Saturday, 24 December 2011

Zombies of Mora Tau

Mora The Same!

Zombies of Mora Tau
US 1957
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Sony Region 1

Ok... so onto another movie produced by Sam Katzman. These movies are, admittedly, B-movie fodder to be thrust onto an unsuspecting public but, like the previous two movies I saw produced by this guy, there’s always something which serves by way of a redeeming feature. In this one it’s a certain special effect which... well, let me not get ahead of myself here.

Zombies of Mora Tau is Katzman’s attempt to catch on to the burgeoning voodoo zombie craze of the time (still over a decade before Romero’s seminal classic Night Of The Living Dead) and it’s basically the story of a group of... hmmm... “entrepreneurs” who go after a legendary batch of lost diamonds off the coast of Africa... only to find that these diamonds are guarded by murderous, undead sailors of decades past who will not rest until, apparently, the diamonds are thrown into the sea... even though they are pretty much recovered from the sea in the first place by our gang of cutthroat protagonists.

The acting is pretty wooden on this one and the script is quite dire (no surprise there then) but the photography on this one is a fairly crisp black and white and has some nicely competent shot compositions. And that’s not the only good stuff in this movie. Mischa Bakaleinikoff, who also provided musical composition for Katzman classic The Giant Claw delivers a strikingly appropriate score for the kind of movie this is and one of the small sailor roles is played by Ray “Crash” Corrigan! Remember him from such serial’s as the classic Undersea Kingdom?

That being said though, this is a trashy movie after all, and fans of clumsy, trash cinema should find all their buttons pushed in this little opus. The rivalry between the wife of “the boss” and the pure of heart girl who is visiting her gran (who has been on the island the best part of her life to try to bring peace to her walking dead husband - no, not making this up people) is pretty clichéd and hard to swallow and the ridiculous effect at the end, when the diamonds are thrown back into the sea which enables the only zombie who happens to be in shot wink out of existence suddenly, leaving his clothing to fall to the ground, definitely hit a funny bone with one of the people I was watching this with.

Talking of special effects though, I have to give this movie respect for going the length with the idea that they wanted some underwater zombies in it. I always thought underwater zombies were a “relatively” new thing introduced by dodgy Italian zombie movies and people like Lucio Fulci in the 1970s, but here they are in 1957. What’s really great about the underwater sequences in this one however, is the inventiveness of the effects work. Main pretty boy diamond smuggler protagonist goes down to the bottom of the sea in his deep sea diving suit with bubbles galore coming up from his helmet... but when he gets to the bottom and the zombies come to attack him... well they don’t have a diving suit, obviously, as they’re dead already (and slow enough with it) and so the underwater sequences are shot on a set where everyone is just moving around in slow motion to fake being underwater. But what really impressed me is how the special effects crew have hit on the idea to have a soap bubble blowing machine fitted to the helmet of “our hero’s” diving helmet. This gives the rough idea (very rough but it’s such a genius idea that I’m more than prepared to let it slide) of air bubbles rising to the surface as the actors sloooowly prance around the pseudo-bottom-of-the-ocean. Great stuff.

All in all, I’d have to say that Zombies of Mora Tau is not the greatest of movies but it does have a lot of charm, especially when you’ve got such terrible lines being spoken with such conviction by the actors... and, for me, the sheer inventiveness of some of the “make do and mend” style solutions to various effects problems lend it a certain charm that will lead me back to watching this again some day... maybe on a double-bill with the much superior Val Lewton produced zombie remake of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, I Walked With A Zombie. That would be a nice companion film for this one I reckon.


  1. This film only received one re-watching, while the others in this Katzman collection have received more. But this was was a pleasing-enough tale, sort of a mummy's-curse notion with diving bells.

    I'm never sure how films 'earn' rewatchability points and we pulled this out after seeing the others over a couple of years - we had kind of an ambivalent "OK, this is the only one we've never rewatched" complacency, and we made it thru to the end. But I see it on the shelf and easily bypass it. Nice enough for one viewing.

  2. Hi again Chuck.

    I was just so impressed with the bubbles. ;-)

    I'd watch it again... if I ever got the time.