have to respect - well, perhaps not respect, but certainly admire
- a movie like Island of Terror, that takes pains to set
up a Simple Movie Fact in its opening minutes; that point being:
these people are screwed.
point is gotten across by a few expository sentences, as a supply
boat unloads its cargo at the dock of a small island off the cost
of Ireland. The island's Head Man complains about the boat only
coming once a week, "And you'd think they'd at least install
our phones!" "They promised to do that this year."
"Aye, and they said the same thing last year!" So. Small,
idyllic island. Very isolated. Constable Harris (Sam Kydd) has
nothing to do, it's so peaceful, and Dr. Landers (Eddie Byrne)
the local sawbones, is in the same predicament: "You islanders
are too hardy!"
there's that other fella, Dr. Phillips (Peter Forbes-Robertson).
The one who set up a fancy laboratory at the Old Mansion. He and
one of his assistants is also taking possession of a shipment
from the boat. The Islanders talk about the scientist's stand-offishness,
but Landers reveals that Phillips is one of the world's top research
men, the type that will go to any lengths to avoid interruption
of their work. Leading the assembled men to voice the Irish version
of "A-yuh, a-yuh," and go their separate ways.
the Mansion, though, things are coming to a head, thanks to the
new shipment. Phillips decides to continue with his new line of
experimentation, despite the fact that four other labs are performing
the same research, more or less in sync with him. "They'll
understand," Phillips declares, and a machine is set in motion,
leading to a flash of red, a brief glimpse of dead bodies where
the scientists were standing, and a hyperbolic title sequence.
I said, these people are screwed.
screwed are they? Well, let's join Ian Bellows (Liam Gaffney),
or, as I like to refer to him, The Unlucky Bastard, out for a
walk in the fog. We'll be charitable and, given the rural setting,
assume that Bellows is engaged in walking his land for some farming/drover
type activity. None of which is going to do him any good, since
he hears an odd, electronic sound issuing from a nearby cave,
and goes to investigate - you just know that this is a
mistake, but this setup - and Bellows' vanishing into the darkness
only to have his screams and monstrous
sucking sounds issue from that same darkness - is classic
the behest of Bellows' wife, Harris goes out searching for the
man, and spots his body lying just inside the cave (the Constable
goes directly to the area Bellows met his fate - I guess he really
is qualified for his job!). Disturbed by what he has found,
Harris rousts Landers and brings him to the cave, where the doctor
confirms what the unbelieving Constable has found: there appear
to be absolutely no bones in Bellows' body, nor any wounds. In
fact, since there is no face - "Just a mush, with his eyes
a-settin' in it," it requires surgical scars to identify
realizing he's way out of his league, swears Harris to silence
and prepares to take the island's Emergency Launch ("Our
only contact with the mainland?") to consult with Brian Stanley,
"one of the world's foremost pathologists" in London.
Landers also tells Harris to prepare a signal fire, since they
might be flying back. Let's see, an island of people to choose
from, and there's no one they can trust to go with Landers, to
bring back "Our only contact with the mainland" should
they charter a plane for the return trip? Um-hm. Screwed.
Stanley turns out to be none other than Peter Cushing (Yay!),
who avers that he has never heard of a disease that dissolves
bone. When he and Landers strike out at the University's medical
library, they visit David West (Edward Judd), an expert on bones
and bone disorders. West is in his swinging bachelor osteopath
pad with hot mid-60s vixen Toni Merrill (Carole Gray), who is
currently capering about in West's shirt and nothing else (due
to West's spilling wine on her dress, we are told), while they
exchange sexually charged James Bond witticisms*.
mid-kiss by the arrival of Stanley and Landers, West is at first
skeptical, then intrigued by the problem. Toni offers the use
of Daddy's helicopter (like all hot mid-60s vixens, she is a rich
jet-setter), but only if she can come along. The clock, she's
a-ticking, so the men agree to her demands - but then, when they
discover that Daddy needs the helicopter, and they'll be marooned
on the island for a couple of days, it's too late to make other
haven't used the word in a couple of paragraphs, so here it is
they have returned to the island, West and Stanley perform a more
thorough autopsy on the corpse; Stanley discovers a series of
perforations throughout the dead man's skin - though whether something
went in or went out through the holes is open to
speculation. Citing the need for more sophisticated laboratory
facilities, the three doctors motor out to Phillips' mansion.
But not before we find out that the island's sole power generator
is experiencing technical difficulties, and the electricity is
in constant danger of winking out (the adjective you are looking
for to describe their situation starts with an s
and ends with a d)
repeated knocks fail to rouse anyone within, Stanley decides to
do a bit of breaking-and-entering (well, there's no breaking involved,
just an unlocked ground-floor window. Cushing is too classy for
anything common like breaking a window). Inside the mansion, he
literally stumbles upon another boneless corpse. In the basement,
the men discover an isotope storage facility ("He's got as
much equipment as I have at the University!") and Phillips'
lab - and more bodies devoid of bone.
deduces that whatever it is started in that laboratory, and as
Phillips and his crew had no contact with the villagers, "it"
is probably not a contagious disease, as they had thought. The
men carry off as much of Phillips' notes as they can carry, and
settle down for some serious research of their own.
a drover has come calling on Constable Harris with news of the
discovery of a boneless horse on his land. Harris swears the man
to secrecy, and acting on a note from Landers, bikes out to the
Phillips Mansion to inform the doctors, only to find that he has
missed them. And to find those boneless corpses. And to find that
one lab the doctors didn't go into - the one marked "Test
Animals". The one with the weird electronic sounds. The one
with the gray, snakelike thing that wraps around Harris' neck.
