Death Curse of Tartu
Written and directed by William Grefé
An ancient Indian curse strikes those that trespass on Tartu’s burial land, as Tartu awakens and transforms into animals to slay all comers. This cheap 1966 horror flick looks its budget, and comes complete with a good deal of padding. But underneath is the bones of a good horror flick, and had it been more than a rush job, Death Curse of Tartu might have gained a small cult following. For now, it’s place in on the Something Weird DVD alongside Sting of Death, the two classic Floridan horror flicks united forever.
Death Curse of Tartu was shot in 7 days, made in a hurry after Joseph Fink and Juan Hildago Gato from distributors Thunderbird International acquired Sting of Death, and needed a horror film to play with it as a double feature for the drive-ins. Unable to get another, they commissioned William Grefé to just make a new film, provided the production began immediately. Grefé spent 24 hours straight writing the script, and they were filming within 10 days. The basic concept was transplanting the cursed mummy type films to the Florida Everglades, as Grefé was based in Florida at the time. Florida was a compact B-movie hub from the 50s through the 70s, giving the nice weather of California with the closer proximity to New York in an era where cross-country travel was less common.
Grefé’s commentary has some funny stories, particularly when telling tales of the animal handlers he used for Death Curse of Tartu and a few others. There’s also some casual admittance that the animal handlers weren’t the nicest to some of the snakes, and a general fear of the anaconda used in Tartu that lead to the casting of snake handler Frank Weed, as he was the only one who would wrestle the snake. Grefé tells of when a tv news crew came to film the filming, and he struggled with the snake for their cameras, but the anaconda started constricting and it took four guys to get it off him. So maybe some tv news station in Florida has amazing footage in their archive, provided it hasn’t been destroyed by 50 years of hurricanes.
If you remember that old MST3K short Catching Trouble where this jerk named Ross Allen spent his day capturing animals, Death Curse could form sort of a companion piece. Some of the stars are actual Floridan animal capturers like Ross, as are some of the characters. There is even a Seminole Indian character, he’s also the only one with the smarts not to go to the cursed land, not blindly following a white master for money like Old Sourpuss from Catching Trouble.