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"La Orgía de los Muertos" aka. "The Hanging Woman" of 1973 is an
underrated and greatly atmospheric Spanish/Italian co-production that
should be appreciated by my fellow fans of Gothic Horror. Originally,
my main reason to watch "The Hanging Woman" was Spanish
Horror/Exploitation icon Paul Naschy, who plays a another really,
REALLY demented role here, and the film turned out to be one of the
best I've ever seen him in. I've been a great Naschy fan for years, and
while most of his films are not necessarily 'good' movies, they are all
highly entertaining. Many of the films this prolific Spanish Horror
virtuoso (Actor/Writer/Director) was involved in in the 70s
successfully merged the Gothic- and the Zombie-sub-genre (most
prominently in Carlos Aured's "Horror Rises From The Tomb"). And this
moody and delightfully creepy film does so in a great manner (the
Gothic part is predominant). Spanish director José Luis Merino, who is
also known in the Eurohorror fan community for directing "Altar of
Blood" obviously didn't dispose of a huge budget for this film, but he
nevertheless managed to create a wonderful Gothic atmosphere and give
the film an elegantly eerie look.
Set in a remote 19th century Scottish village, "The Hanging Woman" begins eerily with a funeral. Shortly thereafter, Serge Chekov (Stelvio Rossi), the nephew of the deceased, comes to the village in order to accept his inheritance. Before even reaching his uncle's house, however, he finds the man's daughter, his cousin, hanged in the graveyard... The film was obviously inspired by other European Gothic Horror films, most distinctively by Mario Bava's masterpiece "Operazione Paura" ("Kill Baby Kill", 1966). "The Hanging Woman" is, of course, nowhere near en par with "Kill Baby Kill" (in my humble opinion one of the greatest Gothic Horror film ever made; by Mario Bava, who is arguably THE greatest Horror director of all-time). However, it is an amazingly atmospheric, creepy and intelligent piece of low-budget European Gothic Horror that no true genre lover should miss. The village is elegantly uncanny, with graveyards, tombs, eerie old houses, and tombstones like one would see them in films by Bava or the Hammer Studios. The storyline is clever and quite original and combines great elements such as Black Magic, Mad Science and Resurrection. There are several great gory moments, as well as some sleaze. Paul Naschy, who plays a truly deranged undertaker, is great as always, and I've never seen a role that suits him better than this one. Naschy is, of course, the highlight here, but the cast members all fit well in their roles and deliver good performances. Stelvio Rossi is good in the lead and so is Gérard Tichy ("Hatchet for the Honeymoon"). I liked sexy Maria Pia Conte, who plays the seductive widow, especially. For early 70s Spanish Horror, the film isn't particularly sleazy, but it features a bunch of deranged perversions and both Miss Conte and Dyanik Zurakowska, who plays the part of the innocent Doris, show off some goods. The film mainly profits from a great Gothic atmosphere, genuine creepiness, some really deranged weirdness and, not least, Paul Naschy. Naschy only has a supporting role here, but he is nonetheless the most memorable character in this film which ranks among the best he has ever been in. Highly recommended to Eurohorror fans.
I saw this dubbed Spanish film as The Hanging Woman, on Gorgon Video. The
box promised scenes of brutality, rape, and humiliation beyond Last House on
the Left. Just to clear the record, this is not true. There is no rape, and
the closest thing to humiliation is when an innocent virgin bares her
breasts. There is violence and graphic gore, but it really doesn't kick in
until the climax. And what a climax! Bloody zombies rampaging in the best
Night of the Living Dead fashion, with the luridness increased in typical
European style. The final shot is chilling and almost Bergman-esque.