The one that eliminates the need for his pension fund.
Landers returns to the Inn where Stanley and West are poring over
Phillips' notes, they are joined by Toni, fresh from her night's
sleep (ah, the indolent rich!) when they return to the mansion
in search of Harris. They find Harris' corpse, and also what sucked
out all his bones...
the monsters. We love our monsters, don't we? As far as filmic
beasties go, these are pretty good in concept - a squat, turtle
like body that seems to slide along the ground like a snail, with
a lone tentacle extending from the body. They are obviously not
men in suits.
attacks one with an axe, to no noticeable effect - their hide
seems incredibly tough. Of course, in order to use a close-quarters
weapon like an axe, one has to get into - well, close quarters.
Tentacle range. The tentacle wraps around Landers' ankle, and
it's time for the local doctor to make a less-than-graceful, screaming
exit from the picture.
look bad for our mainland heroes, until the monsters stop in their
tracks, splitting like ripe melons in the sun. Yep, they reproduce
by fission (how long has it been since I used the word
screwed?). The good thing is that they're immobile for
a time after splitting; the bad news is that there is now no telling
how many of the damned things are slithering around the island.
it is the eruption of boneless carcasses that cause the island's
Boss Campbell (Niall MacGinnis) and storekeeper Argyle (James
Caffrey) to track down the city folk and try to get some answers.
What they get isn't promising, though Stanley and West convince
them to gather all the villagers at "The Meeting Place"
and recruit a posse while the two scientists finish going through
the notes. Toni, incidentally, is upstairs, under sedation.
the gathering, West and Stanley outline the plot to the assembled
islanders: Phillips had attempted to create living cells to better
understand the process of cancer. Failing when he used carbon
as a basis, he succeeded rather too well when he used silicon.
The result was the bone-eating beasties, dubbed the "Silicates".
West estimates that if the Silicates continue fissioning every
six hours, there will be several hundred by midnight. He orders
the villagers to gather supplies and prepare for a long siege
in the building.
two scientists join Campbell's posse at the leading edge of the
silicate advance, and try all manner of destructive devices on
the devilish things, all to no avail. Shotguns, Molotov cocktails,
dynamite, nothing seems to phase them. One of the villagers takes
two petrol bombs closer to the slow-moving stampede, trying to
score a direct hit; since we've never seen him before, chances
are we will be filled with an inexplicable longing for toast.
Sure enough, this unfortunate soul makes the bizarre discovery
that the Silicates can climb trees, as one drops on him from above.
Slurp, slurp, eeyah.
one of the scouts bears heartening news - one of the Silicates
has been found dead nearby, next to the half-boneless corpse of
Phillips' dog. From the scientist's notes, they know that the
dog had accidentally received an overdose of radiation. Sure enough,
they have found what seems to be the silicate's sole weakness.
hatches a desperate scheme: the remaining cattle is to be sequestered
near the Meeting Place, as far from the silicate advance as possible.
He and Stanley will journey back to Phillips' lab and gather as
much Strontium-90 ... which settles in bone matter ... as possible,
contaminate the cattle, and hopefully poison the entire population
West and Stanley return to Silicate Central and load up with the
isotope. Stanley announces that he'll stow the material in the
car while West.... I don't know, tidies up or something (Hey!
Is that toast I smell?). Sure enough, though the rest of the Silicates
have journeyed inland in search of food, one has stuck around
the mansion, probably in hopes of running into Cushing (hmm...
a silicate stalker?). Hearing his friend's screams, West runs
outside, and having only an axe - which we already know to be
quite useless against the beasties - instead severs Stanley's
hand at the wrist in order to save him.
bandaging Stanley and filling him with morphine, West proceeds
to inject the cattle, almost running out of Strontium-90; he's
concerned because he had to cut the dosage in half for the last
few cows. Then the Silicates come, and there seems to be more
cause for concern: with the moving of everything with edible bones
to the center of the island, the Silicates are off their feed.
Whereas West had hoped they would divide before slurping the cattle,
they do it afterwards - which means the effect of the isotope
will be similarly halved.
means it's time for the protracted siege that West had warned
about. Trouble is, no one in the cast has a lick of sense and
the Silicates start smashing in through unbarricaded windows -
and a skylight! - forcing a messy retreat to the clinic in the
back of the building while the wails of those trapped in the outer
room with the monsters echo like the halls of Hell. Their tentacles
waving, the Silicates slowly force their way into the clinic,
and West contemplates overdosing the panicking Toni with morphine
before the monsters can get her - but in the nick of time, the
isotopes work, and Man wins again, though admittedly with something
like a 75% attrition rate. Then there's all those boneless cows
- man! what a barbecue! "It's a good thing this happened
on an island, " muses West. "If it had happened anywhere
else, I don't think we could have destroyed them."
to one of those laboratories engaged in parallel research - an
Asian scientist, curious about the electronic sounds coming from
a room, enters - only to have his terrified screams cut off by
the sucking sounds... The end?
I don't think that the fact that this laboratory was either somewhere
in either Hong Kong or Japan - technically, both islands - should
dilute our terror at the end of the movie. No, certainly not.
I wanna know is: why don't they make monster movies anymore?
I know, you can say they do, look, there's Deep Rising
and there's Pitch Black. Oh, nice tries, I would have to
say back, but they lack something. (Okay, okay. I still
haven't seen Pitch Black, so I can't really pass judgment
on it. But Deep Rising? Did they just photocopy the script
of Aliens or what? Though I must say, Treat Williams makes
an intriguing Sigourney Weaver...)
that I am, I insist on my monster movies having a certain number