ZOMBIES OF MORA-TAU
(director: Edward L. Cahn; screenwriters: Raymond T. Marcus (Bernard Gordon)/story by George H. Plympton; cinematographer: Benjamin H. Kline; editor: Jack Ogilvie; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Gregg Palmer (Jeff Clark), Allison Hayes (Mona Harrison), Autumn Russell (Jan Peters), Joel Ashley (George Harrison), Morris Ankrum (Dr. Jonathon Eggert), Marjorie Eaton (Grandmother Peters), Karl ‘Killer’ Davis (Zombie), Gene Roth (Sam, chauffeur); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; Columbia; 1957)
“You should beware that it’s a Sam Katzman production.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
You should beware that it’s a Sam Katzman production, someone known for producing schlock. Former editor Edward L. Cahn (“The She Creature”/”Voodoo Woman”/”Invasion of the Saucerman”) directs this cheapie quickie B-film that’s set on the African coast (the exteriors were filmed at a popular location outside Los Angeles called Baldwin Ranch, located near the Santa Anita Racetrack, while the interiors were filmed at the Columbia back lot) where seafaring zombies guard a chest holding diamonds in a sunken ship. It’s written by Bernard Gordon from the story by George H. Plympton. Gordon had to use the name Raymond T. Marcus because he was being blacklisted. Greedy adventurers, the shifty George Harrison (Joel Ashley) and his vulgar wife Mona (Allison Hayes), finance an expedition to salvage that sunken treasure. The forthright Jeff Clark (Gregg Palmer) is hired as a diver and given a small percentage as a partner, while the curious scientist Dr. Jonathon Eggert (Morris Ankrum) goes along only to write the story. The fortune hunters were invited there by Mrs. Peters (Marjorie Eaton), whose husband was a ship captain of a crew of ten in 1894, of the ship Susan B, that landed some 60 years ago off the African coast. A group of ten fortune hunters raided a native temple and stole their diamonds. They were killed and returned to the ship with the treasure as zombies and killed Captain Peters and his crew. They have all become zombies and ever since guarded the diamonds and killed all parties who have subsequently made attempts to steal the diamonds. Mrs. Peters, who came here 50 years ago, invited the fortune hunters to take the diamonds and then to destroy them. This is the only way her husband can become undead and she can give him a decent burial, and the danger from the zombies will come to an end. Also visiting the elderly Mrs. Peters after a ten year absence is her pretty great-grand-daughter Jan (Autumn Russell), a non-believer in the undead.
Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.
With the arrival of the salvage team, the zombies (all played by pro wrestlers) rise out of their coffins and travel underwater to land while covered with seaweed. They attack the treasure hunters and can’t be killed, but Mrs. Peters has discovered that you can only stop them from attacking by fire. Jan becomes a reluctant believer when kidnapped by one of the walking dead, only to be fortunately saved by the brave actions of Jeff. Using Mrs. Peters’ suggestion of fire, the salvagers bring up the treasure and escape by using a torch. What happens next is the zombies going on the attack and all the silly fortune hunters who survive realizing the old bat was right and the only way to live was to do as she says. The heroic survivor moans to his love interest Jan, “I’ll probably never be rich again.”
It drags along at a zombie pace, the shots of the undersea divers are unconvincing and it can only manage some cheap thrills, but it makes up for all that by remaining creepy throughout and is the only flick I can recall that had underwater zombies. It’s a fair addition to the zombie opus (especially when you get a look at what’s out there in that genre).
REVIEWED ON 10/26/2007 GRADE: B-