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Zombies of Mora Tau


Title: Zombies of Mora Tau
Year Of Release: 1957
Running Time: 70 minutes
DVD Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Directed By: Edward L. Cahn
Writing Credits: George H. Plympton, Bernard Gordon

Starring: Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes, Autumn Russell, Morris Ankrum, Gene Roth
Taglines:
1. Zombies of the African Voodoo Coast!
2. Zombies of the Ocean Deeps!
3. Terror on the African Voodoo Coast!
4. The Tide of Terror Floods the Screen!
Alternate Titles:
The Dead That Walk

Review Date: 4.27.10

Shadow's Title: "Night of the Boring Dead"

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DVD
Icons of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman
(The Giant Claw / Creature with the Atom Brain /
Zombies of Mora Tau / The Werewolf)

 

VHS
Zombies of Mora Tau [VHS]

Characters
Jan Peters - She has returned home to the Peters estate on the African coast after having spent the last ten years elsewhere. She’s convinced herself that the zombies, the practice of voodoo and whatnot were just figments of her childhood imagination. She's in a for a rude awakening.
Grandmother Peters - After learning that her deceased husband was still hanging around parts of Africa as a walking stiff, she came to find a way to set him free from his undead condition and has been in the parts ever since, which is going on about sixty years now.
George Harrison - This cranky SOB runs a salvage ship and has come to Africa to locate the diamonds in the sunken wreckage of a 19th century ship. He is so focused on this task that he is blind to everything else, including the zombies stomping around or his wife’s lusting after another man.
Mona Harrison - She accompanied her husband George to Africa on his quest to find some cursed diamonds, but she seems to be far more interested in the well being of Jeff, the diver hired by her hubby. She even snogs him right in front of her husband!
Jeff Clark - This dork is hired by Harrison to do the actual diving required in order to retrieve the diamonds. Jeff is technically working for Harrison, but he barks at the other man and orders him around like he was his personal prison bitch. Hooks up with Jan by film’s end.
Doctor Jonathon Eggert - A real moron. Warned ahead of time about the zombies, he still accompanies the expedition solely for the chance at writing the story, forgoing a cut of the booty. Considering what ultimately became of that loot, maybe he wasn’t such a moron after all.
Sam - This guy is the chauffeur that works for Grandma Peters. He likes to run down any zombie that manages to get in the road, which means this guy would be a real menace in some place like Florida where a large percentage of the population are plodding and slow moving.
Johnny - One of the red shirts…er…I mean crew from Harrison’s salvage ship. He has several up close and personal encounters with the zombies but somehow manages to beat the odds and survive when others do not. Last seen diving from the ship as walking stiffs overran it.
Captain Jeremy Peters - This guy was once married to Grandmother Peters. Then he was killed and somehow came back as a zombie, spending the next sixty years guarding the diamonds. Given the old lady’s personality, and I’m thinking he did it on purpose just to get out of sixty years with her.
The Zombies - 19th century sailors who found an ancient temple and some uncut diamonds. They died in a fight with the rest of the crew, but returned as the walking dead. They killed the others, sank the ship and took up residence in a local graveyard to keep watch over the diamonds.

 

The Plot Hold your cursor over an image for a pop-up caption

Zombies of WHAT? WHERE? Explain the title please!Pow, we jump straight into the credits. Afterwards, we are treated to this bit of text before anything else:

In the darkness of an ancient world - - on a shore that time has forgotten - - there is a twilight zone between life and death.

Well, yeah. That’s nothing new. It’s called marriage.

Here dwell those nameless creatures who are condemned to prowl the land eternally – The Walking Dead.

Or more commonly known in our modern world as lawyers.

We fade in to some place on the West African coast. It’s dark and a lone car travels down a dirt road. In the back seat is Jan Peters, who is returning home after ten years abroad. The driver is Sam, the chauffeur who works for her great grandmother. The road is rather bumpy but when Sam sees a strange guy standing in the middle of the road, he doesn’t bother to slow or steer around him. POW. The car hits the guy and Sam just keeps on going. That leads me to believe that he learned to drive in the town I grew up in.

Jan freaks out and says that he should stop because he hit a man. Sam just replies rather ominously, “It wasn’t a man. It was one of them.” Ah, not just one them, but one of them. So apparently even in this remote region of Africa, they’re besieged by encyclopedia salesmen.

They arrive at the large family estate where Jan is reunited with Great Grandmother Peters (from this point on, I’m gonna drop the “great” part from her appellation because everyone else in the movie does). Jan is still freaking out about the man Sam ran over, but her grandmother says to forget about it and go inside to rest. Seeing her grandmother’s insistence that all is well, Jan realizes that the bad memories of voodoo from her childhood were quite real and not figments of her imagination as she had deluded herself into thinking. As they stand on the porch, the horn sounds from a ship off the nearby coast.

