Death Curse of Tartu (1966)

Death Curse of Tartu_(1966)‘They thought it was a joke…’

An archaeology professor takes a group of students into the Everglades to look for native artefacts. Unfortunately, the teenagers wake up an ancient witchdoctor when they party near his burial site. Understandably upset when his complaints to the local council fall on deaf ears, the shaman transforms into pieces of animal stock footage and takes revenge…

Deadly dull ‘revenge of nature’ flick that crawls through 88 interminable action-less minutes on its way to a climax involving a lacklustre wrestling match and a boggy hole. Penning the script probably engaged writer-director William Grefe for a couple of hours one afternoon and, while you’re not expecting Shakespeare in the circumstances, does every single line of dialogue have to be a total cliché? Having said that, he probably does deserve some credit for managing to film in what was most likely an awkward location, but the results are so perfunctory and lifeless that the movie almost fossilises as it plays.

Grefe already had previous with ‘Sting of Death’ (1965) (walking jellyfish monster) and went on to give us ‘Stanley’ (1972) (a killer snake) and ‘Mako: The Jaws of Death’ (1976) (no relation to anything by that Spielberg fellow). There were films in other genres too; most notable of which is his writing and directing gig on ‘The Naked Zoo’ (1970), which featured Hollywood legend Rita Hayworth in one of her final roles. It’s hard to believe she would have taken the job if she were acquainted with Tartu and his swampy shenanigans.

Death_Curse_of_Tartu_(1966)2

‘Don’t go out there – you’ll get bored to death!’

The no-name actors here are just the usual roll call of potential victims, with no discernible personalities or distinguishing marks. However, some kudos must go to actress Mayra Gomez Kemp in the role of Cindy; her throat must have hurt after all that screaming and her catatonic tussle with a stuffed alligator may be brief, but it’s truly heroic. But most of the time, the audience will be willing Tartu to just get on with it and put everyone out of their misery. Sadly, when he finally makes an appearance in the flesh near the end, he’s somewhat less than impressive.

Elsewhere, the intrusive musical score desperately tries to convince us that we should be looking at whatever’s happening on the screen, but it’s a fight it’s simply not possible to win. There are a few laughs to be had with the terribly staged animal attacks, most of which seem to be carried out with stuffed toys, but really it’s precious little compensation for what has gone before. This is the sort of film that puts the ‘grind’ into ‘grindhouse’. And not in a good way.

A bore of epic proportions.

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