Plot: busload of migrant workers is terrorized by vampires in a remote village.
A good title can mean a great deal of things. It can make or break your movie, or function as a succint summary of its premise. Ostensibly the worse fate that can befall a horror feature is not living up to its title. La orgía nocturna de los vampiros (or The nightly orgy of the vampires, released internationally simply as The Vampires Night Orgy) is one such instances. It works wonderfully as a pastiche of gothic horror and the rest of the time it’s a veritable patchwork of well-worn clichés, conveniences, and contrivances. Worse however is that it never lives up to its sensationalist and porntastic title. Apparently it only has attained any sort of cinematic longevity on the back of its all-star Spanish cast. More Necrophagus (1971) or The Witches Mountain (1972) rather than any of Spain’s enduring fantaterror gems The Vampires Night Orgy is the sort of thing that should have been directed in Italy by legendary provocateurs and all-around madmen Renato Polselli or Luigi Batzella. If only it was as sleazy as its title would suggest or have you think.
It’s fair to say that León Klimovsky was off to a flying start when he filmed his first macaroni western in Spain in 1966. His alliance with domestic horror pioneer Paul Naschy was, of course, legendary for the mad creative synergy between the two and the forging of a veritable classic or two in the process. Having made Vengeance of the Zombies (1973) and The Dracula Saga (1973) fatigue was expected and bound to set in. For The Vampires Night Orgy Klimovsky’s direction was on autopilot and without much of his usual visual flair. Don’t come in expecting aristocratic decadence and opulent smoke-filled interiors of The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman (1971) nor the macabre playfulness and amiable insanity of Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman (1972). Thankfully by the following year’s The Devil’s Possessed (1974) León Klimovsky was in fine form again. Truth be told, everybody was kind of tired of the vampire shtick here. Yeah, even American import Jack Taylor, Dyanik Zurakowska, and perennial LWO favourite Helga Liné. Taylor had found steady employment in continental European shlock. Memorable roles of his around this time can be found in his brief tenure with Jesús Franco with Succubus (1968) (with Janine Reynaud), Count Dracula (1970) (with Soledad Miranda), Nightmares Come at Night (1970), and Female Vampire (1973) (where he had the chance to prod Lina Romay).
Dyanik Zurakowska was a veteran of macaroni western and Eurospy but is known around these parts for her role in the first Waldemar Daninsky El Hombre Lobo epic The Mark of the Wolfman (1968). Other notables include the Spanish giallo The Killer Is One of Thirteen (1973) and the gothic horror The Orgy of the Dead (1973). In 1973 Helga Liné was very much in-demand. In just 12 months she appeared in 9 (!!) movies, five of which were horror (or fantaterror adjacent). The Vampires Night Orgy was the last of those five and it showed. Helga looks visibly tired. After the brooding Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973), the oneiric fantastique The Loreleys Grasp (1973), the swelteringly atmospheric The Dracula Saga (1973), and the campy Terence Young peplum breastacular The Amazons (1973) something had to give. That something was The Vampires Night Orgy. To say that The Vampires Night Orgy is not remotely on the same level as Horror Express (1972), Nightmare Castle (1965) or even The Blancheville Monster (1963) would be putting it mildly. Far from her worst Helga’s able to elevate material that is otherwise bland and below her usual level and elevate it above the mires of mediocrity. It might not rise to the glorious heights of the genre, but The Vampires Night Orgy is far from the worst Spanish gothic horror has to offer.
A group of seven weary passengers – Ernesto (Gaspar 'Indio' González, as Indio González), Godó (Luis Ciges), César (David Aller) and Alma (Dyanik Zurakowska, as Dianik Zurakowska) as well as a family consisting of Raquel (Charo Soriano), Marcos (Manuel de Blas) and their eight-year-old daughter Violeta (Sarita Gil) – en route to an aristocratic family in Bojoni in the Carpathian mountains in Hungary (and not Romania where Transylvania actually is) where they have been contracted for employment. The passengers find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere after their bus driver (L. Villena) suddenly collapses from a heart attack and dies momentarily after. As a man of action Ernesto takes the wheel and opines that the best solution is to travel to the nearby village of Tolnai, a mere 10 kilometres away. After some much-needed food and rest they can then continue their journey to Bojoni, 110 kilometres from their current whereabouts, and still be on time to commence working. In the mysteriously abandoned Tolnai the group takes refuge in the local tavern. There they run into American tourist Luis (Jack Taylor) who’s also mystified by the complete absence of any inhabitants in the village of Tolnai, a ghost town by all accounts. As everybody retreats to their lodgings for the night, Ernesto decides to stay on guard.
The following morning the group is treated to a veritable feast of a breakfast with more fresh food and coffee than they’ll ever be able to consume. The villagers have also returned and the travelers are welcomed by village mayor Bruno (José Guardiola). Before embarking on their voyage to Bojoni the mayor is gracious enough to invite the group to the village’s famous roast, an offer they gladly take him up on. Marcos explains that they don’t have means to compensate the expenses of such hospitality. All expenses will be paid for by The Countess (Helga Liné), a beloved member of local nobility who has the entire village enthralled – but will never be named, her only wish that the group stay in Tolnai a little while longer. The Countess sends out her hulking servant (Fernando Bilbao) to gather the meat for the promised roast, by any means necessary. As you would expect neither the bus, nor Luis’ car, have any intention of starting and the group has no choice but to remain in the village until further notice or until reparations can be made. Whichever comes first. Either way they will be staying in the village longer than they had anticipated. César immediately catches the eye of The Countess and she invites him to her luxurious abode under the pretense of reciting to her the works of Shakespeare, Browning, and O'Neill. Violeta meanwhile has made friends with a local boy named Niño (Fernando E. Romero, as Fernando Romero). As one by one members of the group disappear under mysterious circumstances Luis and Alma conclude that something is very wrong in Tolnai… When they do finally escape and are able to contact authorities in Bojoni, law enforcement officials can’t seem to find Tolnai on the map and dismiss it as a figment of their fevered imaginations.