On the ship is George Harrison (no, there will not be any John, Paul and Ringo jokes after this point), his wife Mona, diver Jeff Clark, Dr. Jonathan Eggert and all the other folks he’s convinced to help him come to Africa and locate some fabled treasure. Harrison is busy toasting their safe arrival and sounds like he is already three sheets to the wind. They discuss what they will do when they find “the diamonds” and it seems that there is some friction between Harrison and his wife, Mona. This is made apparent when Mona bestows a congratulatory kiss upon Jeff that would make any man weak in the knees…and she does it right in front of her husband. Even worse, he doesn’t seem to care!

The gang head out on deck to board the launch that will take them ashore. While preparations are still being made, a zombie swims up and grabs a crewman named Johnson, pulling him into the water. Harrison squeezes off a couple shots with a pistol but the zombie gets away. Johnson is pulled back on board, but he is dead, his neck having been snapped.

Meanwhile on shore, Jan is unpacking when she hears her grandmother’s dog barking. She looks out the window to see the old lady standing by the lagoon. A creepy guy comes walking along, trudges right past her and then proceeds to walk right into the water, vanishing under the surface. Jan rushes out and asks her grandmother who the weird guy was. Grandmother just says that Jan wouldn’t believe her. Maybe it was Aquaman?

The small boat with Harrison and his people then arrives. Doctor Eggert takes the lead and introduces himself and the others to Jan and her grandmother. It appears that he and Grandmother Peters have already corresponded by letter, as she seems to have known they were coming. Harrison mentions that one of his crew was just murdered. Grandmother Peters says that she knows, having heard the shots and voices from shore. She also knows that Harrison hit the attacker, but the shots failed to hurt him.

"And this is where the script writer was buried for turning in this mess."Harrison, obviously having heard the voodoo spiel before, says that he does not believe in it. Nevertheless, Grandmother says that the dead guy should be buried as soon as possible. She leads them to the cemetery, where she points out a row of several graves. She explains that these belong to the first group from Britain that came looking for the diamonds in 1906. Numerous more graves nearby are for the German expedition of 1914, the British again in 1923, the Portuguese in 1928 and the first Americans in 1938. Finally she shows them a row of freshly dug graves, which will be for Harrison’s group, the sixth attempt at recovering the diamonds. Harrison thinks she is just trying to scare them off so she can have the jewels for herself.

There is a scream and everyone turns to see that Mona has fallen into one of the graves. How did she manage to do that? Is she that blind, that a big hole in the ground is hard to see? How did she even get over by the open grave in the first place? A second ago she was standing with the group and a nanosecond later she's in the hole several fet away. They pull her out and she starts to panic. She wants out of there, knowing that one of those graves has been set aside for her. The group heads back to the house, Harrison carrying Mona, while Sam and two other guys arrive with the dead sailor and prepare to bury him.

Later, Harrison and Jeff go over maps, trying to determine the exact location of the sunken ship where the diamonds are located. Meanwhile Doctor Eggert is talking with Grandmother Peters, explaining that he is more interested in the sunken ship and its history than the diamonds, which is why he has declined a share of the loot. Idiot. She details to him that her husband was one of the sailors on the doomed ship.

For the audience’s benefit she reveals the story behind the ship: how it put into the local port back in 1894. The sailors discovered an ancient temple in the jungle and a bunch of uncut diamonds within it. A fight ensued and ten sailors were killed, including her husband. The rest returned to the ship, intent on sailing away with their prize, but the ten dead men returned and killed the rest before scuttling the ship in the bay. All these years later, those ten dead men look the same and still lurk about, guarding the diamonds and killing anyone who tries to take them.

Grandmother Peters further explains that she has lived in the area all these years because she wants to find a way for her husband and the other stiffs to return to dust. Eggert asks how this can be accomplished, but before she can answer, screams sound from another room.

Elsewhere in the house, Jan and Mona are surprised by a zombie that has stumbled through an open door and into one of the bedrooms. That’s what happens when you leave doors open! The zombies get inside! Harrison and Jeff come running, the later belting the dead man several times across the jaw as hard as he can. This has the same result as punching a slab of beef. In other words, nothing. The zombie picks Jeff up by the neck and throws him across the room. Harrison is about to shoot it with his cap gun when Grandmother Peters enters and waves a lit torch at the zombie. The dead guy promptly backs away and out the door. Fire is the only way to combat the dead people, according to Grandmother. Mona has had it with the situation and wants out, but Harrison insists that they are all staying until they get the diamonds.

