Black Orchids opens with a prologue -- Marie Cleo Madison, is a flirtatious young schoolgirl. Her father, an author (Richard LaReno), wishes to cure her of her wanton developments so he tells her the story of Zoraida (also played by Madison), which is where the film really begins. Zoraida is an evil vamp whose stable of lovers include a father and son. The father gets his son out of the way by sending him off to war, but she poisons the father and marries Marquis DeChantal (Wedgewood Nowell). The son comes back and resumes his affair with Zoraida, which leads to a duel between him and the husband. DeChantal is killed, supposedly, but he's only been left for dead. Zoraida and her lover are about to marry when the husband (mortally wounded but still fairly mobile) shows up with vengeance in his soul. He locks his two-timing wife in a dungeon, then kills her lover and throws his dead body in with her, which drives her to madness. Whether this story really sets Marie on the straight and narrow is never fully explained, but who cares? Zoraida's gruesome end made for pretty good cinematic horror, which was, after all, the true point of the film. It's no surprise that the fine silent director Rex Ingram was responsible for this wonderfully salacious work.
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