Night of the Ghouls (1959)

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Now this is what I’m talking about.  Why is Night of the Ghouls “undoubtedly” the worst film ever made?  In terms of technical skill it had no egregious continuity errors, non-matching night/day shots or wobbling tomb stones and the actors do reasonably good jobs within the context of the kind of movie they are in.  Night of the Ghouls has its problems and it’s certainly a bit more odd than a lot of the films from the era but Edward D. Wood, Jr. is still no worse than a lot of the other “bad movie” directors.

I guess the biggest “red herring” in Night of the Ghouls is the hilariously pointless detour to the shots of the teens hanging out and fighting; for a moment I thought it was going to turn into one of those “teenage monster” movies.  But nope, Wood never revisits the juvenile delinquency theme.  Instead the film turns into an enjoyable ghost movie involving a medium, a goofy cop, a cute as hell assistant, some police procedure, some shoot ’em up action, a neat twist ending and Tor Johnson wearing effectively grotesque horror make up.

Oh, one other thing; Criswel.  What’s cool is that while Criswel introduces the story by breaking the fourth wall from his coffin and becomes the narrator and later plays a role within the narrative, as if he’s telling you the story in flashback.  The story starts when a hysterical (both definitions of the word) old couple comes into a police station to report the siting of a ghost; this part gets confusing because apparently they saw the White Ghost (Valda Hansen) who didn’t exist in the main body of the story so clearly this is in flashback.  Also a teenage couple gets killed by the Black Ghost (Jeannie Stevens), who roams the graveyard at night.  Police Lieutenant Daniel Bradford (Duke Moore) goes to investigate and ends up at, what I guess is the same building that functioned as the laboratory in Wood’s previous film Bride of the Monster.

Thus Night of the Ghouls is sort of a sequel or continuation.  The building is now a creepy house where Dr. Acula (Kene Duncan) is a medium who is assisted by “The White Ghost” who I never heard addressed by any other name.  They hold a creepy seance where they have skeletons sitting in chairs and things float in the air and a corpse that speaks to the living; it’s actually pretty cool.  Most of the rest involves searching through corridors and investigating weird stuff.

But I’ll tell you this and it’s very important: if you watch this movie thinking, “haha, oh Ed Wood, haha” then you can easily write it off as a joke but if you suspend your disbelief and actively watch it like you would anything else, it’s got some neat twists which I’m not going to spoil!  Wood pulls off a creepy trick during one of the investigative sequences where the detective looks into a closet and sees a manikin, looks away then looks back and the thing is smiling at him!  It’s actually pulled off really well!

Do you want me to find problems with Night of the Ghouls?  Okay, fine.  Aside from the aforementioned pointless juvenile delinquent sequence, there’s an extremely annoying cop named Kelton (Paul Marco) who I guess is supposed to be funny when he acts like a buffoon the entire time.  Also that hysterical old couple are obviously not “trained” actors.  But who cares?  That’s all nitpicking nonsense!  Night of the Ghouls is pretty good so don’t be a hater and check it out.

Orgy of the Dead (1965)

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Let’s talk about Edward D. Wood Jr. for a second.  He should not be put on a pedestal as the “worst director of all time.”  The people who say that have not seen what I’ve seen.  They have not traversed the beautifully horrendous filmographies of H.G. Lewis, Andy Milligan, Al Adamson, Ted V. Mikels, or Barry Mahon.  There is so much hilariously inept, completely inane garbage available in the world of exploitation, Eurotrash, nudie-cuties, and drive-in sci fi and horror, that to bestow Ed Wood with that honor fails to recognize others for their brilliant lack of talent.

And so we have Orgy of the Dead, which was not directed by Wood, but adapted by him from his novel of the same name.  I had no idea that he was such a prolific writer, and I was rather surprised that he wrote a book called Suburbia Confidential.  I’ve seen the mid-60s stag film called Suburbia Confidential, and the directing credit is given to Stephen C. Apostolof, who also directed Orgy of the Dead and often collaborated with Wood.  However I haven’t been able to figure out if Suburbia Confidential was based on Wood’s book.  Wood’s book is said to have come out in 1967, the year after the movie so I don’t know.

Either way, Orgy of the Dead is a decent enough nudie flick, except that it’s too damn long.  These things should never be longer than 70 minutes, and Orgy of the Dead has a running time of 91 minutes.  The plot is about a husband and wife, who crash their car by a mountain, wake up next to a cemetery, wander in, and observe an after dark ceremony of sorts.

In other words, what they – and we – observe is striptease after striptease after striptease after striptease, while the Emperor (Criswell) and his Vampira wannabe, the Black Goul (Fawn Silver), chew the scenery.  To add to the stupidity, the Mummy, who talks for some reason, and the Wolf Man are the Emperor’s henchmen.  Eventually, the sun comes up and everyone dies, and the man and wife try to tell their story to cops, and they laugh, saying things like “woa, musta had a pretty bad crash” or “hit your head” or something to that effect.

But, is it worth watching?  The women all look fantastic, apparently all pulled from local strip clubs; so they are busty, curvy, and toned.  Set to a soundtrack of old timey, Cabaret music, the girls each do a unique dance – Hawaiian Dance, Skeleton Dance, Streetwalker Dance, Slave Dance, Cat Dance, Fluff Dance, Mexican Dance and Zombie Dance – and, with the exception of the zombie, are all relatively graceful. The Zombie Dance, in spite being naked, evokes no eroticism due to her zombie moves.  And there is one scene where the Mummy and the Wolfman dip a woman into molten gold, which only further accentuates her gorgeous curves.

Other than that, the fake looking graveyard is cool as well.  We were debating if Orgy of the Dead was filmed in an actual graveyard or if a replica was built on a cheap set.  I say the latter only because the ground is completely flat.  But, since unlike in Plan 9 from Outer Space, the actors had enough grace to not bump into the grave stones, they were believable set pieces. But I suppose that is completely irrelevant for this type of movie anyway.