Thursday, October 18, 2007

ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU (1957)

Autumn Russell returns to her African homestead after ten years away to visit her grandmother (Marjorie Eaton). Before she even gets to her house (which looks more like a rundown Southern plantation than an Africa manor), her driver hits a man in the road and drives away, not stopping to help; he believes he hit an undead zombie, and Russell is upset that such beliefs are still held amongst the villagers. At the same time, a trashy group of folks arrive at the coastal property to go diving for a 60-year-old sunken treasure chest full of diamonds. The leader of the pack is jackass businessman Joel Ashley; his slutty wife (Allison Hayes) is along for the ride, as is studly diver Gregg Palmer, whom Hayes smooches up right in front of her husband. Old lady Eaton (think Aunt Eller in OKLAHOMA!) isn't too perturbed by these unwanted visitors; she's even good enough to show them the graves of the various treasure-hunting parties which have arrived over the years and always not only failed to get the diamonds, but wound up dead to the last man. Eaton believes that the members of the original crew, from 60 years ago, have become zombies who protect the treasure. Sure enough, zombies begin attacking the newbies, both underwater and above ground. It seems that the zombies can also turn their victims into zombies, as they do with Hayes. The only thing that stops them is fire, which is of course difficult to produce underwater, though thanks to the resourceful Palmer, not impossible. The bad people get their comeuppance, Palmer gets Russell, and the old lady gets to give the zombies a little rest.

Who knew that John Carpenter's THE FOG was basically a remake of this little-seen, low-budget horror flick? I guess that's overstating the case a bit, but the premise of Carpenter's film is similar. The sets here are cheap and the direction unimaginative, but for the most part, the actors throw themselves into their parts with relish, especially Hayes (the cult star of ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN), Palmer (a grade-B Rock Hudson), and Eaton. Two scenes in particular are pulled off nicely: a genuinely creepy moment in a mausoleum hidden in the woods where a dozen of the zombies rise up out of their coffins, and later when the zombiefied Hayes is surrounded by a ring of candles. The underwater scenes don't seem to have been actually shot under any water at all, but what the hell, they're still fun to watch. I liked this one more than I expected to. [TCM]

2 comments:

Johnny B said...

Oh my, Michael! You have comments now!

This is a childhood favorite- they used to show it from time to time in the 60's on the 4 o'clock afternoon movie, and I liked its general creepy mood and all the zombies. Of course, as I got older I could tell how cheaply made and (mostly) badly acted it was, but I've always had a soft spot for it.

Michael said...

It's very difficult to critique favorite films from my youth because of that "soft spot" factor you note. Usually, when I see them again, I still like them, but I can't always express why I like them, especially if I can see that they might not be appreciated by someone who doesn't have that "soft spot." I can see where this film would be one of those!