Image Entertainment presents
Death Curse of Tartu / Sting of Death (1967/1966)
"It isn't possible. Sharks don't live in fresh water."- Ed Tison (Fred Pinero)
Stars: Fred Pinero, Babette Sherrill, Bill Marcus, Mayra Gomez, Doug Hobart, Joe Morrison, Valerie Hawklins, John Vella, Jack Nagle
Other Stars: Neil Sedaka
Director: William Grefé
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, gore, nudity)
Run Time: 2h:44m:11s
Release Date: 2001-10-30
DVD ReviewSomething Weird Video again brings us a DVD package of sleazy 1960s' horror, this time a pair of William GrefÈ Everglades shockers.
Death Curse of Tartu (1967) is a retread of The Mummy, except this time with a Seminole witch doctor getting revenge. Tartu (Doug Hobart) is long dead but has a curse on his tomb that enables him to take the form of wildlife and destroy all who defile his tomb. Since there is a group of archaeologists (including some attractive young coeds) who unknowingly dance above the tomb of Tartu (defiling if ever I saw it), he uses the excuse to take vengeance in the form of snakes, sharks and alligators. Yes, even the characters know that there aren't any sharks in the Everglades. But that doesn't stop Tartu!
The picture, written in 24 hours and shot in seven days, is packed with padding to make it fill out half of a double bill (originally released with its companion here, Sting of Death). There are endless sequences of wandering through the swamp, lengthy dance numbers, and the climactic fight goes on forever. There's probably about 2 reels of an okay horror movie here; the rest is just fluff. Though Tartu's makeup is horribly phony (skeletal teeth painted on the actor's upper lip, for instance), his ability to mimic wildlife lends him a bit of originality that allows for some decent suspense.
The same cannot be said for the companion picture, Sting of Death. This time, scientists in the Everglades are studying Portuguese Men of War. Deformed assistant sidekick Egon (John Vella) is obsessed with growing giant jellyfish, and also with the daughter of the Dr. Richards (Jack Nagle). When another bevy of attractive coeds comes to visit and laugh at Egon's face, soon the party is ruined by a stinging jellyfish-man whose touch is deadly. Since there are many coeds, that makes for a fairly spectacular body count before the picture is over.
The jellyfish man, a guy in a wetsuit with an inflatable head, is laughably absurd. Even uncritical drive-in audiences had to have mocked this. The seams on the head are readily visible; it's surprising we can't see the inflation valve too. This movie is also padded by more dancing (including the song "Do the Jellyfish" featuring Neil Sedaka), with tight focus on the women's gyrating derrieres. Not that I mind; at least there was something interesting about the movie. The pair feel much, much longer than their 2.75 hour total running times.
Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: D+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Death Curse has very good color. Black levels are not very high, and the picture is generally lacking in sharpness and clarity. Compared to the bluish trailer, however, it looks like a gem.
The commentary on Sting of Death notes that the negative was covered with mold when it was sent for processing. The unnamed lab that managed to extract this movie did wonders; the picture looks great. Only a few speckles are visible, color is excellent and black levels are extremely good. Clarity is very nice as well. GrefÈ notes that there were probably only a dozen prints ever struck, so if the negative had gone away this might have been a lost film. Whether that would have been a bad thing will be skipped over here, but at least it survives now for the curious.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio tracks are crackly and noisy, with loud hiss much of the time. Music is distorted and tinny sounding. The audio on Sting is slightly better, but neither is particularly good. Dialogue is clear on both, however, so they get the job done.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jaws of Death, Racing Fever, Stanley and The Wild Rebels
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director William Grefé with Frank Hennenlotter
- Excerpt from Love Goddesses of Blood Island
- Short subject Miami or Bust
Two additional programs are included. One is another film from Sting of Death producer Richard Flink, Love Goddesses of Blood Island. This is edited down to about half-an-hour, which allows one to keep all the dancing, plus all of the gore and actually makes the picture fairly tolerable. I haven't seen the full-length version, but judging from this it must be excruciating. This picture contains extreme gore. The second short, Miami or Bust (12m:34s) spends the first six minutes as an intensely tedious travelogue of Miami. Halfway through, however, it suddenly becomes a film of a hideous stripper cavorting by a swimming pool. Please, let it be over.
Wrapping up the package are 6 trailers from GrefÈ pictures, including the two features here. Tartu has faded to blue, and Sting has gone completely red, making the picture on the features frankly astounding by comparison. No sign of the gallery of horror drive-in exploitation art and Horrorama radio-spot rarities, but this is a pretty packed package without them.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsA pair of extremely cheesy drive-in horrors set in the swamps. The transfers are surprisingly good and the commentaries are excellent. A must for fans of this genre; this would be fun for an MST3K party too. But look elsewhere if you're really looking for something scary.
Mark Zimmer 2001-11-16