Orgy of the Dead

Color, 1975, 90 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Earl Barton
Starring Zalman King, Brenda Fogarty, Cathy Worthington, Dina Ousley, Jill Voight, Susan Russell, Robert Gribbin
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Code Red, Mill Creek, BCI/Eclipse (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

A Trip with the Teacherfixture of various Trip with the TeacherCrown International box sets and double bills over the years, Trip with the Teacher belongs to that memorable, disreputable line of exploitation films advertised as sexy romps that actually turn out to be mean-spirited kidnapping films. (See also: Cheerleaders' Wild Weekend.) Shot in just under two weeks in 1973, this cheap 16mm production was a significant hit for Crown when it hit theaters in 1975, with marketing that indicated it might be a follow-up to its reliable Howard Avedis programmer, The Teacher.

The late Zalman King, star of Blue Sunshine and future helmer of many erotic cable classics (including Two Moon Junction and the Red Shoe Diaries series), stars here with a gigantic pair of Michel Polnareff-style sunglasses in what amounts to a '70s desert roughie as the leader of a bunch of biker thugs who haul a young teacher and four of her charges out to a shack under false pretenses after their bus breaks down. Chases, sexual assault, and heartfelt conversations fill up the running time, which is low in the skin department but high in sleaze and hammy acting (with King in particular going way, way over the top, murdering a gas station mechanic right off the bat and never letting up after that).

A time capsule if there ever was one, Trip with the Teacher takes its sweet time getting to the main shack location (well over the first half hour) and pads out its running time with lots of running and strolling around. Trip with the TeacherTrip with the TeacherFortunately the sincere performances manage to keep it engaging, and the lively climax features some decent surprises and action. The nudity level is low but pretty uncomfortable when it occurs, including one bit of forced degradation and a truly tacky moment when a dead girl's blouse slips open for no good reason in a stream. The bike antics are always fun and even startling in a couple of instances where actors look like they're centimeters away from really being hit, so hopefully they were paid well for their trouble.

As mentioned above, this one's been out many, many times, including a 2007 BCI/Eclipse double feature with Malibu High, Mill Creek's 8-film Drive-In Cult Classics set from 2008, and a (now very expensive) 16-film Drive-In Cult Classics box. Code Red brought the film to DVD in 2015 as a Crown double feature, and the open matte transfer here looks fine if unspectacular. Extras include a second audio track (featuring a very thorough Q&A with King about his entire career) and an 11-minute video interview with actress Brenda Fogerty, who plays the ill-fated title character. Sharing on the same disc is the less familiar Jail Bait Babysitter, a 1977 slice of soapy trash from John Hayes, director of Grave of the Vampire and the insane Sweet Trash. High schooler Trip with the TeacherVicki (Thérèse Paré) won't put out for her boyfriend Robert (soap actor Roscoe Born), but it seems that all of their friends want to spend more time organizing sex parties than Trip with the Teacheractually going to school. Vicki decides to test the waters elsewhere before going all the way with her beau, which means getting involved with a prostitute and losing her virginity to a creepy middle-aged businessman. Again this one isn't terribly graphic (it's a soft R rating at best) but the woozy '70s California vibe and often baffling editing and soundtrack decisions make this one a real curio. This one has never had a decent transfer before (a cruddy Continental VHS has been the source for some dire gray market DVD editions), so the new 16x9 version here is a major step up even if the print is in pretty ratty condition in spots (including the opening shot, which is slightly clipped). The theatrical trailer is also included.

In 2017, Vinegar Syndrome added this film to its roster of radically upgraded Crown releases as a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD release, sourced from the original 16mm negative. It's a pretty startling leap in quality if you're familiar with the film; it's color, sharp, and quite professional looking now, as long as you take its scrappy shooting conditions into account. Trip with the Teacher(One camera was clearly malfunctioning during a few scenes and left a couple of thin lines on the film as it was being shot.) The DTS-HD MA English mono track sounds great as well (optional English SDH subtitles included), with the cheerful, catchy library music faring well (including frequent use of Alan Moorhouse's "That's Nice"). A new audio commentary moderated by the label's Joe Rubin brings together one-shot director Earl Barton and actresses Cathy Worthington and Dina Ousley, all of whom still regard the film (and the departed King) quite fondly as they chat about its theatrical opening, the production equipment, the desert shooting conditions, and plenty more. Now a realtor, Fogarty returns for a new video interview, “Taking the Trip” (14m29s), chatting about how she ended up being cast in the film, didn't have the best agent submitting her for parts, wound up in jail during the shoot due to traffic infractions, and even has a bit of a YouTube presence. Also included are a still gallery (2m24s), the trailer, and a trio of TV spots.

Reviewed on October 13, 2017.