Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) 1 brain1 brainhalf brain

Alternate Titles:

The Dead That Walk

I've been meaning to see this for a while, since it's one of the more famous pre-Romero zombie movies. I finally managed to get a copy, and while I don't think it met my expectations, all in all it wasn't a bad movie. There's a promising beginning in which the heroine, Jan Peters (Autumn Russell) is coming back home to live with her grandmother (Marjorie Eaton). As she and her driver go along the dark road, a man appears in the road in front of them. With barely a twitch, the driver barrels right over him and continues on his way. Jan is shocked and insists they go back to check on him, but the driver responds that it was "one of them." To him, the zombies are simply a fact of life.

Jan is skeptical, but her grandmother confirms that, yes, there are walking dead on the island. The dead men were part of a crew of a ship carrying diamonds, captained by Grandma Peters's husband (Frank Hagney). Part of the crew mutinied and killed the captain and nine other crew members, but in revenge the captain and his loyal men came back to life and scuttled the ship, killing the traitors and sinking the diamonds beneath the waves. Since then, any time someone comes to Mora Tau to try to retreive the diamonds, the captain and his men arise again to protect their treasure.

Jan is still doubtful, as is the group of treasure hunters that arrives that very night. The expedition is led and funded by George Harrison (Joel Ashley), but the actual diving and retrieving will be done by the swashbuckling Jeff Clark (Gregg Palmer). Joining in are also Harrison's lustful wife (Allison Hayes) and a Dr. Eggert (Morris Ankrum), because who knows when you might need someone to say something smart.

But of course the zombies show up in full force. They aren't your average zombies: bullets don't appear to hurt them at all, even in the head, although come to think of it, I don't think I ever saw someone aiming for the head. They're also deathly afraid of fire, to the point where they can be herded with a couple of lit candles. And their sole purpose is to keep the diamonds at the bottom of the sea. One might argue that they're not zombies at all, since when you think about it, they actually raised themselves from the dead, unless it was some force of karma that reanimated them. But they're dead, and they're walking around, so at least the term "walking dead" is apt.

The effects are definitely on a budget, and there are some huge plot holes, but the acting is decent and the plot is generally fun. You probably won't be wowed by this film, but it's serviceable enough.