ORGY OF THE LIVING DEAD aka THE HANGING WOMAN (1972) Reviews and Blu-ray news

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[Total: 52   Average: 2.9/5]

‘Go beyond the grave into a world of horror!’

Orgy of the Living Dead is a 1972 horror film about a mad professor who has been reanimating the dead using “nebular electricity”.

Directed by José Luis Merino (Tarzan in King Solomon’s Mines; Scream of the Demon Lover; More Dollars for the MacGregors) from a screenplay co-written with Enrico Colombo.

The Petruka Films (Madrid)-Prodimex Film (Rome) co-production stars Stelvio Rosi (Something Creeping in the Dark), Maria Pia Conte (Day of Violence; Spasmo; Death on the Fourposter), Dyanik Zurakowska (The Vampires Night Orgy; Cauldron of Blood; The Mark of the Wolfman) and Gérard Tichy (Pieces; The Corruption of Chris Miller; The Blancheville Monster). Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina) has a cameo role as a gravedigger. Produced by Ramona Plana.

The soundtrack score was composed by Francesco De Masi (Formula for a Murder; Escape from the Bronx; The New York Ripper; Weapons of Death) augmented by themes from The Ghost (1963).

Blu-ray release:

The film will be released on Blu-ray ‘remastered from the original uncut 35mm negative’ by Full Moon in the USA on December 15, 2020. No special features are listed currently.

Plot:

Serge Chekov (Stelvio Rosi) returns to his ancestral home after his uncle, a wealthy count, has died. Shortly after his arrival, he finds his cousin hanging from a tree in a graveyard. However, an autopsy suggests that rather than committing suicide she was murdered.

Meanwhile, Serge becomes involved with his uncle’s much younger wife, Nadia (Maria Pia Conte), a woman knee-deep into black magic; Professor Leon Droila (Gérard Tichy), a scientist experimenting with electricity to revive the dead; Ivan (José Cárdenas?), an impertinent butler who, in this English-dubbed release, speaks with a thick Australian accent; Doris (Dyanik Zurakowska), the professor’s virginal daughter; and Igor (Paul Naschy), combo gravedigger and, conveniently, grave-robber.

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“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.” And You Call Yourself a Scientist!

“It’s a bit slow going at times (particularly in the middle) and the plot’s pretty busy, but the movie is surprisingly well-made and things are all neatly tied together during a finale […] The zombie makeup designs vary, but a few of them are really creepy looking. I’m not sure where this was filmed, but it’s a gorgeous old village at the base of some mountains and it’s a great setting.” The Bloody Pit of Horror

“The effects are quite passable for a film of this vintage. There’s relatively little blood, but scenes of Naschy caressing and kissing the naked bodies of corpses makes for a disquieting scene. The zombies look good and provide the required eerie ambience with their rotting faces and white eyeballs. You don’t actually see the zombies till the last 10 to 15 minutes.” Cool @ss Cinema

“The period setting is mostly well-sustained and the Pyrenees exterior locations are atmospheric (it’s a great film to watch on a cold winter night). The walking dead are quite creepy and are quite a contrast to the flesh-eating marauders of later, gorier zombie films (more jaded horror viewers might be surprised as to how well this older film holds up). The pacing is brisk and there is one nifty clue to the main culprit’s identity.” DVD Beaver

” …an entertaining period European horror film with a Paul Naschy guest appearance […] for anyone with a penchant for Spanish horror, this is essential viewing. The outdoor locations are terrifically gothic and the exteriors are well designed, giving the film a unique, old-world ambience […] a Euro horror trash classic.” DVD Drive-In

“The Lleida locations are spectacular and enormously atmospheric […] The extravagantly gory makeup for the variously walking corpses is extremely good by early-1970s standards […] Though a bit sluggish, the film also works reasonably well as a mystery […] As for Naschy, he has a good supporting part, one that affords him no less than three death scenes.” DVD Talk

“Obviously, there are some premium bizzaro moments to be found in The Hanging Woman, but this is very much reminiscent of a Hammer film—the time period, the setting, the methodical pacing, the emphasis on dialogue, a central mystery, a dude named Igor. If that’s your bag, then there is plenty in Merino’s film to keep you interested.” DVD Verdict

“The film boasts an exciting cemetery pursuit, a brilliant science sequence in which the dead nobleman returns, even an absurd lovemaking scene in which Rosi and Pia Conti revolve in space. But perhaps its chief charm is, unusually, Is its English dub track. Rome’s veteran ADR director Nick Alexander had a whale of a time here, adapting the dialogue into a series of waggish one-liners…” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema, Signum Books, 2016

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“I quite liked this one; it’s one of those movies that really leaves you wondering which direction it’s going to go before it’s all over, but somehow it never loses sight of its story through all the twists and turns. It’s part “old dark house” film, part “mad scientist” flick, part “zombie” flick, and part just plain depravity.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Though the cinematography is pretty uninteresting (with the exception of that amazing love scene), the bang-bang-bang of the story’s developments always keeps a goofy Eurohorror fan happy, and there is more than the quota of gorgeous nekkidity in this one as well–a bonus. When you add Paul‘s amazing performance as Igor, well, this one scores an easy 3+ thumbs.” Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies

