies, poor acting (with the exception of Buscemi, Beatty, and John Glover who plays Mr. Paddle), odd, unexplained twists and turns, and poor dialog. It is so bad that it may well turn into a cult classic if enough people pick up on it. But, it is also so bad that it is extremely funny, even where it was not supposed to be. So, this is a tough film to rate. It was a terrible movie, but I enjoyed it quite a lot, much as you might enjoy watching “Plan 9 from Outer Space” over and over again.
As a movie production for general release, I give “Ed and His Dead Mother” a mere One and a Half Howls of Pleasure, and that due only to the few talented actors who star in this film. But, as a funny, sick, twisted, off-the-wall popcorn flick I give it Three Howls of Pleasure, because it is so bad it’s good. This is a movie Ed Wood might have made if he was still alive twenty years ago. If you want to see a terribly funny (emphasis on the ‘terrible’ part), really dark comedy, I recommend it as a weekend rental.
And, I suppose that will have to do it for me this issue. Thank you for taking the time to read my opinions, and I look forward to boring you again next issue.