"Look, I'm sorry that you didn't get the role of Granny on that new Beverly Hillbillies series, but you don't have to be such a bitch about it."Later, Jan confronts her Grandmother, asking why she allowed these people to come if she knew death was possibly waiting for them. The old lady says that since she doesn’t exactly own the bay, she couldn’t stop them from coming. She adds that she wants them to find the diamonds. Only after the diamonds have been found and destroyed will the zombies be at rest. See how conveniently she’s forgotten about fire already? Plus, I doubt Harrison is gonna want to turn over any treasure to her so she can destroy it, a point Jan agrees with and mentions herself. Grandmother just says that if they do find the diamonds, by that time they will be glad to destroy them.

Jan walks outside where she encounters Jeff down by the lagoon, enjoying a smoke. Given the danger, she encourages him to leave, but he doesn’t want to since his share of the loot will come to about a million bucks (equivalent to about 7.3 million today given inflation) and will guarantee that he won’t have to bust his ass anymore for chump change. Since neither of them believes in the whole “walking dead” angle, she proposes that they investigate the man that Sam ran over earlier in the evening. She’s sure the poor sap is dead and that his body is still lying out near the roadway. Jeff agrees and grabs a flare gun from the boat.

They get the car and head out, Jeff explaining on the way that since Harrison has funded their expedition, he couldn’t leave even if he wanted to. They reach the spot where Sam nailed the zombie, but there is no sign of a body, just some pieces off the car’s headlight, some water and some bits of seaweed. Unbeknownst to them, a zombie is watching from the jungle. The pair looks around some more and locate some footprints that indicate the owner came from the direction of the bay.

Jeff now goes all CSI and maps out how the person emerged from the jungle, was hit and then thrown a ways from the force of the impact. A short way down the road, more prints indicate this person picked themselves up and walked off. Jeff wants to follow the tracks, but in daylight, with more people. Good thinking! Usually, morons in these films go running off on the spur of the moment, only to wind up quite dead. Jeff goes to the car to find something to mark the spot so they can locate it again later.

While he’s at the vehicle, the zombie in the jungle takes this opportunity to lumber out and grab Jan, throwing her over his shoulders like a sack of flour and stomping off back into the thick foliage. Jeff comes running at her screams and gives chase. We see the zombie carrying Jan and note that she is unconscious. Did she pass out from fear or did the zombie use the Vulcan neck pinch to subdue her? Maybe it was his hideous stench that caused her to faint. He is dead after all. No doubt he reeks worse than a bathroom at your local 7-11.

After some pointless running around in the jungle, the zombie (carrying Jan the entire time) emerges to attack. He swings his fist. Jeff responds by burying a large knife up the hilt in the zombie’s upper chest/neck area. This doesn’t faze the dead guy at all, who grabs Jeff by the neck and throws him against a tree, stunning him. HAHAHA! That’s the second time a zombie has tossed Jeff around like the proverbial rag doll. As Jeff tries to pull himself up, Jan awakes and starts screaming and thrashing around in the zombie’s grip.

The zombie takes her to a graveyard and enters a mausoleum covered in vines. Within – which looks very clean, without a speck of dirt, dust or trash of any kind – he sets her down on a stone bench. On the floor of this crypt are numerous stone sarcophagi, situated along the walls. Each one is missing a cover and as Jan continues to scream, zombies begin rising out of each one. Seeing all the dead men, Jan screams even louder and then passes out.

The rose ceremony really took it out of Jan on the latest installment of The Bachlorette: Til Death Do Us Part."Jeff arrives now to find the gang of stiffs congregating around Jan. He fires his flare gun, which causes the dead folks to take a few steps back. Jeff uses this moment to grab Jan and pull her away. The two race outside, the zombies in slow pursuit. Another shot of the flare gun slows them down long enough for the pair to get away.

At breakfast the next day, their encounter with the gang of zombies is all the talk and Eggert wants to know if Jeff can find his way to the graveyard again. Mona thinks that Jan was leading Jeff into some kind of trap. In fact, she doesn’t like Grandmother Peters, either. Apparently for being…old. Jeff announces that he’s going to quit, which Harrison doesn’t like. Jeff says that he didn’t know that the diamonds would be guarded by a “crew of cutthroats” and doesn’t want to risk his ass further. Harrison finally agrees on Jeff’s proposed fifty percent split before stomping out.

