Plot: What’s it about?
A team of archaeology students has been given an important assignment, to snoop around an ancient burial site in the Everglades. It seems like a simple enough venture, but when the kids decide to let their hair down, all heck breaks loose. The burial site holds the corpse of Tartu, a witch doctor who doesn’t like these kids, their loud music, or their outrageous dance moves. He might have died hundreds of years ago, but this Seminole stick in the mud plans to end these students, to make sure his rest remains undisturbed. As such, old Tartu rises to take on the form of various animals and in the process, teach these whippersnappers a lesson. In an effort to save his students, the teacher tries to destroy Tartu’s remains, but that causes him to return to his younger self, which could mean that it’s curtains for these kids and their teacher…
This one has a humorous premise, but one that’s believable, all things considered. It’s more plausible than some plots I’ve seen passed off, to be sure, but of course, this is no literary masterpiece of production. The budget is low, the acting is poor, and the special effects aren’t too good, but come on, you don’t want a movie like this to see those elements. Death Curse of Tartu aims to do little else but entertain, which it does, in an unusual, low rent sort of sense. The dialogue is laughable (“The natives are restless,” one team member notes) and the acting is so weak, you have to chuckle at times. So no, this isn’t a good movie in the usual sense, but it is fun, without a doubt. As often happens in these kind of flicks, you start to root for the monster and with the shape-shifting Tartu, we have a fun baddie to get behind, which is cool. I recommend this film to B movie fans, especially as part of this here double feature.
I always do my best to provide an adequate synopsis, but with Sting of Death, I simply cannot offer much beyond the basic premise. Not because it would ruin the suspense or spoil the surprises, but more because most of the storyline defies reason. I can’t explain much of what I saw, nor describe it with any sort of justice to the material. This is just one of those movies where words fail to capture the spirit, so forgive me for this brief synopsis. An insane, morbid, smitten, and of course, mad biologist has decided to take some extreme action. He works in his high tech laboratory to perform a most dangerous experiment, one which could change his life forever. In this underwater haven of evil, he transforms himself into a mutant of bizarre form, half human and half killer jellyfish, a hideous jellyfish man. As he terrorizes local teens, he ends up making a big splash, but will the teens somehow manage to end his vile efforts?
As if old Tartu wasn’t enough, this time around, we’re given a jellyfish man to deal with. And as if that jellyfish man wasn’t enough, he is no normal mood by any means, as he is head over heels in love. It’s always fun to watch as teens get stalked by monsters, but when it happens to be a love crazed jellyfish man, the thrills are that much better, I think. Add in a guest appearance by singer Neil Sedaka and we’re in business, no two ways about it. The director of both this film and Death Curse of Tartu is William Grefe (The Wild Rebels, The Jaws of Death) and while both productions had minimal resources, Grefe and his workers still deliver where it counts. Sting of Death is a silly, wild, and very fun picture, although it won’t be remembered as a cinema classic, not by any means. The teens vs. the jellyfish is a hoot to watch, as well as the actually jellyfish man himself, who looks like his head is a normal garbage sack. I liked this movie and since it is included in this value packed double feature, it comes highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Death Curse of Tartu is presented in a full frame transfer. I think the image is pretty good here, given the age & nature of the materials and such. The print has some nicks & debris to be seen, but looks solid, even if overly worn in some places. The image looks a shade too dark most of the time, but I suspect this was done for atmosphere, as opposed to a flaw with the balance in the transfer we’re given here. The detail is good, but sometimes low and as far as colors, the hues come across well, but never too rich or bold. Not a great looking transfer by any means, but given the material involved, I don’t think we could ask for much more.
Sting of Death is also presented in a full frame transfer. I was quite shocked as I viewed this transfer, as the image is very clean and sharp at all times. I found minimal grain or damage to the source print, which looks brand new at times and always very impressive. The colors are rich and bright, flesh tones are natural, and black levels seem on the mark, this is so good, you’ll have to pinch yourself. I still can’t believe how wonderful this transfer is, especially the source print, which looks as if the film were made just the other day. I commend Something Weird for their print selection and transfer, as this is one excellent visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
Both films feature mono options and while neither track is that great, I found both to be more than passable. I didn’t expect much and I didn’t get much from these tracks, but the basics are well presented and that proves to be enough. The off the wall music sounds clean, while the various sound effects are solid, but keep in mind, these are mono soundtracks to somewhat older, low budget pictures. The vocals seem in line in both cases, with no serious problems in either case to mention. As I said before, I doubt you’ll be knocked over in your chair by either of these tracks, but as far as the material goes, I have no complaints with the audio treatments.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In a most welcome notion, this disc includes director’s commentary tracks on both films, as William Grefe reveals all the magic behind both pictures. I found Grefe to be an able speaker and his memory seems in order, as he recants all sorts of tidbits, from major issues to small, but still interesting facts. He discusses the challenges involved in the shoots, his casting choices, and of course, tells all about how Tartu and the jellyfish man were created. I was thrilled to find both tracks here and of course, I hope Something Weird continues to include these kind of sessions on many of their future releases. You can also view trailers for these two films, as well as a few other of Grefe’s pictures, which is cool. A special sing-a-long with Neil Sedaka is packed in here too, as well as thirty minutes of rare scenes from Sting of Death producer Richard S. Flink’s Love Goddesses of Blood Island. This disc also includes a bonus theatrical featurette titled Miami or Bust, as well as a selection of exploitation radio spots & artwork.