Death Curse of Tartu

Sting of DeathFloridian filmmaker William Grefé was something of a fixture during that state's exploitation boom in the '60s. Like other successful exploiteers, Grefé was never wed to one genre or another, but instead responded with whatever audiences thirsted for. Many will remember his bizarro Jaws coat-tailer Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976) about a guy who somehow befriends sharks who feast on anyone who rubs him the wrong way. Grefé had learned about working with sharks as the second unit director on Live and Let Die (1973). Actually, for Mako, he just ripped the story off a movie he'd made earlier, but instead of sharks, the guy had a pet rattlesnake named Stanley (1972). As a fella in the know, Grefé was even instrumental in helping soon-to-be gore kings David Friedman and Herschell Gordon Lewis get their footing upon their escape from Chicago's winter chill. And he even talked an out-of-work William Shatner into a role as a murderous playboy in Impulse (1974).

Perhaps his most popular films were Death Curse of Tartu (1967, 84 minutes) and Sting of Death which together, for more than a decade, were the mainstays of drive-ins throughout the country.

An ancient Seminole witch doctor (Doug Hobart) lies entombed deep in the Everglades having left express notice that he NOT be disturbed. Sure enough, folks rudely come snooping around his damp cave, forcing Tartu to make very dead examples of them. First, he turns himself into an anaconda and squeezes the guts out of a guy. Then an archaeology professor (Fred Pinero) fanboats in a whole mess of college students for a field trip who start noising up the place with their wild dance music, so ever-cranky Tartu (who prefers tribal rhythms) takes to bumping them off in fiendish ways as random critters. Let's see, a pair of them get gobbled by a SHARK, another poor kid gets bit to death by a water moccasin and a gator plays Eenie, Meenie, Meinie, Moe with a gal's appendages. Nasty stuff. CineSchlockers should note that this was way before the days of "no animals were harmed during the making of this film." Alleged animal trainer and confirmed NUT Frank Weed not only rassles that 10-foot snake himself, he and his son also CAUGHT the alligator seen in the flick the night before shooting. Its snout was wired to protect the actress, of course.

Notables: No breasts. Six corpses. Spelunking. Marshmallow roasting. Rubber spider. Phony shark fin. Canoeing. Multiple snake bites to the face. Human skull on spit. Gratuitous quicksand scene.

Quotables: Baby-voiced Cindy squeaks, "This place is too creepy for me!" Later, she fends off her horndog Romeo, "If Mr. Tison sees us mushing it up, he'll send us home before we know it!"

Time codes: At last, the flick's first words are spoken (5:00). A good look at mean ol' Tartu (13:30). Wildman Weed faces certain death (18:10). Boogie woogie dance party in a SWAMP!? (37:40). Grefé's precursors to Jaws of Death (42:11) and Stanley (55:15). "Arise, Tartu, Arise!" (1:14:35).


CineSchlock-O-Rama was inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.
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