Later, Harrison’s expedition is out on their ship, preparing to send Jeff down to locate the diamonds. He suits up and is lowered into the water. Eventually he hits bottom and locates the wreckage of the sunken ship. What he does not see is the zombie that is walking across the bottom of the bay towards him. As he tries to gain access to the ship’s hold, the zombie closes in. Meanwhile, Harrison suits up and prepares to dive as well, wanting to be there when the diamonds are found.

The zombie attacks Jeff and in the struggle, his air line comes loose. On the ship above they notice that his air pressure has dropped to zero, so Harrison orders the crew to haul him up. As Jeff ascends, he continues to fight with the zombie, finally managing to punch it away as they break the surface. The zombie swims off (no doubt looking for shark with which to wrestle) while Jeff goes limp. I guess that last punch really took it out of him. That or the lack of oxygen finally induced unconsciousness. The others pull his limp form on board.

Next we see Jeff in bed at the Peters house, the others gathered around him. Grandmother Peters informs them that the nearest hospital is a five hour drive away and because of that distance, she is the one who usually does the doctoring around there. “Over my dead body,” snarls Mona. Grandmother just ignores her and heads off to fix something.

The others aren’t sure whether they should trust her, talking about the old woman with Jan right there in the room. Grandma returns with some sort of remedy. It looks like scotch to me. She advises giving Jeff an ounce every hour. When the others seem dubious, she says that they can give it to him or not. She doesn’t care. To help prove that her grandmother is only trying to help, Jan takes a big swallow of the stuff before administering some to Jeff. Everyone files out of the room, but Jan stays behind to look over Jeff. Mona makes some sarcastic comments before leaving.

Harrison, Eggert and Mona play cards to pass the time, but Mona cannot stand the waiting and so she stomps off to see Jeff, who is still be cared for by Jan. The two seem to be getting quite close. Mona storms in and demands to know why Jan didn’t call everyone when Jeff woke up. Harrison arrives and yanks his wife from the room and slaps her around some – his way of telling her to stay away from Jeff. Mona runs away and heads outside into the jungle.

Later, once Jeff is up and about, a fire is lit so Mona can find her way back to the house in the dark, but she has failed to return. Grandmother Peters is sure that they have her, so plans are made for a trip to the zombies’ graveyard in order to rescue Mona. Eggert decides he wants to go, too, in order to help. Sure, because every desperate rescue mission needs at least one old, slow-moving acedemic to possibly screw things up.

"It's heads! I get to use the last of the toilet paper. Now hand it over and I'll head into the trees to do my business."So Jeff, Harrison, Eggert and two redshirts called Art and Johnny head out to the graveyard. They find Mona’s bracelet, proof that she has been through the area. Locating the crypt where the stiffs reside, Jeff, Harrison and Eggert enter while the two redshirts hang back to act as lookouts.

No sooner have they walked in than the zombies start rising from their coffins. Mona is stretched out on the floor nearby, looking for all the world like a new addition to the dead. Was she the victim of a zombie gangbang or something? Jeff fires a flare, which keeps the zombies at bay. Harrison runs to Mona and believing her to be dead, starts firing into the crowd of zombies with his rifle like it was a hunting trip with Dick Cheney. Mona sits up and now thinking she is alive, they grab her and run outside, the zombies in pursuit. Outside, Eggert has doused gas around the entrance to the crypt and once lit, it prevents any zombies from emerging while the group hauls ass back to their car.

Wait! You mean the redshirts survived? Wow. I wasn’t expecting that. Another thing I was not expecting was all the light emitted from the flares. Such things are usually shot into the sky, right? So how can they work in an enclosed space like the crypt? In fact, several times throughout this movie, people fire the flare gun in the general direction of the zombies, rather than in the sky. Will the flare hit the ground and continue to burn, illuminating everything around it? If so, why don’t we ever see this? All we see is someone aiming the gun at the stiffs, fire and presto, it’s like god flipped the light switch. Somehow I doubt real flare guns work like that.

At the house, a silent and glass-eyed Mona is put to bed where she just stares at the ceiling. Harrison thinks she is in shock, but Grandmother Peters proclaims her to be dead. After he leaves his wife in her room, Harrison discusses with Jeff the planned dive for the next day. Jeff thinks it should be rather easy to retrieve the safe with the diamonds, but Harrison is wondering if he should get Mona to a doctor.

Speaking of Mona, now that she has been left alone in her room, she rises and picks up a switchblade that was left on the nightstand. She then walks through the dark house to the room where Art and Johnny are snoozing. As Art opens his eyes and sees her, she plunges the knife into his chest, his last sound on earth an utterly ridiculous scream. Johnny now jumps up and screams for help as Mona advances toward him with the knife. He picks up a candlestick and throws it at her, hard. It nails her right in the head with a loud CLANG. Most folks would drop instantly to the ground, concussed or dead. Mona just keeps on walking, cuz she already is dead.

