DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966) Reviews and details of Arrow Video Blu-ray box set

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‘This is horror!’

Death Curse of Tartu is a 1966 American supernatural horror feature film written and directed William Grefé (Mako: The Jaws of Death; Impulse; Stanley; Sting of Death). The Falcon International Productions movie stars Fred Pinero, Babette Sherrill, Bill Marcus and Mayra Gómez Kemp.

The movie was allegedly written over twenty-four hours by Grefé and shot several days later when distributors requested a second feature to double-bill with his Sting of Death.


Archaeologist Ed Tison and his wife Julie take four students into the Florida Everglades to search for Native American artefacts. They discover the burial mound of Tartu (Doug Hobart), a Seminole witch doctor.

Four hundred years previously, Tartu vowed that if anyone ever disturbed his grave, he would return and kill the desecrators.

Unfortunately, the grim legend becomes reality when the spirit of Tartu is resurrected and stalks the archaeology students by transforming himself into a shark, a snake, and an alligator…


“Sadly Grefe makes little of the fact that the avenging spirit is an Indian, the one interesting feature of the plot. The result is a routine outing that lacks even the verve of William Girdler’s similarly motivated The Manitou (1977).” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

” …manages to deliver where it should and serves as both an early example of William Grefe’s career as well as the development of the Nature Gone Wild genre than would become so prevalent in the 1970s, particularly in the wake of Jaws in 1975. Overall a solid and really enjoyable slice of trash.” Bad Movies for Bad People

“Overall this was an asinine film with pretty much no redeeming qualities. Everything about this story is bad […] Most of the film is made up of the characters wandering around doing nothing in the Everglades.” Cinema Freaks

“The characters are pretty annoying and the plot has no surprises, except, perhaps a moment when two students get killed in the same attack (instead of the usual one-at-a-time). But it feels like it was made in a genuine attempt to entertain its audience, and the flashes of gore, and the fabulous bikinis, should at least keep viewers awake.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“The makeup on the mummified Tartu — created by Doug Hobart, who also plays him — is pretty memorable. There’s some cheap gore (a mutilated human arm) and some laughable props (a phony spider in a cave), and the soundtrack is extremely grating on the nerves.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

” …the movie was shot in the Florida Everglades, so the swamp looks quite convincing indeed. Also, some of the attack scenes have a certain visceral impact, particularly when the snake repeatedly bites one of the teens in the face.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

Death Curse of Tartu follows a template that has been in wide use among lousy American horror movies since at least 1922’s The Headless Horseman — hook the audience in with something cool early on, so that maybe they won’t notice you boring the sh*t out of them until at least the end of the second act.” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

Choice dialogue:

“I can’t argue with evil spirits.”

Blu-ray release:

On November 24th 2020, Arrow Video released He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection on Blu-ray.

The 4-disc limited edition set comprises seven of the director’s films, all newly restored from the best surviving film elements: Sting of Death (1966), Death Curse of Tartu (1966), The Hooked Generation (1968), The Psychedelic Priest (1971), The Naked Zoo (1971), Mako: Jaws of Death (1976) and Whiskey Mountain (1977). It also includes a brand-new, extended version of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures definitive documentary They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations on 4 Blu-ray discs
Original uncompressed mono audio for all films
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Fully illustrated collector s booklet featuring an extensive, never-before-published interview with William Grefé and a new foreword by the filmmaker
Reversible poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil
Reversible sleeves featuring newly commissioned artwork for each of the films by The Twins of Evil

Sting of Death (1966) + Death Curse of Tartu (1966)
Brand new introductions to the films by director William Grefé
Archival audio commentaries for both films with William Grefé and filmmaker Frank Henenlotter
Sting of Death: Beyond the Movie Monsters a-Go Go! a look into the history of rock ‘n’ roll monster movies with author/historian C. Courtney Joyner
The Curious Case of Doctor Traboh: Spook Show Extraordinaire a ghoulish look into the early spook show days with monster maker Doug Hobart
Original Trailers
Still and Promotion Gallery

The Hooked Generation (1968) + The Psychedelic Priest (1971)
Archival audio commentaries for both films with director William Grefé and filmmaker Frank Henenlotter
Hooked Generation behind-the-scenes footage
Hooked Generation Original Trailer
Still and Promotion Gallery

The Naked Zoo (1971) + Mako: Jaws of Death (1976)
William Grefé s original Director s Cut of Naked Zoo
Alternate Barry Mahon re-release cut of Naked Zoo
Original Mako: Jaws of Death Trailer and Promo
Still and Promotion Gallery

Whiskey Mountain (1977) + They Came from the Swamp: Extended Cut (2020)
Whiskey Mountain Original Trailer
Still and Promotion Gallery

Cast and characters:

Fred Pinero … Ed Tison (as Fred Piñero)
Babette Sherrill … Julie Tison (as Babbette Sherrill)
Bill Marcus … Billy
Mayra Gómez Kemp … Cindy (as Mayra Gomez)
Sherman Hayes … Johnny
Gary Holtz … Tommy
Maurice Stewart … Joann
Doug Hobart … Tartu (as Douglas Hobart)
Frank Weed … Sam Gunter
Brad F. Grinter … Explorer (uncredited, director of Blood Freak; Flesh Feast)

Filming locations:

Everglades National Park, Florida

Technical details:

84 minutes


In the UK, Death Curse of Tartu was released by Grand National Pictures on a double-bill with The Flesh Eaters.

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