Friday, January 08, 2016

Island of Terror (1966)

The honour of being the first 'Random Movie Trailer' of 2016 falls to Planet Film's 1966 science fiction effort Island of Terror.  Like it's companion piece, Night of the Big Heat (1965), this was directed by Terence Fisher during his temporary exile from Hammer and reunites him with the star of many of his Hammer movies: Peter Cushing.  Unfortunately, despite these promising portents, Island of Terror is no great shakes as either science fiction or horror, never really building up much tension and unfolding at a pedestrian pace. It's one of the movies used as 'evidence' to prove that Fisher was a director only really at home with Gothic horror and unsympathetic to other, more 'realistic' and 'rational' genres, like science fiction.  In truth, I'd say that the film's failure is largely down to a stodgy script that even Peter Cushing can't breath life into, and poorly realised and unconvincing monsters.

The aforementioned monsters are the 'silicates', crawling tentacle blobs accidentally created during cancer research, which feed on human bones - they suck their victims skeletons out of their bodies.  Like many movie monsters, the viewer is left wondering how the 'silicates' manage to catch and kill so many people as they appear to be very slow moving.  Consequently, they never come over as being particularly menacing.  The film falls into a couple of sub-genres of the British horror film: the lounge bar horror, (where the characters spend large parts of the film in a local pub, discussing the horrible things happening elsewhere, rather than showing them), and the isolated island horror.  The latter is quite fascinating - it's remarkable the number of isolates island communities there were off the coast of Britain in the sixties and early seventies: Night of the Big Heat, Deadly Bees and Doomwatch, to name but a few, used the same format.  In reality, of course, outside of Northern Scotland, (where none of the above are set, only The Wicker Man uses a Scottish setting), such communities are extremely rare, (the Isles of Man and White don't count as they are neither remote nor isolated).  Moreover, their inhabitants tend to be menaced by inclement weather rather than monsters. 

Once a late night TV regular, Island of Terror is another of those films which seems to have dropped out of view.  Whilst by no means a great film, it does provide ninety minutes or so of reasonable entertainment and is a reminder of the days when even tiny tin pot studios like Planet could hire a 'name' horror star and director and actually get their films into cinemas.



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