Harrison and Jeff arrive and wrestle with Mona. It’s only when Grandmother Peters and Jan bring candles into the room that she calms down and backs away in fear from the flames. Using the candles, they herd her back into bed and then surround it with even more candles to keep her there. Grandmother Peters again mentions that the zombies are afraid of fire. Why? Cuz it's the only thing that can destroy them. Jeff realizes that if fire worked here to restrain a zombie, it could work under water as well. Don’t ask, I have no idea how he is gonna make that one work.

Let’s pause for just a second. Earlier in the film Grandmother Peters said that she stuck around Africa for all these years because she wants to help the zombies return to dust. Then just a moment ago, she reveals that the zombies are afraid of fire because fire is the only thing that can destroy them. Is the woman an idiot? Why not use fire to reduce the zombies to ashes? Wouldn’t that accomplish her goal?

Sometime later at the cemetery, a large bonfire has been built in front of the zombies’ crypt. Jeff thinks that will keep the dead folks inside. Sam the chauffeur stays behind with some others to keep an eye on things.

Jeff and Harrison head out to the ship to make their next dive. Jeff’s plan is to cut open the safe with a welding torch and have Harrison standing by with a second torch to ward off any zombies that may walk…er…swim into the area. They have barely suited up and reached bottom when sure as shit, here comes a gang of zombies. Hell, it looks like every single one of them is blundering their way. Naturally, nether Jeff or Harrison see them approaching.

"Dude, there's something in your eye."Jeff gets busy cutting open the safe. Harrison finally spots the zombies…after they have him surrounded. How big of a moron do you have to be in order to get yourself surrounded by slow movie zombies underwater? Sheesh, such colossal idiocy almost deserves a bad death. Jeff gets the diamonds as Harrison calls for the ship to send down a diver’s stage and then haul him up once he’s standing on it. Jeff waits, wanting to make sure his lines are clear. Meanwhile, Harrison has broken the surface. “They’re all over him!” Eggert exclaims. “Four or five of them!” Uh…wrong! Make that only two, you moron. Eggert fires the flare gun and the two clinging to Harrison let go and splash back into the sea.

Below, Jeff is wrestling with more stiffs. The diver’s stage is sent down again and when Jeff comes up, he too has a pair of zombies clinging to him…or as Eggert would count, “four or five of them.” Again, flares are fired and the stiffs dive back into the sea. When he removes his suit, Eggert informs him that Harrison had lost a lot of blood and has gone to his cabin. Why? Is that where the blood supply is kept?

Zombies now begin to board the ship. Well, one zombie is seen climbing up the side, but someone proclaims that “they” are boarding, so maybe they spotted “four or five” that I missed. Jeff and the crew use kerosene to make torches and fight them off while Eggert takes the diamonds to the cabin and locks himself inside.

Despite moving slower than hell and facing off against faster men armed with fire – you know, the one thing they are afraid of – the zombies still manage to overrun the ship…and there’s only ten of them!! Crewman bail and dive over the side like it’s the Titanic while Jeff and another chickenshit hide in the cabin with Eggert and Harrison. Outside, the zombies bang on the door, trying to get inside.

Jeff constructs a new torch from some bedsheets and proposes that he take the diamonds and make a break for it. Once he’s through and made it to shore, the zombies will follow him, allowing the others trapped in the cabin the chance to escape. Harrison doesn’t like the idea, thinking Jeff may abscond permanently with the diamonds, and threatens Jeff with his pistol. Jeff responds by punching him and then runs out on deck with the diamonds while Harrison flops around and recovers from the blow.

On deck Jeff encounters the zombies, but where several crewman with torches failed, he succeeds. Somehow he fights his way through the undead mob and gets to the small motorboat. Firing it up he heads for shore. Back up on deck, Harrison is ready to shoot at him, but Eggert prevents him from doing so, reminding him that Jeff just saved all their lives.

Jan is waiting for Jeff on shore and is quite happy to see that he is safe. Jeff practically bowls her over, telling her that they have things to do. I don’t think he noticed for a second that she was damn near throwing herself at him. They run into the house and stop to see Mona, who is still stuck in bed, the numerous candles preventing her from leaving the room.

The pair then race to see Grandmother Peters. Jeff thinks that everyone should hightail it now that the diamonds have been found. They can meet up with Harrison later, but for now they should clear out. He struggles to open the chest containing the diamonds but cannot get it to open. After some more fooling around with it, it bursts open and ejects diamonds all over. They quickly scoop these up and wrap them in Jan’s scarf.

Down at the dock, Harrison, Eggert and some crewman have arrived in a second boat. Harrison and Eggert head for the house, leaving the others to watch over the boats. The zombies are not far behind them all, rising from the waters as they trudge toward shore. They ignore the crewman guarding the smaller boats and march straight for the house as well.

 

Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.

 

"This is the worst bed and breakfast I have ever stayed at. I want my money back, NOW!"Inside, Harrison confronts Jeff, who he feels abandoned the ship while they were under attack and tried to steal the diamonds. Despite Eggert trying to convince him otherwise, Harrison is ready to pop a cap in Jeff’s ass should he not turn over the jewels. Jan hands over the chest, which of course is now empty. Harrison takes it and then heads off to get Mona, threatening to kill anyone should they follow him. Once he’s gone, Jeff reveals to Eggert where the diamonds are really located.

Harrison goes to Mona’s room and blows out a bunch of the candles. Luring her from the bed by showing her the chest, he gets her to follow him back to the docks. He puts the chest down in order to untie the boat’s moorings, and when he does, Mona bends over and takes it. He tries to stop her but she just hits him over the head with it. He drops to the ground, either dead or out cold, and she joins the other zombies, who have now shambled up out of the dark. The funny thing? The whole time Harrison struggles with her and she beans him over the head, they’re being watched by the crewman in the other boat. Those two guys just watch and don’t lift a finger to help. Jeff and Eggert arrive now and discover that Harrison is dead. They watch as the dead people walk back into the jungle.

Later, Grandmother Peters is trying to convince Jeff to destroy the diamonds, as the zombies will be back when they learn that the chest is empty. She explains that casting them out into the sea where no one will ever find them again will assure the zombies peace after decades of un-life. Jeff tries to talk Jan into leaving with him, saying that he wants her to enjoy the money, too and that he wants her to marry him. Marriage! Where the hell did that come from? They’ve only known each other for two days!

As much as the thought of marrying this clown sounds good to Jan, she cannot leave, saying that she believes the zombies will always be after them. Still not convinced that destroying the diamonds will end the zombie threat and not wanting to see the women endangered, Jeff announces that he is leaving with the diamonds and that he is going to force the others to go, too.

Marching Jan and her grandmother down to the docks, Jeff has them board the boat and prepares to leave. About this time, the zombies return, having realized their chest was empty. One of the stiffs is Grandmother Peters’ deceased husband, Jeremy. When she sees him, she tears up at his undying state. Realizing that keeping the diamonds will never allow these dead folks - or Grandma Peters, for that matter – any peace, Jeff hands them over to the old woman.

The old lady wastes no time in grabbing the diamonds and tossing them overboard. Hold on a second! Earlier she said that the diamonds had to be cast into the sea so that they could be lost forever. Now all she is doing with them is throwing them over the side of the boat, while they are still two feet from shore! The diamonds will still be easy as hell to find!! Alas, lost in three feet of water is as good as three thousand feet as far as the zombies are concerned. The lot of them promptly vanish, leaving empty clothes to fall to the earth as if they were beamed right out of their duds by the starship Enterprise.

Zzzzzzz...er...what? A quick question…since all the original zombies have been dead for decades and should naturally have turned to dust long ago, it makes sense for them to vanish. But what about Mona? She’s only been dead for a day or so. Did she vanish right out of her clothes, too? Or did she just keel over and flop to the ground? I wanna know!

The zombies now gone, Jeff moans that he will “probably never be rich again.” Then he kisses Jan. I guess as a consolation prize he gets to do it with her.

The End.

Review

I really was not prepared for how utterly lifeless (no pun intended) this movie turned out to be. When viewed through the prism of fifty years elapsed time, most horror films from the 1950’s aren’t exactly what one would call thrilling, but even in most cases the viewer can see how or why such a movie was frightening in its day. That is not the case with Zombies of Mora Tau. For the life in me (there we go again with another unintentional pun), I cannot fathom how anyone could have emerged from seeing this film with anything other than a strong case of drowsiness. Nothing happens in this film! Nothing!

