Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Sting of Death (1966)

Poster for Sting of Death (1966)Sting of Death (1966) by #WilliamGrefé

w/#JoeMorrison #ValerieHawkins #DeannaLund

and special singing musical guest star #NeilSedaka!

A group of college students on spring break in the Florida Everglades run afoul of a giant jellyfish monster.

#Horror #SciFi

I’ve probably rambled on about having “bad movie nights” with certain friends of mine before. One of those friends, whom I’ll call Den (since that’s his name), used to go straight for the New Release shelf whenever we would go to rent movies together. I, on the other hand, used to go to the more unusual corners of the store: the Horror section (not so unusual), the Cult section (a little more offbeat) and the Something Weird Video section (yes, they had their own section, like Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorcese – and it was fairly off-the-beaten path for most customers).

I think Den’s theory was that he’d seen most of the older films, so he would go looking for the new stuff. I knew that there were hundreds (or thousands) of old movies that I had never had the chance to see (and honestly, I tended to like them better than the newer movies). so I would go scouring the darkest corners of the store looking the most unusual stuff I could find.

On this one particular day, I approached Den with a basket full of weird titles. He took a quick look and dismissed most of them with terse comments like “Nope”, “Seen it” and “I don’t think so…” but then he picked up one DVD and stopped cold. It was a Something Weird Video double feature DVD, that included Death Curse of Tartu (1967) and Sting of Death.

The back of the DVD box for Sting of Death (1966)“A movie about a Jellyfish Man?!” Den exclaimed upon reading the back of the box.  “Okay, we can rent this…”

So, into the basket it went. And later that night we watched it. And it was quite the experience.

I’m not sure if either of us had seen any movies by William Grefé before. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t, so this was a seminal viewing experience for me. But one thing IS for sure, neither of us had seen a movie about a Jellyfish Man before…

The thing I remember most about the first watch of Sting of Death is that it looked really great. The picture was clear and beautiful (as much as it could be in those days before blu-ray and high def TVs). I think it reminded me of the classic 1950s Sci-Fi monster movies that I had enjoyed watching on Not Quite Classic Theatre when I was young. The deeper into the movie we got, the less it reminded me of those old Not Quite Classics, but still the feeling was there.

After Den went home, I re-watched Sting of Death with the commentary track on and that’s where it really took off for me. Listening to William Grefé talk about the making of the movie was better then the movie itself. He told some amazing stories (many of which ended with someone saying “Grefé you bastard!”). It was pure gold as far as I was concerned.

Among other things, I learned that Sting of Death had been a lost movie of sorts. Someone rescued the negative from storage and it was completely covered in mould or something (it’s been a long time since I listened to that commentary track). When they took it to a lab, they said “No way! This thing can’t be saved.” But Grefé, or Mike Vraney at Something Weird Video, said “Please, you’ve got to try.” So they did.

Miracle of miracles, they cleaned up the negative up and found out that it was in perfect condition.

I’m not doing the story justice, but you get the idea. I look forward to listening to that commentary track again and maybe even correcting this one day…

What I can say for sure is that I watched Sting of Death again for the first time in many years and I enjoyed it more than ever. It does seem like a throwback to movies I love, like Monster On The Campus (1958). It’s a little cheaper, a little shoddier, and perhaps a little more bonkers (whatever that means). But it’s actually pretty lush, and not nearly as cheap as it’s companion piece, Death Curse of Tartu. Oddly enough, Death Curse of Tartu became a bit of cult film, and was readily available on VHS while Sting of Death was all but forgotten. I like Sting of Death more, but maybe that’s just because I saw it first. Who knows? 

There’s a whole lot more I could say about Sting of Death (1966), but I’m already a week late finishing this blog post, so I guess I’ll let it go for now. I’ll probably talk more about this treasured piece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema when I re-watch Death Curse of Tartu on an upcoming #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.