Orgy of the Dead

Color, 1971, 74 mins. 29 secs.
Directed by Roger Guermantes
Starring Tina Russell, Harry Reems, Darby Lloyd Raines, Laura Cannon, June Dulu, Patrice De Veur
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Though Dark Dreamsadult films have Dark Dreamsdabbled in every movie genre out there, something fascinating tends to happen when it collides with horror. The intention to creep out or even terrify an audience who's there for raincoat purposes is an odd idea anyway, and the results are almost always a bit crazy even when the movies don't work entirely. (Vinegar Syndrome even put together a three-disc set devoted to horror/porn storefront quickies.) Definitely on the strange and arty end of the spectrum is Dark Dreams, a moody and not always coherent attempt to meld experimental filmmaking, trendy post-Rosemary's Baby Satanism, and two of the earliest superstars of adult cinema just coming into their own.

A bespectacled sorceress sits stirring a smoky potion as she rattles on (with something that sounds like the warbling teacher from Peanuts in the background) about the difference between white magic and the "lewd, fantastic rites" of black magic to summon "devils and demons to assist in evil doings." Enter newlyweds Jack (Reems) and Jill (Russell), who have just gotten married despite the fact that he's a jerk who says she's hopefully worth all the waiting to keep preserving her virginity. Their wedding night plans get waylaid when they get a flat tire and have to go for help at a nearby house, where the creepy woman welcomes them with open arms and gives them some very suspicious tea. Soon they're involved in a druggy, devilish stew of fornication, belly dancing, and candlelight rituals in the service of darkness on the way to the obligatory twist ending.

Made at the start of the bona fide theatrical feature wave for pornographic films (with Dark DreamsReems about to break through big time in Deep Throat the following year), Dark Dreams is an interesting curio Dark Dreamsthat works better as a surreal horror film with dashes of explicit sex than a standard adult film. (It's really not erotic when the action keeps cutting to black-robed disciples of the devil at work.) Both Reems and Russell were among the better thespians at the time, which is a good thing since they have to sell their characters for a fairly long stretch before the sex actually kicks in. The soundtrack is pretty striking, too, with atonal scoring alternating with sunny pop music. Not a major classic, it's still a curious and oddly memorable little diversion that precedes some of the major horror adult offerings to come like Through the Looking Glass, Thundercrack!, and The Destroying Angel. (Strangely, 1971 also saw Ed Wood's Necromania, a hardcore outing with a fairly similar plot setup but far less of a strong horror atmosphere.)

The first home video version of this film popped up from Something Weird on VHS and then DVD-R from a heavily battered print, which clocked in about a minute shorter due to a damage. The same went for the film's inclusion in Alpha Blue Archives' Satanic Sickies set, which looked and played just as rough. Vinegar Syndrome's DVD, touted as a new 2K scan from the original negative, looks excellent all things considered for a cheap early adult film; it certainly blows away its predecessors and is accurately presented framed at 1.33:1. The theatrical trailer is the sole extra.

Reviewed on September 24, 2017.