Death Curse of Tartu & Sting of Death [DVD]

This DVD is a great, even dazzling, treatment of two terrible movies and the man who made them, appended with tons of cheap cinematic thrills. Director William Grefe walks us through both Sting of Death and Death Curse of Tartu with an amused air of detachment, freely admitting to mistakes that derived from his lack of money or just plain oversights on his part, as well as the spur-of-the-moment decisions that were made just to get the the latter movie made in the first place, and to meet a distributor's deadline. He freely admits to a directorial technique that was built upon photographing the most anatomically appealing actresses he could find in their most anatomically appealing poses -- this is more important than good special effects or a decent script -- in gratuitous dance sequences and other memorable moments. Grefe can probably take credit -- as he presumes to here -- for discovering the relationship between sexually active teens (well, twentysomethings) and violent screen deaths, a full decade before John Carpenter's Halloween. Among the choicer additional bonus features is the presence of scenes from the "lost" film Love Goddesses of Blood Island, which is a babes, sex, and gore parody of Wonder Woman, made by the same producer who handled that end of Grefe's movies; and the appropriately entitled short "Miami or Bust," which starts out as a straight travelogue and ends with a striptease. There are also trailers for a half-dozen Grefe-directed movies, including the snake thriller Stanley. Both feature films have been transferred with embarrassingly good quality, in the color correction and the image density and brightness, and the sound is good enough to show off the flaws in the original shooting. The disc opens automatically to a multi-layer menu that is ridiculously easy to maneuver around.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Digitally remastered
  • Audio commentary by director William Grefé
  • William Grefé trailers for: Death Curse of Tartu, The Jaws of Death, Racing Fever, Stanley, Sting of Death, and The Wild Rebels
  • Sing along with Neil Sedaka with the enclosed lyrics to "The Jellyfish Song"
  • Almost 30 minutes of rare scenes from Sting of Death producer Richard S. Flink's glamour-girls-and-gore exploitation epic Love Goddeses of Blood Island
  • Bonus theatrical featurette: "Miami or Bust"
  • Gallery of horror drive-in exploitation art
  • Horrordrama radio-spot rarities

Synopsis

Sting of Death
There's an underwater menace haunting the Everglades, killing local fishermen in horrible ways and stealing equipment from a nearby research laboratory. Despite the presence of danger, marine biologist Dr. Richardson (Jack Nagle) welcomes his daughter Karen (Valerie Hawkins) and her sorority sisters to his home on the canal for a relaxing weekend of swimming. Karen meets Dr. John Hoyt (Joe Morrison), the doctor's handsome assistant and sparks fly; she also fends off the affections of Egon (John Vella), the ugly, awkward jellyfish researcher who has always loved her from afar. Egon is treated with derision by the other members of the team, and all of Karen's friends are uneasy around him, so the scarred, sensitive recluse becomes even more withdrawn. When a boatload of dance-crazed biology students arrives for a beer blast, the eerie half-man, half-jellyfish monster makes an appearance and attacks a beautiful girl in a swimming pool. Panic ensues, with deadly results. The scientists struggle to understand just what they're up against, while the murders continue and Karen is eventually targeted by the weird mutant monster. Famed pop star Neil Sedaka provides two numbers for the soundtrack, including the ska-flavored teen dance hit "Do The Jellyfish." ~ Fred Beldin, Rovi

Death Curse of Tartu
The Tartu of the title refers to a foul-tempered Seminole sorcerer (Doug Hobart) who returns from the dead as a crusty ghoul to torment and destroy a group of young archaeology students who unwittingly violate his grave during field studies in the Everglades. Tartu assumes the shapes of a variety of local fauna to exact his revenge, including a venomous snake (with remarkable acrobatic qualities) and a ferocious alligator; he even takes the form (for reasons unknown) of a not-so-indigenous man-eating shark. Not before we witness the ultimate horror of Tartu camping it up in a pair of nylons (don't ask), the villain eventually falls victim to one of the swamp's many treacherous patches of quicksand. This drippy backyard nonsense made the late-night cable TV rounds before sinking into much-deserved oblivion. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

Cast & Crew

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    Doug Hobart - The Monster
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    Judy Lee - Ruth
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    Deanna Lund - Jessica
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    Joe Morrison - John Hoyt
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    Jack Nagle - Dr. Richardson
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