Sam Gunter (Frank Weed) and his Seminole guide Billy (Bill Marcus) are in the Florida Everglades. Sam is an advanced scout looking for an old Seminole burial mound. Billy drops him off at the site but refuses to stay. He says the site is guarded by the spirit of a witchdoctor called Tartu (Doug Hobart). Anyone who disturbs the site is cursed. Sam doesn’t believe any of that so he stays. Billy goes back home.
Sam is expecting an archeologist and professor, Ed Tison (Fred Pinero) and his wife Julie (Babette Sherrill) as well as four students, Johnny (Sherman Hayes), Tommy (Gary Holtz), Cindy (Mayra Gomez Kemp) and Joann (Maurice Stewart). While Sam is waiting for the rest of the exploration party to arrive he does some exploring on his own. While looking around the area Sam finds an old tablet with some ancient writing on it. That night Sam is attacked and killed by a giant constrictor.
The next day the remaining group arrives at Billy’s place. Billy warns Ed about the burial ground but Ed doesn’t believe him either. The research party takes two airboats out to where Sam is supposed to be. When they get there Sam is not in sight but they find the tablet with the writing on it. The tablet says that Tartu will destroy anyone who desecrates the burial ground. It also says that Tartu can take the form of any animal he wants and that Tartu can only be killed by nature.
While Ed is deciphering the tablet the four students head down to the water. Tommy and Joann end up swimming. They are attacked by a shark and killed. The rest of the party decides to leave. Johnny goes to warm up the airboats and finds they are disabled.
With no means to get back Johnny decides to try to walk get to civilization and get help. While trekking through the Everglades he is killed by a poisonous snake. Joann wakes up screaming knowing that Johnny is dead. Ed decides that the only way to stop Tartu is to find his burial chamber and destroy the remains of the witchdoctor.
“Death Curse of Tartu” was released in 1966 and was directed by William Grefe. It is an American low budget supernatural horror film. Written in a single night and shot in seven days the movie was filmed in Everglades National Park in Florida.
There are pros and cons with this film. The pace is slow and the sound is not totally synced. The acting is bad and the story is not exactly new. The music canned. However, the location is cool. They are actually in the Everglades, not on a soundstage. The cinematography, for the most part, was actually decent. The animals are also cool and real. Well except for the shark. Even though the script was written in a day, the dialogue is not that bad. It is your basic drive-in quickie and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more.
Frank Weed, who plays Sam Gunther, was an animal handler. All the animals in the movie were actually owned by Frank. Billy’s little animal farm is actually part of Frank Weed’s property. It is Frank who is wrestling the huge constrictor on screen. His voice was dubbed by someone else.