They Came from the Swamp Arrow Video release overview

We’ve spent the last week going over the amazing William Gréfe box set that Arrow Video has just released. To say that this set is essential for drive-in and exploitation film fans is an understatement. This has it all, true believer — everything from jellyfish men, zombie witch doctors, murderous hippies and shark lovers to, of course, go-go dancers. All of these films are new to blu ray and, as always with Arrow, are packed to the, well, gills with extra features.

Here’s an overview of the movies in the set:

Whiskey Mountain: “This is a movie that has all real marijuana as props and a soundtrack by the Charlie Daniels Band, along with the exact kind of horrors you know await them yankees when they ask too many questions and push too hard. It’s also filled with Peckinpah-esque slow-motion — most effect with George is double firing shotguns — to go with a brutal scene where we only hear the assault on the girls and see still evidence as it develops on Polaroids. Also — it’s 1977 and technically a motorcycle movie. so that means that it also has a potential downer ending freeze frame.”

Sting of Death: “Sure there are plenty of movies where sea creatures rise to the beach to menace near-nude girls, but do any of them have Neil Sedaka belting out “Do the Jellyfish?””

Death Curse of Tartu: “If you didn’t have enough of teenagers in the Everglades screwing with forces they didn’t quite comprehend in Grefe’s Sting of Death — which was the other part of a double bill with this film — then good news! Four students on an archaeology assignment decide that it would be a great idea to have a shindig on the grave of Tartu, an ancient Native American medicine man.”

The Hooked Generation: “This time around, Grefé is telling us the story of a group of three drug pushers who are no longer content to kidnap people and assault women. No, they’re in for the big score, killing their Cuban drug suppliers, an act that puts them on a one-way ticket to the kind of horrible end that can only be found in a regional drive-in movie.”

The Psychedelic Priest: “Gréfe got paid $100,000 in trading stamps to make this movie that was never released until thirty years later because everyone felt it would be a bomb. As for Gréfe, he was now the president of Ivan Tors Films, making family movies, so he realized that “I didn’t want some wild hippie drug movie with my name as writer and director.””

The Naked Zoo: “Rita Hayworth playing Mrs. Golden, a rich woman who lives with her cockolder, wheelchair-bound husband Harry (Ford Rainey, Dr. Mixter from Halloween II!). She sleeps with an author named Terry Shaw (Steve Oliver from Peyton Place) and when her husband finds out — and tries to gun them down — Terry stops him, but despite the death of the old man being in self-defense, Mrs. Golden starts blackmailing him.”

Mako: Jaws of Death: “The Florida-based director William Grefe has brought many swamp-tinged bits of exploitation goodness — or badness — to the screen, such as Alligator AlleyThe Wild RebelsThe Hooked Generation and so many more. As one of the first films made to take advantage of the shark craze in the way of Spielberg’s success, this film’s sympathetic view of sharks as victims is a pretty unique take on the genre.”

They Came from the Swamp: “Honestly, if you have the smallest interest in exploitation film or if you’re an absolute maniac who thrills at the very mention of names like Barry Mahon and Crown International Pictures, then you absolutely must own this.”

Beyond the expected extras — trailers, commentary tracks with Gréfe and Frank Henenlotter, behind the scenes info — this set expands to include so much more, like the alternate Barry Mahon re-release cut of Naked Zoo, a history of teen and animal exploitation films, new introductions by Gréfe for each movie, a feature about the early spook show experiences of monster maker Doug Hobart, a collector’s book, a poster and new art for each movie by the Twins of Evil.

It’s an absolutely perfect release, filled with info for fans and films that are ripe for rediscovery. It has our absolute highest recommendation. You can get it from Arrow Video or from Diabolik DVD.

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