However, the rest of the movie is pretty uneventful. Despite a strong
beginning and creepy atmosphere--with the dirtiness of the period perfectly
captured by grainy, washed-out color photography--most of the film is like
an overlong episode of Dark Shadows. Sexy Dyanik Zurakowska has some
powerful nude scenes, and her sex scene with Stelvio Rosi helps spice things
up...but not much else happens. Paul Naschy, the reason many people seek
this out, has a small role as a red-herring necrophile. On the whole, I
think The Hanging Woman is worth seeing--but you should know what you're
getting into. If you want your Naschy fix, see one of his werewolf
Trivia: La Orgia de los muertos originally hit the States in 1974 as The Hanging Woman. International Artists promoted the film with a Last House-inspired campaign: "For the squeamish, keep repeating: It can't be true, can't be true, can't be true, can't be true, can't be true." Stelvio Rosi was billed as Stanley Cooper.
Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out why I got pleasure from a
horror film as effortless and unhurried as this one. If I have to be
objective for a second, I would probably say that "La orgía de los
muertos" actually didn't have much to offer to begin with. A nice
variety of clichés and a predictable ending, are some of the
magnificent qualities about this film. Let's just get this straight:
the reason why I'm not praising this film, is not because I'm against
clichés or predictable endings. I don't think a movie is great, only
when it has a plot twist or unpredicted states of affairs. I believe
that in order to be decent, a horror film needs to be either
entertaining, gory or at least mildly eerie. However, I'm not sure "La
orgia de los muertos", provides much of these three virtues. For the
contrary, it's a very sluggish movie, with no gore and almost no eerie
situations. Perhaps we could say that the story gets interesting and
mildly freaky during the last minutes, but that's all. If we were
talking about a different film, I would almost certainly say that it
doesn't reunite enough elements to be considered a decent horror flick.
Nevertheless, there's something about this film that makes enjoyable
and it has to do with the fact that it is awfully stylish and nice to
look at. The striking and yet ominous European landscapes, the
19th-century wardrobe and the graveyard, create a perfect Gothic
background that unquestionably belongs to the horror type. The
atmosphere is somehow dark, but still enchanting in a way. The highland
village exposes two facades, which makes the scenery so ambiguous and
This may be a film that could be considered worn out by some people, but it's still captivating and charming in a spooky way. I could only spot one or two unintentionally funny situations and dialogs, which is a great flattering remark, in this case. Let's just keep in mind that this is a low budget film with actors who didn't even speak Spanish, or at least not all of them, and the film was supposed to be in that language. One of the scenes that really made me burst into laughter, was the one where Stelvio Rosi gets in a fist fight with Jacinto Molina that was just plain hilarious. Without anything else to add, I can only say that despite of the flaws I mentioned, I believe "La orgia de los muertos" is a film that could be easily enjoyed by Gothic horror fans. Especially the ones who don't need a really complex plot and can appreciate a charming esthetic like the one in this film.
I'm always suspicious of films with many titles. I invariably find
myself musing as to why the film can be found under so many guises.
Could it be that the film is absolutely awful, so its makers and
distributors have re-named it and re-marketed it again and again in the
hope of eventually finding an appreciative audience? This is such a
film - a Euro horror zombie flick which has more alternative titles
than cast members! The version I saw was entitled "Beyond The Living
Dead", and most of the cast members were given nondescript pseudonyms
on the credits. For instance, hero Stelvio Rosi was billed as Stanley
Cooper, and principle female player Dyanik Zurakowska was billed as
Vickie Nesbitt. It's not a particularly good film, but to
whole-heartedly savage it would be a touch harsh as there are just a
few interesting elements which drag it up above "awful" to somewhere in
the "slightly-below-average" category.
Serge Checkhov (Stelvio Rosi) arrives in an East European town (Skopje in Macedonia is hinted at) for the reading of his uncle's will. He soon discovers that he is to inherit his uncle's mansion, much to the annoyance of his cruel and ambitious aunt Nadia (Maria Pia Conte). Something creepy seems to be going on in town at the same time - his cousin is found hanged from a tree in the cemetery; necrophiliac grave-digger Igor (Paul Naschy) starts to act more outlandishly than usual; Aunt Nadia seduces and copulates with young Serge; a doctor residing in the house starts to show off his experiments to reanimate dead animals; and uncle's corpse occasionally goes missing as if it's got up and begun walking of its own accord. Gradually, Serge investigates and uncovers a plot that Baron Frankenstein himself would've been mighty proud of.