Let’s start off with the story. Some Americans show up in Africa to salvage the diamonds lost in a sunken ship. Unfortunately, said jewels are guarded by a cadre of zombies determined to keep living hands from ever touching the treasure. Hey, that sounds kind of cool, one might say, imagining the horror of aquatic zombies rising from the depths to attack the living. One might also say, Hey, I think Conan will host the Tonight Show longer than any previous host. As you can see, both are about as truthful as a politician. There is nothing exciting about this film. In essence, the movie is just one long series of conversations and occasional movement. The characters talk in one location, then they move to a new location and talk, then it’s on to the next where they talk and yell, then back to a previous location for more talking, etc. Even the scenes featuring the zombies are about as terrifying as watching puppies play with one another. For all the horror assigned to them by some characters, the dead folks come off as menacing and as threatening as a swarm of flies and are pretty much treated in such a fashion. They’re more a nuisance to be dealt with rather than a real threat or hindrance to surmount.

Endless talking is hardly excusable, but often times can at least be tolerated when the characters are interesting and the dialog is engaging. Again, don’t look for such things here. This has got to be one of the dullest and/or most annoying group of characters I have seen in some time. There is not a single one that would make the viewer feel sorry for if they were have their necked snapped by a zombie. Quite the contrary, a few more snapped necks amongst the main characters would probably liven (oops, another one) things up a bit and make the danger all that more real.

For me, the real problem with the characters is that almost all of them snap at each other constantly. In scene after scene, there is little warmth in their exchanges. Even with dialog that doesn’t seem all that adversarial, the tone and volume of their voices coupled with their facial expressions makes it hard to imagine that these folks are not pissed off at one another. With one or two of them the friction is understandable, but all of them? I have no idea if this was a direct result of the directing or if all these actors couldn’t stand one another on the set. Even Jan and Jeff, the male and female leads, have about as much chemistry as oil and water. For two people that are supposed to be falling for one another, they certainly don’t act like it. Dr. Eggert is another example. Sure, some times he is slightly jovial, but look at his face when he speaks and despite his words, he looks like he’s ready to strangle someone! All in all, not a group of people that the viewer has an easy time rooting for in their escapades.

As mentioned, the title zombies make for threat so lousy, they might as well not even be in the film. They could just as easily be pirates or natives guarding the diamonds. Though their living dead nature is addressed a time or two, that fact is never really utilized in helping portray them as supernatural monsters or convey any sense of fear. They’re slow and easy to avoid. Worse, since this was years before Romero Zombies hit the scene, they don’t even eat people! It’s like having a bunch of sleepwalkers barge onto the movie set while filming was underway.

Another problem that makes this film hard to endure is the lighting. Yes, much of the film occurs at night, but damn is it hard to see what’s going on. For every single one of the screen caps on this page, I had to adjust the brightness in order to make things easier to see. In some cases, leaving them alone would have resulted in an image that was nearly impossible to make out. Now, I realize that the filmmakers wanted to instill a sense of atmosphere and dread with the darkness, but did they have to make it that dark? This is one case where a few day for night shots would not have hurt things one bit.

Finally, there are two things omitted from this film that leave me scratching my head and wondering WTF? First, what the hell is with the Mora Tau in the title? Is that the name of the place in Africa? The name of Harrison’s ship? What? No explanation is ever given. In fact, those two words are never uttered once during the entire film. Secondly, since this is Africa, where the hell are the black people? Yes, I know there are lots of places on that continent that are home to large populations of white folks, but you’d think that being set in Africa, the film would at least show one or two people of color. Nope.

The final summation for me would go something like this: boring, slow and with no monsters. The characters are annoying, the threat is lame and the actual execution is lacking at times. Fans of 50’s genre cinema will want to check this one out at least once and some of you may even like it. I'll admit to finding something about it that lures me back, but I think it's more a feeling of what might of been than anything actually captured on the screen. If you’re not a devotee to that particular decade, then this movie may not be for you unless you are in dire need of a sleep aid. In that case, Zombies of Mora Tau will more than fit the bill.

 

Expect To See:
Gunplay - The gunplay is rather restrained...at least until one particular scene where Harrison begins unloading rounds into the zombies like he was taking part in a mob hit.
Jungle Hijinks - It’s supposed to be an African jungle these morons are stumbling around, but it looks more like a studio back lot and a bunch of cheap sets.
Macabre Hijinks - Lots of stereotypical spooky stuff with people hanging out in graveyards and walking around big dark houses with candles. Not a lick of it is scary, though.
Romance - Jeff meets Jan and two days later he is proposing marriage to her. She does not seem averse to the idea. I can only imagine that relationship turning bitter and ugly one day.
Stock Footage - There's not really a lot of this, just a couple of establishing shots of a tropical coast (that looks more like some place in the South Pacific) and a ship at sea.
Undersea Hijinks - Lots of underwater action here, that is, if your idea if action is watching people stumble around in slow motion and pretend to be underwater.
Violence - While there is some violence here, this has got to be the most sedate zombie flick I have ever seen. I wonder, were they really zombies or just drugged up on Prozac?
Zombies - Ten - count them - ten whole zombies are in this movie. Since they predate the flesh-eating Romero zombies by over a decade, they just stumble around and smell bad.

