Grefe Came From The Swamp

Even in the world of “B” filmmakers from Florida, William Grefe is not an “A” list name. First and foremost in most exploitation film fans are David F. Friedman, creator of the modern gore film with Blood Feast to his credit, and Doris Wishman, director of Nude on the Moon, one of the first “nudie cutie” films and arguable forerunner of today’s modern adult film industry. William Grefe’s major claim to fame is Impulse, a William Shatner film from when he was in between major studio film and TV work. Either that, or Stanley, a “nature gone wild” film in the mold of the Willard and Ben that swapped killer rats for killer snakes. A new documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, They Came From the Swamp, aims to make William Grefe a better known name among cult and exploitation film fans.

Grefe’s filmography is littered with titles like Death Curse of Tartu, Mako: The Jaws of Death, and The Wild Rebels, titles that spoke to following trends of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, not setting them. His main gift was his ability to ape the more popular exploitation films while producing them on even cheaper budgets for a string of 3 rd string distributors like Crown International and Independent International. Grefe’s films were designed to tour the lucrative drive-in circuit on a region by region basis.

Ballyhoo’s documentary, directed by Daniel Griffith, goes a long way to increase William Grefe’s profile and shows how through sheer gumption and “let’s put on a show” conviction he was able to forge a career and help build a film industry that previously didn’t exist in Florida. Featuring extensive interviews with the man himself and his key collaborators, They Came From the Swamp is a compelling look at Grefe and builds a case for him being the lost 3rd pillar of Florida filmmaking of the era.

Available on DVD directly from Ballyhoo ( They Came From the Swamp comes with a bounty of rich supplemental material that helps expand upon issues touched upon the main doc. First and foremost is one Grefe’s final films, Whiskey Mountain, a spin on Southern backwoods chillers like Deliverance. Sourced from the best available film materials, Whiskey Mountain, sports plentiful scratches and dirt, so if absolute digital clarity is your barrier to film enjoyment be forewarned. Trailers for all of Grefe’s films are also included, but best of all are the 2 short promotional films Grefe made for Bacardi. I won’t spoil them here, but one features Shatner at his hammiest.

They Came From the Swamp is entertaining viewing for fans of exploitation filmmaking, and is admirable in its ability to vault Grefe from obscurity to appreciation.

Written by Michael Felix


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