Death Curse of Tartu (1966) + Sting of Death (1965)

This double bill of southern Florida shockers will leave you as dazed and sweating as the Everglades sun by the time the final credits roll.  Shlock auteur William Grefé offers up this heaping helping of low budget, low concept local horror.  The monsters are memorable as are the laughable effects and wobbly sets but don’t worry these flicks won’t disappoint.  The Glades are America’s answer to Australia, because if the people won’t kill you the land will! Check out the madness that is the special effects spectacular STING OF DEATH and the horror of the DEATH CURSE OF TARTU.


The titular Tartu is a Seminole witch-doctor who has been preserved and entombed as a mummy deep in the Florida Everglades.  He has shamanic abilities which allow him to transform into any number of animals to dispatch any who dare disturb his slumber and awaken his curse.  Once risen man cannot defeat the wrathful mummy, only nature can destroy the powerful Tartu.

Tartu turns into a pretty big snake (or a smallish anaconda take your pick) and slowly leaves his grave and searches out those who desecrate his burial ground.  Sam Gunter (Frank Weed) is trying to establish a camp for the rest of the group following behind.  In a fairly unforgettable scene the snake is thrown down on Sam who then rolls around with the behemoth.  Fun to note is that Weed actually sells the wrestling bit very well as he rolls around and thrashes around with the snake.

Ed Tison (Ed Piñero) and his wife Julie (Babette Sherrill) take four students out on an archaeological dig to explore the death mound of Tartu.  Their native guide Billy (Bill Marcus) will not accompany them due to his fear of Tartu and his curse.  When they find the area of the mound Sam is of course missing.  Ed is worried but he lets the students run off to make out while he explains the direness of their situation (in other words, the whole plot of the film) to his beautiful wife.  A ridiculous impromptu dance party with men pants and polos and the women in bikinis.  Not a bad thing but wacky nonetheless. While the students frolic, Tartu shows up as a shark and culls the cast a bit more.

Tartu turns into other creatures as the film progresses.  There’s a venomous snake, an alligator…a shark.  He also can take full blown corporal form as a younger Indian man.  Sadly the supernatural mystic is almost defeated in fisticuffs which makes Tartu a bit of a wuss no matter how much cool shit he can transform into!

Many of the actors only worked on one or two films all of them directed by Grefé.  The only exceptions being Mayra Goméz Kemp who played Cindy and Bill Marcus.  Kemp went on to work in Spanish language film and television while Marcus had bit parts in many movies–DIE HARD and SCROOGED being two of them.  As you can expect it is a bit of summer stock going on but Grefé capably steers his cast of rank amateurs into giving mostly competent performances.  


Somewhere in hell a Neil Sedaka song is playing.  Unfortunately they also play in STING OF DEATH.  The aptly titled “Do the Jellyfish” plays through in its entirety in a scene as the entire cast cavorts around a poolside patio.  Our protagonists, Dr. Richardson (Jack Nagle) and Dr. John Hoyt (Joe Morrison), study the Portuguese man o’ war and  work on the scenic cusp between the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Everglades.  

The story is much less coherent than it’s co-feature as Richardson’s daughter, Karen (Valerie Hawkins) has come to visit with a bevy of beauties and soon after a boatload of students shows up and without preamble a beach blanket bingo party erupts on the dock.  The students later show their maturity and chase off the doctors’ disfigured lab assistant, Egon (John Vella) injuring him with ridicule and threatening him physically.  They play it off after being chastised and continue with the shenanigans pretending to be pirates drinking and wenching their way into the night.  

The plot, as it may be termed, then runs into a lull as the folks left on the island still go about their formal dinner and discuss plans for the following day as though they weren’t attacked by a giant jellyfish beastman and a whole group of students who are in the film for body count purposes didn’t just take off with a severely injured person.  They seem entirely unaffected by the days events until the monster kidnaps Karen and then the docs spring into action to rescue her.  

The army of jellyfish arrive in time to attack the students after their boat has sunk.  Maybe I should say the army of plastic bags with painted cotton in them…but what they lack in believability they more than make up for in originality.  The floating bodies surrounded by the bags is a total hoot.  The monster is also fun. A man in a beaten up diving suit with an inflated trash bag and some wires hanging down from it.  Another humorous happenstance is that when the boat sinks and all these students die they just disappear from the narrative entirely.  The main cast does not even give a thought to their loss and they don’t encounter the wreckage either.  

The DVD opens with a forced promo reel for Something Weird.  The picture quality is pretty good considering the age of these films and the conditions of the source material.  DEATH CURSE OF TARTU is transferred from a print with some dirt, dust and damage.  The colors are crisp and the sound is clear.  STING OF DEATH is a transfer from the negative and looks excellent.  The special features include the shorts LOVE GODDESSES OF BLOOD ISLAND and MIAMI OR BUST and trailers for THE JAWS OF DEATH, RACING FEVER, STING OF DEATH, STANLEY, THE WILD REBELS, and DEATH CURSE OF TARTU.  Each feature also has an audio commentary by director William Grefé.  A couple of the features listed on the back are not on the discs…a “Gallery of Horror Drive-In Exploitation Art” and “Horrorama Radio-Spot Rarities.”  Maybe they landed somewhere else?  Hope so because they certainly sound cool!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.