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6 Degrees Entertainment

'He Came from the Swamp: William Grefé Collection'
(Rita Hayworth, Richard Jaeckel, Christopher George, John Darrell, Jeremy Slate, et al / 4-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Killer sharks and human jellyfish and living mummies, oh my! Arrow Video is proud to present the first ever collection of works by William Wild Bill Grefé, the maverick filmmaker who braved the deep, dark depths of the Florida everglades to deliver some of the most outrageous exploitation fare ever to go-go dance its way across drive-in screens.

Bringing together seven of Grefé s most outlandish features, all new to Blu-ray, 'He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection' packs in a macabre menagerie of demented jellyfish men (Sting of Death), zombified witch doctors (Death Curse of Tartu), homicidal hippies (The Hooked Generation) and seductive matrons (The Naked Zoo) not to mention the ubiquitous go-go dancing college kids to create one of the most wildly entertaining box-sets of all time!

Blu-ray Verdict: First up is 'Sting of Death', and opens with a college girl, Karen, who visits her dad, a marine biologist, at his island compound in the Florida Everglades.

Her partying friends show up, dance to Neil Sedaka tunes, and taunt the doctor's creepy assistant, Egon. Soon they're victims of a wetsuit-wearing. bipedal jellyfish monster. Jealous of Karen's boyfriend, Egon kidnaps her and carries her to his secret underground lair.

The main thing I dug about this movie is the cool pad under the sea where the jellyfish man hangs out! You swim down to the bottom of the lake and you find a cave. Swim through the cave you end up in a swingin' mad scientist lab/paradise cove!

It's all so really cool. You come up through the floor of the lab and you're not underwater anymore. Surrounded by big foam rocks and special '60s science equipment in the walls, it's like a honeymoon suite or something!

Plus, the color in this movie is really nice and it makes everything seem a little extra appealing. Maybe that's why I was so impressed with this little hideout under the sea (and the entire movie, of course!).

Next up is 'Death Curse of Tartu', where four students on an archaeology assignment in the Everglades decide to throw a dance party on the burial site of an ancient Indian medicine man named Tartu. He returns from the dead, in the form of various animals, to take his revenge on those who desecrated his grave site.

'Death Curse of Tartu' was a staple of late night insomniacs in the pre-cable days of television, along with other no budget wonders such as 'They Saved Hitler's Brain,' 'Women of the Prehistoric Planet,' and 'Zontar the Thing from Venus.'

Although the plot dredges up the overworked "Mummy vowing vengeance against all those who desecrate his tomb" from the Universal WW2 days, other aspects of this feature point toward the natural horror cycle of the '70s ('Frogs' or 'Kingdom of the Spiders') and the whole teenagers in peril subgenre of horror in the '80s.

Yes, the acting is awful, there's little in the way of suspense, and the teens are required to do dumb and stupid things, but you still have to admire Miami-born writer/director William Grefé, already a veteran of four features by this time!

Then we get 'The Hooked Generation', which is about a gang of dope peddlers who sail out to meet a Cuban boat. The trouble starts when they are forced to throw their narcotics overboard and are seen by a young couple.

Much of this movie centers around images of people on drugs or doing drugs. with a wonderful "Psychedelic Orgy" in the middle of it all. The rest of the time, our villains are fleeing through the swamps, dragging a pair of uncooperative hostages along with them for no apparent reason.

The DP seems to have had some problems shooting in daylight, much of the outdoor scenes are woefully overexposed, but his studio-work is competent.

The acting and plot are simply outrageous, and may be more enjoyable to experience on drugs. Not really a classic drugsploitation film, but a good example of the genre, nonetheless.

Up next is 'The Psychedelic Priest', a film about a Priest who sheds his habit, tunes in, turns on and drops out for a road trip that will change his life and bring him sorrow. Filmed in 1971, it wasn't actually released until 2001.

This is a late-'60s time capsule of counter-cultural themes at its finest, trust me! It also shares some traits with 'Easy Rider', being a "road movie" with a graphically depicted acid trip, a cemetery seen through a distorting lens, hippie communes, drugs, and evil murderous rednecks. And there's also a familiar-sounding rock music soundtrack that works on every level too.

Then we get 'The Naked Zoo', where a seductive matron lives in Miami with her wheelchair-bound, wealthy husband. Frustrated, she beds a young author. The gravy train abruptly derails when her husband finds out, and murder ensues.