Mainly the film is underwhelming. The solution to the mystery is revealed in a phony, heavy-handed scene which resembles the unmasking of the villain in a Scooby Doo cartoon. Sometimes the characters say and do such dumb things that you want to scream in despair. The performances are generally amateurish, and the film is thin on real terror. However, as I've indicated already, it escapes total damnation for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Naschy as the necrophiliac grave digger is hilarious and disturbing (at the same time) in all his scenes. Secondly, the location work is quite impressive. And thirdly, for some reason that I've never been able to figure out, the preposterous story is actually engrossing in a totally inexplicable way. Beyond The Living Dead - or whatever title you know it by - is undoubtedly a bad film, but at least it's ENTERTAININGLY bad.
Firstly everyone expecting gory bloodbath will be sorely disappointed,because this film is almost completely bloodless(however there's some mild violence like quick decapitation,but not too much).Secondly,if you like Euro-horror you'll certainly appreciate "The Hanging Woman".Why?Because it's well-made and there are some lovely atmospheric bits.The acting is surprisingly good and Paul Naschy as a necrophiliac servant Igor simply steals the show!The film reminds me early Hammer horror movies,mostly because it features some elements typical for English horror like tunnels,secret passages,tombs etc.There's also a little bit of sleaze(both ladies have a nude scenes),so fans of nudity will not be disappointed.Of course "The Hanging Woman" has its faults:it's overlong,quite boring and some scenes are rather stupid,but if you like Spanish horror give this one a look.
Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina Alvarez) was a fixture in Spanish
Horror-as far as actor's go, he was that countries Karloff. So when he
died in late 2009, he left behind a vast array of work that has
maintained a cult following-"Night of the Werewolf", "Blue Eyes of a
Broken Doll", "Count Dracula's Great Love"-to name a few. While I
mentioned his passing in my review of "Premutos", looking back, I
should have written a review of one of his movies instead of that
movie. So without further ado, here's a look at the Italian-Spanish
production "The Hanging Woman", in which he played a hunchback.
Serge Chekov (Stelvio Riso) is a swinging 70's kinda guy whose come to Scotland to gain an inheritance. In between sexing up the ladies, he runs into the hanging corpse of a lady. Soon, events revolving around a satanic coven, mad science, murder, zombies roaming the graveyard, and Igor (Naschy), who also happens to be a necrophiliac.
Though Naschy only has a supporting role, "The Hanging Woman" is still quite a treat of 70's style Gothic Horror. In fact, much of the film is quite reminiscent of the 70's 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 capably directed by José Luis Merino, who offers a nice mix of eerie moments with ones that range from tasteless (Chekov's treatment of women, Igor's um...kinks) with ones that just outright daffy (the reason the dead are walking could have come from one of those old 1940's quickies.) That's part of what makes the whole thing so much fun-sure, it feels a bit familiar at times, but the familiarity helps the movie instead of hindering it. Also worthy of mention is the undertone of black humor that permeates the proceedings. While the movie would never be mistaken for a comedy, scenes involving characters such as a horny witch are clearly done with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Which brings me back to Naschy. While I mentioned he doesn't have a huge role, fans of his should still love this. Here, he manages to bring all kids of baggage with Igor-insecurity at one moment, to moments that bring forth revulsion the next-with ease. It's easy to see why folks such as myself hold him to such esteem, as he was able to take such characters and make them his own. Such a role and performance is a testament to his talents as an actor.
If there are any problems, it would be that apart from the more eccentric characters (particularly Igor), nobody here is all that interesting. Chekov is just your typical chauvinistic jerk who doesn't have many redeeming qualities, whilst Doris (Dianik Zurakowska) is yet another damsel in distress character. A bit more thought into some of the characters would have helped.
That out of the way, fans of Paul Naschy and European Horror fare will certainly find a lot to enjoy here. If that's your cup of tea, then check it out.