” …it’s a lot of fun, and while Naschy only has a minor supporting role, he definitely makes a strong impression whenever he’s onscreen (with a phenomenally gory final bow you’ll never forget) […] the zombie make-up is surprisingly creepy and effective, paying off with a nifty final scene that delivers a nice, unexpected shudder.” Mondo Digital

” …the zombie-make up is eerie and cool and the production values are perfect for this kinda movie. Half the fun of the story is the cool location, the small dirty village with the mountains around it. And it’s raining or snowing almost all the time, so the feeling of cold dread is evident all the time.” Ninja Dixon

“The film hits a really good balance of luridness and tastefulness. There’s plenty of smutty goodness on display here, from bare breasts to hearts being removed, necrophilia, and more, but it all comes at a good enough clip that it never feels like the movie’s just throwing as much crazy stuff at you at once to shock you just for the sake of it.” Not This Time, Nayland Smith

“While not a classic, The Hanging Woman definitely has its high points. It’s got some great locations, a splash of sinister finesse, more than a few ripe red herrings, and a performance by Naschy that’s not to be missed.” PopMatters

The Hanging Woman takes its own sweet time to get moving but once the story is established and the characters are in place, it zips along nicely to a pretty satisfying last half. While Merino at times seems more in love with the locations than the cast members and tends to pad the film with a lot of footage of people wandering around spooky tunnels and creepy houses, there’s enough zaniness in the picture to make up for that sometimes languid moments.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

” …much of the film is quite reminiscent of the 70s era Hammer output, with its emphasis on fog-drenched atmosphere, Gothic locales and low key exploitation elements such as nudity and some minor gore. The movie itself is quite capably directed by José Luis Merino, who offers a nice mix of eerie moments…” Talk of Horrors

“This Spanish zombie horror is sluggish but offers up a fun conclusion […]  Rather topheavy with exposition, this minor undead effort is redeemed somewhat by its musty mood; picks up steam with the climax and a great scene with Naschy losing his head… literally.” The Terror Trap

Choice dialogue:

Inspector’s assistant: “By gad: ladies underwear! The scoundrel!”

Serge Chekov: “I find ill-mannered servants most disagreeable.”

Serge Chekov: “Listen to me. Instead of impersonating Sherlock Holmes, why don’t you try and find that butler?”

Cast and characters:

Stelvio Rosi … Serge Chekov (as Stan Cooper)
Maria Pia Conte … Nadia Mihaly
Dyanik Zurakowska … Doris Droila (as Dianick Zorakowska)
Pasquale Basile … The Inspector (as Pasquale Pasile)
Gérard Tichy … Professor Leon Droila
Aurora de Alba … Mary
Eleonora Vargas … (as Leonora Vargas)
José Cárdenas … 2nd Guard
Giuliana Garavaglia … (as Giusy Garr)
Carla Mancini
Alessandro Perrella
Carlos Quiney … The Butler (as Charles Quiney)
Isarco Ravaioli … Town’s Mayor
Paul Naschy … Igor

Filming locations:

Icet de Paolis Studios, Milan, Italy
Ballesteros, Madrid, Spain
Lleida Pyrenees, in June 1972

Technical details:

Eastmancolor, processed by Telecolor
English version by Nick Alexander at Cinitalia, Rome

Alternate titles:

Die Bestie aus dem Totenreich (West Germany – video title)
Beyond the Evil Dead (USA: reissue tit

le)
Beyond the Living Dead
Bracula: The Terror of the Living Dead
Dans les orgies macabres
Dracula, the Terror of the Living Dead (UK)
The Hanging Woman (USA)
The Hanging Women (UK (video title)
L’orgia dei morti (Italy)
The Return of the Zombies
Terror of the Living Dead (UK and USA)
Der Totenchor der Knochenmänner (West Germany)
Zombie 3: Return of the Living Dead
Zombis återkomst (Sweden)

Trivia:

A sign near the remote village reads Skopje. The real Skopje is the capital and largest city of North Macedonia.

Some press materials refer to the film taking place in Scotland, however, there are no references to this location in the English language version.

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Release:

Although lensed in 1972, the movie did not receive an Italian release until 3rd September 1973 due to the huge amount of horror movies filmed in 1972. The Spanish release was delayed until 29th September 1975. Meanwhile, the first US release was apparently in March 1974 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

A Troma DVD was released on September 29th 2009. Although sourced from a VHS version, the disc included some worthwhile extras:

New interview with star Paul Naschy
New interview with director José Luis Merino
New commentary track by José Luis Merino
New interview with Ben Tatar (responsible for English ADR on Spanish films)
Original theatrical trailer
Photo gallery of vintage lobby cards

Rawtenstall, Lancashire, Unit 4 Cinema (now closed) – where the editor of this post saw Bracula: The Terror of the Living Dead – image via Cinema Treasures

  

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