The Slowly Walking Dead – Zombies of Mora Tau (1957)

Jan comes home to see her grandmother and along the way the chauffeur runs over a man seemingly without a care in the world.  Why?  It was a zombie.  Jan of course is disturbed as she thought it was a man, but is soon told otherwise.  The zombies are from a sunken ship where they protect a cursed lot of diamonds, forever undead until the curse is lifted.  Jeff Clark and his crew aim to get those diamonds, zombies or no zombies.

A good little zombie film that has absolutely zero special effects except for the lipstick that Allison Hayes wears.  If all anyone needed to pull off a successful movie about the undead was an actor that could walk slowly, then everyone and his dog would be making zombie films.  This was probably the worst thing about the whole film.  The fact that either producer Sam Katzman or director Edward L. Cahn could not come up with a few dollars for some makeup to at least make their zombies look like they were sort of dead was ridiculous.  At the end of the film, when the curse is lifted and the zombies disappear into thin air that would suggest that they were more like ghosts or poltergeists with solid form than zombies, but how are we supposed to know what writers Bernard Gordon and George H. Plympton were thinking when they came up with this script.
That script with which our cast had to work with by the way, aside from the portrayal of those unrealistic zombies, was actually okay.  If the film had anything going for it, the script and the acting by some of the players made up for the lack of effects and the absence of horror.  For a film that was supposed to be scary, it lacked any real suspense or thrills.  Of course the actors gave it their all to make it as believable as they could and to show that they faced certain peril, but for the viewer, it will just ultimately fail.

Gregg Palmer plays the male lead, Jeff Clark who wants the diamonds pretty bad and Autumn Russell plays Jan Peters whose zombie grandfather guards said diamonds.  Both do a fairly good job though Palmer seems a little over the top at times.  Marjorie Eaton who plays Jan’s grandmother does a better job than both Russell and Palmer put together as playing a wise old lady is not as much of a stretch or require as much improvisation as the other two actors have to do.

Stealing the show was Allison Hayes as Mona.  Playing the eponymous bad girl, she flirts, she connives, she screams, she takes abuse and gives it and she draws your eye more than anything else in the film.  If there was a star in the movie, it was Hayes.  She may not have had the lead in the film, but she was the only actor or actress worth watching.  Her performance was vibrant and really put everyone else to shame by comparison.

The problem with this film that other low budget films do not share is not merely the lack of special effects, it was the fact that the filmmakers did not even try.  Even with budget constraints, they could have slapped a little makeup on some of the zombies and to not even try is just laziness.  On the whole though, the Zombies of Mora Tau was a decent enough movie.  It had an interesting premise and plot, the actors were fine though not great, and the script was good.  With a little effort the movie could have been a lot better, but in the end, it is what it is.

3 out of 5

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