Kim Newman on... Zombies of Mora Tau
RT Obscura 10: Lumbering corpses and an exotic setting.
Extra trouble brews in the shapely if shrewish form of Harrison's wife Mona (Hayes), a former waterfront hostess (and we know what that means) who makes several plays for the manly hero in front of her older, obviously seething husband. Dr Jonathan Eggert (Morris Ankrum), an archaeologist, never quite gets round to stating the obvious fact that the chest no one cares about is probably more valuable than the diamonds inside it, and Jan (Autumn Russell), the old woman's granddaughter, does a fainting blonde good girl act for contrast with Hayes' dark, busty zombie bitch.
As in many vintage zombie (or mummy) movies, there's a problem in building up suspense in that the slow-moving monsters would seem ludicrously easy to get away from. We keep being told they're invincible to anything but fire, but -- though flares and candles are used to keep them at bay -- no one thinks to set light to them. The low production values mean that several times a flare gun is used to hold the crew back by having the gun fired offscreen, then bringing up studio lights to convey the effects of flares we haven't seen. Either the budget didn't run to actual flare cartridges, or famously cheapskate producer Sam Katzman didn't want to pay the extra insurance premiums for setting fires on the set.
Allison Hayes (of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman fame) and Morris Ankrum are iconic figures in 1950s genre films, but aren't at their best here: Hayes comes across like a mean-spirited, low-rent Jane Russell knock-off (though she's marginally creepy as the nightgown-clad killer zombie) and Ankrum (usually ramrod-stiff generals) is uncomfortable with the mild lechery he is required to express most of the time.
The plot, frankly, is stupid. Why are these zombies so intent on guarding the treasure in the first place, and how come they disappear (literally -- the Captain's empty clothes fall down) when Jeff throws the diamonds into three feet of water as if that made them harder to find for future money-grubbers than they were in the sunken ship's safe? It's now available on DVD in the Sam Katzman Icons of Horror collection, along with The Giant Claw, Creature With the Atom Brain and The Werewolf.