One of Rita Hayworth's final films, it's a story of double dealings, murder, and suspense. Hayworth, at 52, looks as attractive as ever. She always kept herself in great shape.

Sort of sad to see this once great star reduced to this "B" South Florida made movie, but she gives an above average performance; considering the script and budget, that's pretty darn good.

Grefé also fills his supporting cast with his group of favorites; singer/actor/record producer Steve Alaimo, and former light-heavyweight boxing champ Willie Pastrano.

Next up is 'Mako: Jaws of Death', where during the Vietnam War, US soldier Sonny Stein is saved from a pursuing enemy by a Mako shark. He begins to appreciate Makos after that. After the war, Stein finds work in the Philippine Islands as a marine salvager.

A Filipino shaman gives him a medallion that helps him develop a telepathic rapport with Makos. Once back home in Florida, Stein decides to become Makos defender.

A shady scientist who wants to research the sharks and a strip club owner who wants to use the sharks in a stripping act try to get Stein to use his powers to help them with their plans. Furious, Stein turns on the two men and things get ugly quickly for all of them.

Richard Jaeckel was always an engaging actor to watch over many decades of distinguished film service, and despite his simpleton turn here, there's still a hint of the professionalism in his thespian skills, that will endear his character and have you rooting for the shark guy.

Throughout the movie, Jaeckel's rather dim alter ego descends into paranoia and eventual insanity, culminating in a frenzied rampage led by his number one Tiger shark who he commands with a telepathic dominion.

As much a character examination as it is a B-grade action-thriller, there's enough in Jaeckel's offbeat portrayal to warrant interest, and some familiar faces in the wings (Harold Sakata, John Davis Chandler, Luke Halpin) to provide character contrast.

FYI: Grefé wrote the story for this film prior to 'Jaws' (1975), but couldn't get anyone to finance his movie until after 'Jaws' was a huge hit at the box office!

Then we get 'Whiskey Mountain', where Bill, Dan, Diana and Jamie, four motorcyclists who arrived at Whiskey Mountain for a treasure hunt, are terrorized in the woods by a gang of murderous hillbilly drug dealers.

This is a movie that has all real marijuana as props and a soundtrack by the Charlie Daniels Band, along with the exact kind of horrors you know await them Yankees when they ask too many questions and push too hard!

It's also filled with Peckinpah-esque slow motion - most effect with George is double firing shotguns - to go with a brutal scene where we only hear the assault on the girls and see still evidence as it develops on Polaroids.

Also, it's 1977 and a technically a motorcycle movie, so that means that it also has a potential downer-ending freeze frame, of course!

Lastly we get the brand new documentary 'They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé' (2016). Savage. Sadistic. Thrill hungry. When it came to independent filmmaking in the sunshine state, William Grefé was the wildest of the wild. Now, the untold story of Florida's most daring moviemaker comes to the screen.

Among the best tales woven within are how Grefé shot his early films on weekends to get around union rules; family members helping out on the movies in multiple capacities; Grefé nearly managing to get a film made with Elvis Presley; a close call with an alligator on 'Death Curse of Tartu'; Harold Sakata almost getting killed due to a harrowing mishap during the shooting of the scene in which Sakata gets strung up on a rope in 'Impulse'; a shark that was supposed to be dead, but wasn't on 'Mako: The Jaws of Death'; and the pot in the cave being the real thing in 'Whiskey Mountain'!!

Such Grefé actors and collaborators as bubblegum pop music idol Steve Alaimo, veteran character actor John Davis Chandler, writer Gary Crutcher, 'Stanley' star Chris Robinson, and make-up expert and monster man Doug Hobart relate lots of fun anecdotes on their time in the trenches with Grefé, while film historian Chris Poggliali, Frank Henenlotter, Herschell Gordon Lewis, David F. Friedman, and Fred Olen Ray all give Grefé plenty of well-deserved props.

Filled with wondrous behind-the-scenes footage and nifty film clips, this one sizes up as a spot-on loving tribute to William Grefé and his movies. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) - save for the 2016 documentary - enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Seven William Grefé 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).
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.

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 Dr. Traboh: Spook Show Extraordinaire a ghoulish look into the early spook show days with monster maker Doug Hobart.
Original Trailers.
Still and Promotion Gallery.

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.

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 Original Trailer.
Still and Promotion Gallery.
They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé the definitive documentary presented for the first in High-Definition and in a brand new, extended cut.

Official Purchase Link