They Came From The Swamp: The Films of William Grefé
Directed by Daniel Griffith
If there is one thing that I’m always on my soapbox about, it is learning about the horror genre, from the very beginnings to modern day. The reason is simply because we need to recognize what came before us and remember what they gave us. It helps us appreciate where we are now. So when I heard about a documentary that was being made about this lesser known Florida based filmmaker, William Grefé, needless to say, I was excited.
One of my favorites of Grefé’s work is his 1965 film Sting of Death, which features a half man/half jellyfish creature, which is just a hoot. It featured such a memorable monster, my wife immortalized it on a birthday cake for me, along with the title creature from Z.A.A.T.!
Grefé made other titles in the horror genre like Death Curse of Tartu (what a great title!), Mako: The Jaws of Death, Stanley, and a few more. He also didn’t just work in the horror genre, but in quite a few of them, from biker movies, racing movies, and even a drug exploitation! He was making films with very little budget, but always turning out a entertaining title that made money. And now, with this new documentary, we get to hear from Grefé himself as we go through all of this films, hearing some great stories about each one of them. But it is not just him that we hear from, but plenty of other people that either worked with him on those films, like Doug Hobart, Randy Grinter, Joe Morrison, William Marquez, Chris Robinson, as well as fellow filmmakers like H.G. Lews, David F. Friedman, Fred Olen Ray, and even William Shatner himself!
This 2-disc set comes with not only the documentary, but the rare, never released before film Whisky Mountain, starring Christopher George. While not a horror title, it has plenty of dark exploitation thrills to it to keep you entertained. The disc is also filled with trailers, a couple of short films (one starring Shatner), deleted scenes, and so much more.
Grefé is one of those guys that was working outside of the Hollywood system, usually working in the Florida area, and put out some very memorable and entertaining films. While most normal movie fans might turn their noses up at these kind of films, I think true connoisseurs of the exploitation field will always be pleasantly entertained. At the end of the day, isn’t that what a filmmaker should be all about? One that can turn out a film within the budget, make it fun and/or exciting for the audience, and have the picture make money at the box office. Grefé showed that by using creativity and ingenuity, rather than just throwing money at it like modern Hollywood films are made, he showed how great of a geniune filmmaker he was. The shame is that there aren’t too many more people out there these days, but I’m sure seeing his story in this documentary could just spark those creative juices in some young filmmaker and start them on their way.
This documentary was directed by Daniel Griffith from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, who has created a ton of amazing features and featurettes for DVD and blu-ray releases over the years, so he really knows his way around this kind of subject matter, which he does another great job here as well. This disc comes highly recommended not only because it is entertaining, but also it is a great history lesson!