The plot is a recombination of several classic pulp vampire movies. The bus breaking down is straight out of The Playgirls and the Vampire (1960) and The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960). The characters looking for petrol and repairs in a desolate village was liberally borrowed from Hammer’s The Kiss of the Vampire (1973), the town being inhabited by cripples was an element from Klimovsky’s earlier The Dracula Saga (1973) and Helga Liné pretty much mirrors Erika Blanc in The Devil’s Nightmare (1971) or Delphine Seyrig in Daughters Of Darkness (1971) as the undead sanguine seductress. The abandoned village is something straight out of The Witches Mountain (1972). What truly makes The Vampires Night Orgy interesting as a gothic horror genre piece is that it, at least in part, is the earliest Spanish zombie movie predating Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974) by a single year. While the shambling villagers technically aren’t zombies in the George Romero sense, they do act as such and serve the same sentinel function as the non-carnivorous zombies of the pre-The Night Of the Living Dead (1968) variety. Having the third act play out as a zombie movie was a genius decision on Klimovsky’s part. Liné’s involvement is only peripheral amounting to that of a “special guest star” and that is either to the movie’s advantage or to its biggest detriment. Dyanik Zurakowska isn’t given much to do either – and it’s more than puzzling that the two biggest stars are so little overall narrative importance. Perhaps Cristina Galbó, who was just starting her giallo tenure, would’ve been a better fit instead of Dyanik Zurakowska. Derivation worked to the advantage of The Dracula Saga (1973), but it didn’t here. The schizophrenic score from José María San Mateo - a strange and uneven mix of funky soul/jazz, rustic folk rock, choral and orchestral segments and electronics – is overly cheery one moment and oppressively dark the next. To say that it barely fits a production of this kind is putting it very mildly.
Whereas The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman (1971) and The Dracula Saga (1973) were both highly atmospheric in their predilection towards aristrocratic decadence and sweltering Mediterranean eroticism, The Vampires Night Orgy on the other hand goes for a completely different kind of atmosphere. The very opposite of what Klimovsky’s earlier entries in the vampire genre had aimed for. The Vampires Night Orgy isn’t pretty to look at – and that’s exactly the point. Everything here is decidedly colorless and decrepit looking. The entire production bathes in shades of black, grey and brown and is thoroughly pervaded by a sense of muck and earthtiness the way only Spanish productions tend to be. The presence of both Helga Liné and Dyanik Zurakowska notwithstanding The Vampires Night Orgy is, despite its international English language title, deeply and decidedly unerotic. So unerotic that even the obligatory foreign market nude scenes feel needlessly tacky and tacked on. Clearly the psychotronica/psychedelia of Vampyros Lesbos (1971) was a thing of the past and leagues better than plotless brainfarts as Female Vampire (1973). Klimovsky on a bad day is still better than Jesús Franco at his best. The Vampires Night Orgy works because it defies expectations and conventions. It’s a vampire film that plays out as an old-fashioned zombie movie. That it’s generally closer to The Fury of the Wolfman (1970) than to The Dracula Saga (1973) only works to its advantage. The Vampires Night Orgy is only moderately animated and nowhere near the best Iberian horror.
The Vampires Night Orgy is a decidedly ugly looking affair. The eye-bleeding color and verdant landscapes that usually are rampant in Spanish horror is notably absent here. This lack of sprawling colors encompasses every aspect of the production. The entire feature is kind of drab and not even the pairing of Liné and Zurakowska, neither of which are shy about baring skin and putting out, can liven up this quaint little genre exercise. The most interesting aspect of the feature are the vampires themselves. When they are initially introduced they seem to abide by the classic conventions, but once the plot progresses it becomes increasingly evident that they aren’t your typical bloodsucker. While they do sprout fangs they can withstand the light of the sun and move in herd-like packs in the way the cinematic living dead tend to do. The premise in itself is interesting enough as often with vampire movies there’s always a nearby hamlet where superstition reigns and who will warn travelers of the ominous undead threat. In The Vampires Night Orgy that nearby sleepy farming village, frozen in time somewhere around around 1490, has been vampirized in its entirety. Instead of the undead, often (but not always) members of nobility and the upper class, having to ensnare their desired victims here the entire town bends to The Countess’ will.
Klimovsky would return to the nebulous world of the undead with the vastly superior Strange Love of the Vampires (1975) (with Emma Cohen) lighting up the screen. In The Vampires Night Orgy the twilight world of the undead isn’t the usual decadent, gaudy feast of sweltering eroticism and sanguine appetites – but instead it is rather drab, colorless and dank looking. It pretty much is Spanish horror without its usual vitality and phantasmagoria of bright color and the reddest of blood. Which doesn’t make any less enjoyable or entertaining. Nor Dyanik Zurakowska nor Helga Liné raise the temperature despite baring an equal and gratuitous amount of flesh and Jack Taylor, his usual suave self and the obligatory American star, was in far better movies both before and after. The Vampires Night Orgy isn’t your typical Meditterranean potboiler but it isn’t some overlooked classic either. It isn’t even a sub-classic. It’s closest counterpart is the ill-fated Paul Naschy El Hombre Lobo feature The Fury Of the Wolfman (1970), a potentially good concept marred by a suboptimal production design and direction. Klimovsky, ever the professional, wasn’t able to liven up what charitably could be called a serviceable but otherwise uneventful gothic horror throwback. Spain has offered the world far better gothic horror revivals than this rather daft looking romp.