Review Index


By ED WOOD, JR. (Centipede Press; 1966/2015)

A young couple crash their car on a mountain road and find themselves in a world where “the unseen things that come from their hiding places to parade, to frolic in the massive expanse that is the cemetery when it is dark and they are alone.” There, in the light of a full moon, the couple are made witness to a ceremony performed by a werewolf--or “black creature”--and the Princess of Darkness, who, as is apparently their custom when the moon is full, are entertained by the confessions of the dead. The latter come to include a banshee, a mummy, a deceased actor, a voodoo practitioner, a debauched undertaker and a kindly man who had the misfortune to be buried in an accursed burial ground. In the hands of a competent writer all this might have added up to something semi-profound, but, fortunately or unfortunately, the scribe here was Ed Wood.

     Mr. Wood, the widely hailed “worst filmmaker of all time,” should need no introduction. What isn’t widely known about Ed Wood is that he was an extremely prolific novelist, having published over eighty books. Most of those books, alas, are now quite scarce. Kudos to Centipede Press for putting out this limited edition hardcover printing of ORGY OF THE DEAD, a heretofore impossible-to-find Wood novel that has the same mind-roasting charge as his “best” movies (the notorious A.C. Stevens directed film adaptation of this book included).

     Wood’s widely publicized fetishes and obsessions are on full display in these pages. These include the oft-mentioned angora sweater worn by the heroine, and the fact that said heroine’s name is Shirley (the name of Wood’s female alter ego, who had a thing for angora). See also the opening and closing chapters, which read remarkably like the beginning and concluding monologues delivered by Criswell in PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE (“Now I tell a tale of the Threshold people so astounding it may be too much for some of you”).

     Wood isn’t above layering in some straightforward sexploitation, as in a passage in which Shirley is tied up by the black creature and has her blouse ripped open to expose “the milk-white mounds so close to him, the rosebud tips so inviting.” There are also some decidedly Woodian attempts at poetic dissonance, as in this soliloquy about the defiled beauty of a full moon: “Why must the dark clouds blot out the lovely glow? Oh! I know, if something is so pretty how could we know it is pretty if there isn’t something ugly to judge it by? The dark clouds are that ugly portion.”

     Rounding out the package is an introduction by Forrest J. Ackerman, writing under his “Dr. Acula” pseudonym (which FYI was also the name of a character in Wood’s NIGHT OF THE GHOULS). Ackerman doesn’t appear to know quite what to say about this book other than “If you’re not scared to death of being scared to death, if cannibalism is your idea of strong meat, if you’re prepared for a reading experience you may never forget as long as you live (perhaps even longer)…then turn the pages and commence reading,” which may indeed say it all.