The Hanging Woman takes obvious influence from both the classic Hammer
Horror films and Mario Bava's Gothic masterpiece Kill, Baby...Kill. The
result is a slightly plodding, though undoubtedly interesting and very
atmospheric little horror film. Like many European films from the
seventies; this one has a whole slew of titles, which range from those
that don't make sense - 'Dracula the Terror of the Living Dead', to
cash-ins; 'Zombie 3: Return of the Living Dead', and innuendo; 'The
Orgy of the Dead'...but The Hanging Woman is the best on the merit that
it actually fits the story. The plot focuses on a man that travels to
an old Scottish village in order to claim his inheritance; an old
house, currently inhabited by his uncle's science partner. Upon his
arrival; a woman is found hanged in a graveyard; though the
circumstances are suspicious as she was already dead before the
hanging. Things turn a little more awry when the nature of the
experiments going on at the house are revealed, and the village may be
harbouring a dark secret.
The plot features a number of different elements, which includes black magic, zombies and grave digging. It has to be said that it can be a little messy at times; though nowhere near as much as many films of this ilk and the plot really flows rather well and the various different elements are well used. Undoubtedly the best thing about the film is the atmosphere and director José Luis Merino succeeds admirably in this respect as the atmosphere is thick and foreboding and this helps to further the plot. The film is essentially a mystery with horror elements, and the director keeps our interest with lots of good ideas and some interesting characters. Paul Naschy is the only cast member likely to be recognised by anyone watching the film; but the unknown cast all do well with their roles; particularly Stelvio Rosi and Dyanik Zurakowska. There's not a great deal of blood in the film; but patience is rewarded towards the end with an excellent decapitation sequence. The film is not very well known and I can't say I'm surprised about that; but it's certainly well worth a look and fans of this stuff shouldn't be too disappointed with it.
There's plenty of skullduggery in store for Serge Chekov when he
travels to a gloomy estate to collect an inheritance bequeathed him by
his late uncle. Not only does he have to contend with witchcraft,
sexual seduction, and a séance upon his arrival, the guy also stumbles
upon gratuitous necrophilia and just when you think the plot can't get
any sillier, he's shown a laboratory where the dead are secretly
Resembling an Italian horror film from the '60s (like the ones with Barbara Steele, only in color), TERROR OF THE LIVING DEAD is all about atmosphere even though there's an actual mystery (later explained through flashbacks) going on right under the nose of a none-too-bright police inspector puffing a Sherlock Holmes pipe. Like Amando de Ossorio's trilogy, the dead are blind here, too, and there's also bare breasts and a woman's heart removed but I don't know what (if anything) can be inferred about audience tastes at the time. Filmmaking in Franco-era Spain obviously didn't shrink from explicit gore (there's an autopsy and a nice beheading here) but they were rather squeamish about nudity, it seems. There's a spinning montage as our hero gets drugged and seduced by the femme fatale and they're in bed together but he's got his pants on while she's completely nude. That's not the only thing weird; the film is set in nineteenth-century Scotland but I'm not sure the filmmakers knew where that was since the characters all have names like Chekov and Nadia and the fine-looking locations resemble Eastern Europe. Genre icon Paul Naschy plays a gravedigger who likes his ladies ice cold and he looked a lot like John Belushi in some scenes. A WTF? film, for sure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is an example of a zombie movie which has zombies that are created rather than transformed by a virus as generally depicted today. The usual differences between the two are that those created (by voodoo, black magic or science) generally follow instructions from their creator, don't eat flesh and don't infect others. Produced in 1973 in Europe it had a good Gothic feel to it. Likewise, although it was originally filmed in Spanish and dubbed in English the overall effect wasn't too bad either. However, one clear fault was that the lead actor, Stelvio Rosi (as "Serge Chekov") sported a haircut from the early 1970's even though the film was supposed to have taken place sometime in the 19th Century. Not only that but I thought his performance was slightly below that of the rest of the cast as well. On the other hand, some bright spots involved two gorgeous actresses, Maria Pia Conte ("Nadia Mihaly") and Dyanik Zurakowska ("Doris Droila") along with excellent makeup for the zombies. In short, other than the slight miscasting of the lead actor, this was a competent zombie film which fans of this genre might find interesting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paul Naschy, the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain," was apparently
