Sunday, January 13, 2013

Zombies of Mora Tau (Edward L. Cahn, 1957)

Fans of The Middleman will likely be familiar with Zombies of Mora Tau as Wendy Watson's zombie-movie-palate-cleanser. In that, she and Tyler Ford discuss how Zombies of Mora Tau is the worst zombie movie ever, and Wendy justifies owning it by saying that it makes Night of the Living Dead brand new for her after a viewing. In a way, I agree. I am tired to death of zombies, and even the classics of the plague-zombie variety make me tired. However...

Zombies of Mora Tau is right up my alley. This is not a bad Romero-type zombie movie, it is a Voodoo zombie film, and that I can get behind. It is not strictly Voodoo, but these are spiritual zombies. Sure, they can turn living people into the walking dead, but it is not a constant "have you been bitten?!?" fest.

The basic story is of a shipwreck that held a large cache of diamonds. These were so important that the now dead crew walk the ocean floor to protect them. For years, treasure hunters have come to find them, and most have joined the ranks of the living dead. So, our story begins with, guess what? A crew of treasure hunters who think their predecessors were a bunch of chumps, and they will get the diamonds.

There is much more of a Pulp feel to this one, and it could easily be a Hollow Earth Expedition type adventure. The leader of the treasure hunters is full of hubris, and he and his wife, Mona, are a bit on the libertine side. Hunky hero Jeff is a Brooklyn boy who is a deep sea diver who just wants to get rich and live a life of leisure. Grandmother Peters and Jan Peters know about the zombies, though no one wants to listen to them; at first.

Many of the classic zombie tropes are here. The biggest weapon is fire. They don't burn a bunch of zombies; this is the 1950s after all. Fire is used to keep the zombies at bay. From my memory, no zombies are actually killed...

Allison Hayes of Attack of the 50ft Woman fame as Mona, lounging on the boat while the men go off to (perhaps) die.

As one might expect, and likely the cause of the ire given by The Middleman, is that the zombies are just people walking slowly. Even Plan 9 from Outer Space had superior effects.

Of course, this is not really a story about zombies as much as it is a morality play about greed. Is it worth watching just for that? Maybe not. There are tons of great films about the troubles brought be greed out there. It is a nice time capsule of reasonably well funded yet lo-fi special effects. They are a bit silly by modern standards, but might have been pretty impressive in their day. The film was made by B-Movie house Clover Productions, which might be best known for Earth versus the Flying Saucers (1956).

Personally, I am withholding judgement. If you like old films, check it out when you have nothing better to watch.


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