Orgy of the Dead (1965)
Sometimes, the Restorationists get lucky. Maybe we were just storing up all of our energy for the headaches and heartaches to come as we tackled Walk the Walk (1970) for the upcoming Volume 6, but, in any event, Stephen C. Apostolof’s color riot known as Orgy of the Dead came to us in a nearly-perfect source.
The director (and, later, his estate) had carefully maintained his original negatives and soundtracks – a true rarity in the world of exploitation cinema. As we’ve discussed in previous columns, “grindhouse” film of the 1950s-1970s barely exists at all in its original form: most pre-print materials like camera negatives have long been lost, either through changing hands via unscrupulous owners and distributors, or being abandoned at film laboratories, which then tended to go out of business and dump their holdings into landfills. Surviving prints of films from this “golden” era are likewise usually beat to tatters from endless sloppy projection and mishandling, and color films, of course, fared the worst: pretty much any color production before more stable print stocks were introduced in 1982 is lost, unless it exists in an original negative (which was less likely to fade as badly).
So, how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy Orgy of the Dead in all its candied hues. Our team of supervisor Ross Lipman and colorist Andrew Drapkin did an all-new scene-by-scene color grading session from the camera negative, and the film is presented in its correct 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio, which was not the case in its old VHS and DVD releases.
Eagle-eyed viewers will also note a call-back to a previous byNWR favorite, Maidens of Fetish Street: the “skeleton dance” is performed by Barbara Nordine, who would appear as “Nick’s” last partner in Fetish the following year.
Peter Conheim is a film curator and preservationist based in El Cerrito, California. He is also the co-founder of the performing group Wet Gate, which uses only “found footage” and 16mm film projectors to create a live cinema collage, sampling the sound from the film tracks in real time, as well as Mono Pause, a long-running “Situationist rock” group (and its Southeast Asian music spin-off, Neung Phak) and a member of “culture jamming” legends Negativland. His Cinema Preservation Alliance non-profit organization is dedicated to the long-term survival of endangered motion pictures of all stripes.