 

Movie Stats:
Shadow's Commentary:

Deaths: 4
Alcoholic drinks consumed: 6
Smokes: 11
Total gunshots fired: 15
Flares fired: 9
People stabbed: 2
Times Jeff has his ass handed to him by a zombie: 2
Times "Mora Tau" is referenced in dialog: 0

Total number of zombies according to Grandma Peters: 10
Most zombies seen at once: 11

01 Min – Zombie in roadway, ten points!
03 Mins – Camera angle gets adjusted…while still filming.
16 Mins – Jeff beaten up by a zombie. How embarrassing.
25 Mins - Jeff beaten up by a zombie again. How shameful.
37 Mins – Yeah, I’ll take a scotch, too.
39 Mins – Bitch slap! Literally.
48 Mins – CLANG! Mona nailed in head with candlestick.
51 Mins – Are those soap bubbles coming out the top of those helmets?
65 Mins – How romantic. Not.
68 Mins – Typical male, leaving his dirty drawers lying around.


Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time the word diamonds is said, take a drink.

 

Images Click for larger image

"And here's to long and successful
acting careers upon
finishing this movie..."



"Aw, crap. This isn't a grave..
..it's a latrine."


"I guess this solves the age old
mystery about bears and woods."

 
Ah, the GOP delegation has arrived.

"This restaurant sucks. When are
they gonna take our drink order?"

"And if one you clowns pees into
my air line again, I'm gonna take it
out on yer balls."



 
...keep pumpin'...

 
...and blowin'...

"He's not a goner until he's
signed the will!"

Yeah, nothing helps one recover
from a near drowning like a glass of scotch...preferably a single
malt from the highlands.

"You're right. That new skin lotion
does make your cheeks as soft
as a baby's bottom...and it smells
about the same, too."


"Is this romantic enough for you?"

"Look, as long as we're sharing
an air line, I want you to stop
launching your air biscuits every
two minutes."

"No, I meant a Bud light."

"Surprise!"

"For pete's sake, help me get this
thing open. My laxatives are inside and
I just ate a block of cheese."

 

Immortal Dialog

Grandmother Peters talks to Dr. Eggert about the men guarding the diamonds.

Grandmother Peters: “They’re dead, I tell you! They have no morality. No free will.”

Shadow’s Comment: So they're politicians?


Jeff makes plans to leave Africa with the diamonds and Jan.

Jeff: “Look, Jan, I want you with me. I want you to enjoy the money, too. I want you to marry me.”
Jan: “I think I’d like that, Jeff.”

Shadow’s Comment: For you men who don't speak femalese, that's a yes to his crude marriage proposal only so long as he retains the diamonds.

 

Keep In Mind
  • Running down zombies with a motor vehicle is common practice in some parts of the world.
  • Every ship has at least one crewman named Johnson.
  • Zombies have swimming skills that are eclipsed only by the likes of Michael Phelps.
  • There are no black people in Western Africa.
  • Zombies are clean freaks, maintaining pristine abodes.
  • Flares shot directly into the water will still brightly illuminate the immediate area.
  • Seaweed can be used as a fashion accessory.



This Film & Me

I have very dim memories of seeing this film as a young child. The last time I saw it was around age six in 1975. A few key scenes stayed in my mind over the years, such as zombified Mona kept in bed by a ring of lit candles or Grandmother Peters tossing the diamonds into the water and thus causing the zombies to vanish right out of their clothes. For a very long time, I did not know the name of the film and only had those fading memories as proof that I’d seen it. Then after reading through numerous monster and horror books as the years went by, I concluded that the movie I was remembering was probably Zombies of Mora Tau. Unfortunately, the movie eluded me as more years elapsed and like so many others, I would not see it again until it arrived on DVD. It’s funny how those memories made the film out to be creepier than it really was. Seeing it again as an adult, I found it to be terribly dull and plodding…just like the titular zombies.

Shadow's rating: Three Tombstones



The Good

  • A moment or two of creepy atmosphere
  • Yeah, that's about it

The Bad

  • "Africa" does not look at all like Africa
  • Dirge of likable characters
  • Zombies are less menacing than your average group of vagrants

The Ugly

  • Night scenes are poorly lit and are hard to see
  • Not a single dark-skinned African to be seen

 

 

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