very proud of the work he turned in for Jose Luis Merino's 1973 cult
favorite "The Hanging Woman." In an interview taped for the Troma DVD
release, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2009,
Naschy revealed that he initially turned the part down, only accepting
after Merino allowed him to add some "dimensionality" to the small role
of Igor, a grave digger who is murdered shortly after the film's
midpoint. Naschy rewrote the part, making Igor a necrophilic grave
digger (has there EVER been a "normal" character named Igor in the
history of the horror film?) who still has a maximum of a dozen lines
in the picture. Rather, "THW" centers around the character of Serge
Chekhov (an unappealing performance by Stelvio Rosi), who comes to what
I inferred to be an early 20th century Alpine village (although the
IMDb says the film takes place in Scotland, for some reason, and the
picture was actually shot in Lleida, in the west Catalonia region of
Spain) to hear the reading of his deceased uncle's will. Once in the
creepy village of Skopje, however, horrible things begin to happen to
Chekhov. He discovers his cousin Mary's body hanging from a tree, while
his stepaunt Nadia (the beautiful redheaded Maria Pia Conte) turns out
to be a sorceress of sorts. His uncle's live-in business partner, Prof.
Droila (Gerard Tichy, giving the film's best performance), is
experimenting on the "nebulous electricity" of cadavers in the hopes of
bringing the dead to life, while no one seems to know what that creepy
Igor is up to. Good thing for Chekhov that both Nadia and Droila's
beautiful blonde daughter, Doris (Dyanik Zurakowska), are for some
reason attracted to the unlikable galoot....
A Spanish/Italian coproduction, "THW" was originally released under the title "La Orgia de los Muertos" ("Orgy of the Dead"); I'd like to imagine that its name was changed here in the U.S. to avoid confusion with the Ed Wood stinker of 1965, also called "Orgy of the Dead." Merino's film is a satisfying affair, boasting many staples of the horror genre, such as rats, cemeteries, a secret passage, zombies and subterranean crypts. It also dishes out, for the avid gorehound, that truly nasty shot of the titular hanging woman, a hard-to-look-at autopsy dissection and disemboweling, maggots on a disinterred corpse, and those impressively decomposed walking dead...not to mention a decapitation that Naschy was apparently also very proud of. The ladies are lovely to look at, and Merino manages to give his film some interesting directorial touches (such as that camera revolving around lovers Nadia and Chekhov). Naschy tells us that "THW" is Merino's best film, and not having seen any of Merino's others, who am I to argue? In this same interview, Naschy speaks at some length regarding the similarity of the Igor character here to that of Gotho, the part that he played in that same year's "Hunchback of the Morgue" (a superior film, I feel). I could not quite understand Naschy's comments here, so poorly were the subtitles rendered in this section, but must say that I personally see a great difference between the two characters. Gotho does not strike me as a true necrophiliac, as the deluded, simpleminded hunchback only believes his dead love, Ilse, to be "asleep." Igor, on the other hand, is truly perverted, refusing the libidinous attentions of living, breathing women in favor of the decayed corpses in his underground lair, and collecting women's underwear and photographs of cadavers; a TRULY creepy character, brought to indelible life by Naschy, despite a dearth of screen time.
As for this Troma DVD itself, it sports a so-so-looking print, poorly dubbed, that is nevertheless supposedly the most complete print in existence, and comes loaded with a remarkable roster of extras: interviews with Naschy and Merino, as well as Spanish-dubbing director Ben Tatar; commentary by Merino; a 10-minute overview called "Paul Naschy 101"; plus a trailer, copious galleries of stills and posters, AND a whole, separate, full-length, B&W Spanish film from 1965, also featuring Zurakowska, called "The Sweet Sound of Death." An extremely generous package, reasonably priced, of a film that all fans of Paul Naschy--and Eurohorror, in general--should pounce upon like a zombie on a victim....
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