They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé Film Details
Overview: 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.
Tagline: If there were rules to making a movie, one indie director would break them all!
Review: Actually this review is for the box set HE CAME FROM THE SWAMP: THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GREFE which includes this title. One of the joys of movies being released on disc, especially now since newer titles are few and far between due to the pandemic, is discovering older titles or people in films you never knew of or at least knew little of. Arrow Video has been particularly good about releasing films like this beginning with their package of films by famed drive-in gorehound Herschell Gordon Lewis. Now they’ve packaged another tribute to a director from the glorious days of the drive-in: William Grefé. You’ve never heard of Grefé? The odds are slim that most have. But I’m certain you’ve heard of some of his films. They were staples at the drive-ins years ago in its big years of the 60s and 70s. Movies like THE CURSE OF TARTU. Maybe STING OF DEATH. Or how about MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH? Grefe was responsible for these and many other films. But that’s not the most interesting thing about him. What is fascinating is that he made these films on shoestring budgets and made them in Florida rather than Hollywood. He lived there and was able to write, direct and find financing to put together these films that have found their way into the hearts of fans around the world. None of them are Oscar worthy but they are entertaining in their own unique way. Now Arrow has gathered together seven of those films as well as a documentary on Grefé. Sting of Death (1966) is the story of a marine biologist studying the evolution of sea life. A group of students come to visit him and his assistants including his daughter. But none of them are safe when a half man/half jellyfish creature attacks them. Just what is behind this creature and where did it come from. Death Curse of Tartu (1966) is perhaps Grefé’s third most recognized film. With a name like that how could it not be? Once again we have researchers, this time archeologists, searching for answers in the Florida swamps. They end up disturbing the grave of an ancient witch doctor said to protect these lands. With the ability to change into animals like a snake or alligator their chances seem slim. The Hooked Generation (1968) tackles the issue of drug runners in the Florida waterways. Led by Daisey his team has no problem killing the drug runners who imported the combination of heroin and marijuana as well as the Coast Guard members who try and take him down. These losers kidnap a couple and hold them hostage. The Psychedelic Priest (1971) is one of the strangest films in the mix. A young priest leaves his parish to travel across country, picks up a hitchhiker who falls in love with him and then leaves her behind to go back to his parish. The Naked Zoo (1971) at least had a star name involved. Rita Hayworth is an older Miami housewife who has an affair with a younger man. Her paraplegic husband responds violently. Mako: Jaws of Death (1976) is one of the most well-known films Grefé did. Richard Jaeckel, another name actor, is a marine salvager that discovers he can communicate with sharks telepathically. Feeling that the sharks are our friends, he sets out to stop anyone who attacks the sharks. The film was a way to ride the wave of popularity of the film JAWS released the year before. Whiskey Mountain (1977) has a group of treasure hunting young people looking in the hills of Whiskey Mountain finding themselves being attacked by a group of redneck drug runners. Here again Grefé was able to use a star name in Christopher George. These are the films in the set along with the documentary They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé. It’s an interesting film that includes footage from the films, backstage footage and interviews with Grefé and others who were in the films. As I said these movies were not meant to be Oscar winners but they were entertaining. They were exploitation films that were made for the masses attending drive-ins across the country whose main interest wasn’t always what was happening on the screen but who found enjoyment in them anyway. The fact is that you might as well. Or you could just pop some corn and pretend you’re at the drive-in while watching them. Thankfully the folks at Arrow Video made the choice to save these films for posterity and offer them in pristine 4k condition along with a ton of extras. Bravo for them doing so.
Duration: 126 min
Also known as: They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé