Known by many different names, The Hanging Woman (1973) best represents the movie. The name under which I bought the Blu-ray from Full Moon, Orgy of the Living Dead, does not. Sure, there’s a great quote from the film:
They say the dead have orgies in that bloody cemetery.
However, that’s as close as we get to the sordid suggestion of that title. Instead, it’s mostly a gothic mystery with a Scooby Doo ending and a few zombies sprinkled here and there.
There’s another quote that might be appropriate:
This story is damned confusing if you ask me.
It’s not, really, unless you’re trying to add more substance than is there. The story unfolds like there’s more to it, but there’s not.
Paul Naschy is simply along for the ride in The Hanging Woman, having nothing to do with it behind the scenes except supposedly taking some liberties to make his bit part more substantial. Oh, he also brings along his head from Horror Rises from the Tomb. The two movies were made at about the same time and shared some resources.
Naschy plays… wait for it… Igor, a necrophiliac gravedigger/graverobber who eventually becomes one of the few living dead creatures at the end. He is without a doubt the best thing about the film. He shines in his role, stealing attention from the other actors when he appears on screen (which is not enough.)
When his uncle dies, Serge Chekov (Stelvio Rosi) arrives in the village for the funeral, unaware that he’ll be the primary beneficiary of the estate. This enrages Countess Nadia Minajli (Maria Pia Conte), an amateur witch who assumes the best way to get her hands on some of the money is through Serge’s pants.
That plan might have worked for longer than a one-night stand if not for Doris Droila (Dyanik Zurakowska), daughter of Professor Leon Droila (Gerard Tichy), who runs a laboratory in the castle, thanks to the Count’s shared interest. Her blonde innocence is a stark contrast to the Countess’s evil and Doris becomes the true object of Serge’s affection.
Following the Count’s funeral, Serge stumbles into the body of his daughter, Mary Minajli (Aurora de Alba), hanging dead from a tree. Hence, The Hanging Woman is the more appropriate title of the film, especially since the plot revolves around solving her murder, complete with an inspector (Pasquale Basile) and his inept police force.
Director Jose Luis Merino does a competent job directing the script he wrote with Enrico Colombo, but demonstrates none of the visual flair of Leon Klimovsky or Carlos Aured. It’s steeped in gothic settings, but lacks the charm or charisma of Dr. Jekyll vs, the Werewolf or Horror Rises from the Tomb.
It’s best to consider this mnot a Paul Naschy film, but a film in which Naschy appears. He prevents it from being forgettable, but can’t be held responsible for its failings… not that the failings are many, but it just doesn’t rise to the level of the other movies which he wrote and in which he was starring at the same time.
Written by Enrico Colombo, Jose Luis Merino
Directed by Jose Luis Merino
Starring Stevio Rosi, Maria Pia Conte, Dyanik Zurakowska, Pasquale Basile, Gerard Tichy, Aurora de Alba, Paul Naschy
RT 98 min.
Released Sept. 3, 1973 (Italy)
Home Video Full Moon (Blu-ray)
Rating 6 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)