Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)

Poster for Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) by #EdwardLCahn
w/#GreggPalmer #AllisonHayes

A fortune hunter leads a search for diamonds guarded by undead sailors off the coast of Africa.


“Human in Shape Only!”

“A Tide of Terror Floods the Screen!”

#Horror #Zombies

When I was kid, I dreamed of searching for – and finding – lost treasure. My dad had some old geology maps that showed where all of the gold, silver, and copper deposits were located. I imagined one day travelling to those shiny red dots and digging for gold.

I also read an article in the newspaper about treasure hunters who searched old abandoned houses and found jars of silver coins buried under the floorboards. I added this activity to my future to do list.

I also went to the library and took out books about famous pirates. I carefully studied the reproductions of old hand drawn maps that showed where they had buried their stolen treasure. One day I would solve the mystery, I vowed, and find Blackbeard’s lost fortune.

Sadly, I never did any of those things. And I probably should have – because, truth be told, they would have been just as likely to lead to success as anything else I tried. But then again, who knows what kind of unearthly horrors I might have uncovered…?

In Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Gregg Palmer plays a deep sea diver named Jeff Clark. He’s working with/for an American business tycoon named George Harrison, played by Joel Ashley. They are, in effect, treasure hunters looking to recover a fortune in diamonds from the wreckage of a ship that sank somewhere off the coast of Africa about 60 years ago. 

This is an idea that really would have appealed to six or seven-year-old me.

Unfortunately for George, Jeff, and the rest of their team, there are some zombie sailors guarding the sunken treasure – and they don’t take kindly to fortune hunters trying to steal their diamonds. The old lady who lives nearby (Grandmother Peters, played by Marjorie Eaton) – whose husband is one of the dead sailors – the captain, no less, tells George and Jeff that they must destroy the diamonds in order to set the souls of the dead men free (or something like that).

How the hell do you destroy diamonds…?

George’s wife is played by Allison Hayes, who is perhaps best known as the titular character in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). She is younger and hotter than her tycoon husband, and is perhaps in love with (or just attracted to) Jeff (who is also younger and hotter than her husband). In real life, Allison Hayes appeared in over sixty movies and TV shows between 1954 and 1967. She died in 1977, far too young, at the age of 46. 

Jeff’s real love interest in this movie is Jan Peters, great-granddaughter of Grandma Peters, who is played by Autumn Russell. Autumn Russell appeared in only 12 things before retiring. She was born in 1930, and is (I believe) still alive today, which would make her 93.

Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) is another example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that was produced by Sam Katzman. It is neither as wonderfully bad as The Giant Claw (1957), nor as surprisingly good as Creature With the Atom Brain (1955). It is, nevertheless, a fun movie that has a few moments of genuine creepiness. An interesting forerunner of the modern zombie genre, it also seems like it might have influenced John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980). As I watched it, I found myself thinking of some of Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead movies as well, although that might say more about me than this movie. In any case, I say why not add Zombies of Mora Tau to your next watery zombie film festival? It may not be the best movie of its kind, but it’s better than a lot of the crap you might stumble onto on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn