Island Of Terror
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On a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, a new breed of terror is unleashed. In his quest to find a cure for cancer, a research scientist conducts an experiment involving mutated cells. But this attempt to benefit humanity becomes a nightmare that threatens the entire human race.
The tranquil island is suddenly rocked by the mysterious death of a local farmer. When he is found in a cave, not a trace of bone left in his body, he has been reduced to a horrible, shapeless mass. Enter eminent pathologist Dr. Brian Stanley (horror icon Peter Cushing, Brides of Dracula, The Gorgon ) and Dr. David West (Edward Judd, First Men in the Moon), a brilliant bone specialist. Working together in a desperate race against time, they must find a way to destroy the seemingly indestructible, ever multiplying horde of bone-eating creatures before the mutant monsters kill everyone on the island and spread like a deadly plague across the entire planet! This chilling horror film is directed by the talented Hammer Films veteran director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy).
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THE STORY (contains spoilers): A small team of scientists working in isolation on a tiny island off the coast of Ireland accidentally create a new, aggressive & decidedly deadly silicon-based lifeform, a byproduct of their cancer research. Soon, local islanders & unwitting wildlife alike start turning up dead in one of the most gruesome ways imaginable. For, you see, the blobby, slithery "Silicates" subsist on calcium; using thier single tentacle to inject victims with an enzyme that dissolves all bone tissue, which is then sucked out through the wound. Without a skeleton to support their internal organs, the victims' bodies are reduced to suffocating sacks of flaccid flesh. Two renowned British doctors are called in to investigate the bizarre deaths and soon find themselves unwittingly battling not only the killer critters but also the local farmers who are near panic as their friends & families are mercilessly slaughtered by the ever multiplying army of freakish frights. Can our brave Brit heroes devise a method of stopping the slimy skeleton-slurping slugs before everyone has been reduced to mushy meatsacks???
THOUGHTS: A fantastic little chiller from independent studio Planet Film Productions, 1966's ISLAND OF TERROR has all the earmarks of a Hammer film, thanks to its use of several regular Hammer crewmembers & actors. Peter Cushing is his usual unflappable self as the esteemed Dr. Brian Stanley, while no-nonsense Edward Judd plays irascible bone specialist doctor David West. These two make a great team as they attempt to figure out exactly what's going on. The lovely Carole Gray plays Toni Merrill, Dr. West's latest fling, who insists on following the pair to the island, unaware of the horrific nightmare which awaits them. Later, in addition to launching a plan to kill the beasties, the trio must try to calm the rapidly-panicking villagers and keep them gathered at the town hall building, instead of running hysterically into the wilderness in a fruitless attempt to flee the advancing horde of calcium-hungry creatures. The Silicates are quite memorable, resembling vaguely star-shaped amoeba-esque lumps, with one squid-like tentacle. The things divide like huge cells, each reproducing a second being every six hours, (or even quicker after devouring a hapless human or animal). The F/X are crude, but nonetheless effective, as the detestable whatchamacallits are wisely kept mostly in the shadows, increasing their creepiness as they stalk their prey, (aided by some eerie sound effects, courtesy of regular Gerry Anderson 'SuperMarionation' composer & sound bite creator, Barry Gray). The boneless body F/X might seem laughable by today's standards, but it's the idea of what they represent that gives you the willies. Though dated and obvious, this movie still manages to serve up a decent amount of uneasiness, dread and genuine scares.
THE BLU-RAY: A nice effort from the gang at Shout!Factory. The transfer, (reportedly taken direct from the film's original interpositive elements), is clean, clear and mercifully devoid of dirt, debris and scratches. Focus is sharp and there's little in the way of artifacting, pixelation, edge enhancement or crush (video noise). The audio is similarly solid, with no warbling, drop-outs, pops or hissing. Sound mix is level and strong. Bonus features include a full-length audio commentary track with film historian Dr. Robert J. Kiss & Rick Pruitt which I found both informative and amusing. There's also a brief promotional photo gallery and a copy of the film's theatrical trailer. The slipcase insert is also reversible.
The transfer looks pretty good here on Blu-ray. Now, for the time this was made, it is probably the best looking transfer to date. I haven't owned a copy of this before, but almost everything I own is nearly Blu-ray or digital now. SCREAM factory did a great job on the overall package and special features.
Special Features a minimal, but it's great to see them here anyway.
* A nice Photo Still Gallery from the movie
* Vintage Theatrical Trailer
* Audio is DTS-HD Mono (When I played this back on my Sony 3D 4K upscaling Blu-ray player, it came out DTS-HD 2.0 and 2160p)
* Commentary by Film Historian Dr. Robert J, Kiss, with Rick Pruitt.
* Optional English Subtitles
Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing) and Dr. David West (Edward Judd) head to remote island to find out what is killing the local residents by eating all their bones leaving behind the bodies of their victims.
Many of the horror/science fiction thrillers of the 60's don't hold up for a variety of reasons but Fisher's films all have something to recommend them and here the production holds together remarkably well given when it was produced. Featuring two terrific performances by Cushing and Judd ("First Men in the Moon"), "Island of Terror" will be a cool gem for those who enjoy Hammer films (this wasn't a Hammer production but with Cushing and Fisher on board it might as well have been).
I'm not sure who provided the this sharp looking transfer of the film but the colors are bolder, detail sharper than the UK release of the film on Blu-ray. Part of that is a higher bit rate but the other part has to do with the choices made during the transfer process itself. Shout Factory (under their horror Scream imprint) do a terrific job here. I don't know if the 1.78:1 aspect ratio is correct but it looks quite good here. The mono soundtrack sounds quite nice with a DTS-HD presentation. Yes, the same limitations that applied to the original DVD and recently released UK Blu-ray.
I should note that this version features the film unedited which includes some gore that was cut from the original exhibition of the UK print (it was in tact on the original U.S. release).
Shout also provide some nice special features (they could just as easily given this a no frills release). The audio commentary by Dr. Robert J. Kiss and actor/blogger Rick Pruitt (he isn't featured in the film and I'm not familiar with his blog) provides an interesting discussion on the production of the film. Shout also presents a still gallery and the theatrical trailer.