Monday, May 18, 2009
Grindhouse 1967 Style: Death Curse of Tartu & Sting of Death
I was like 14 years old and this double bill was playing at The Paramount in wonderful Newark, NJ. I was out and out forbidden to go because of the racial tension in the area following the riots a couple of years prior. Sounded like a great show, but I never saw it until Tartu wound up on broadcast TV, heavily edited. Sting of Death never saw a TV release or a VHS release. I remember seeing Tartu in a big box at one point.
Anyway the good folks at SWV released this double feture as it was originally shown. Released by Thunderbird International, I wonder if the same company put out that cheap wine, directed by William Grefe, who went on to do the Hooked Generation, Stanley and Mako Jaws of Death. He also did the second unit direction for the shark scene in Live and Let Die.
Death Curse of Tartu involves some anthropology students who desecrate an Seminole witch doctor’s grave. Tartu came shape shift into a snake, a shark, an alligator ect. That’s how he picks off the students, one by one. The effects, for the time, are pretty good and the mummified version of Tartu could have been nightmare material for a 14 year old. The climatic showdown between Tartu and the last two survivors ends with a muscular warrior Tartu being tossed into some quicksand, then morphing back to the mummified Tartu as he sinks out of sight.
Death Curse of Tartu was filmed in the Everglades. The wind is constantly blowing and the music is very familiar to me as it was used in countless old serials and shows that ran on TV when I was a kid. Sting of Death takes us to a mad scientist’s under water lab where he has managed to transform himself into a humaniod half man, half jellyfish. He looks like he has a big trashbag for a head and the “tentacles” looks like the hoses from a swimming pool. As crazy as this might sound, the underwater stuff is beautifully shot in contrast to the weird plot and crappy acting. 60’s singer, Neil Sedaka may have embarrassed himself into early retirement with the "Jellyfish" song. In fact, Neil is billed as “special Guest Singing Star”, something I’m sure he leaves off his resume. Both films are a great combination of 50’s monster films and mid 60’s cheezy gore.
42nd Street pete