Movie: Island of Terror (1966)

Only a horror film from the 1950’s or 1960’s would have scientists trying to cure cancer instead creating self-replicating monsters that eat people.  I guess this could be a cure for cancer, if your intention was to create something that will kill everybody on the planet.

The resulting creatures look a bit like turtles, only with a protruding snake-like neck and head.  These things dissolve all the bones in their victims.  It is pretty creepy how the bodies of the victims look like deflated balloons.  At the same time, I wondered if this is how boneless chickens are made.

The events up to this point unfold on an island in an indeterminate part of the world.  Some of the scientists go to the UK to bring back Peter Cushing, who plays a scientist that is somehow both arrogant and self-effacing.  He and his visitors go to his vast medical library to do some research.  Or, to put it another way, to bone up on the subject.  *cough*

If you like Hammer films, you’re going to love this.  In fact, this is pretty much a Hammer film in everything but name.  In addition to starring Cushing, this was directed by Terence Fisher, who directed many of that studio’s best horror films, including The Devil Rides Out and Horror of Dracula.

It would be easy to laugh at this whole affair, though it has much to recommend it.  The puppet work on the protruding necks of the aliens is well-done as these things seem to roam the countryside blindly, feeling for prey.  I like the idea of the creatures being silicon-based instead of carbon.  That doesn’t really make much of a difference to the plot, but I thought it was an interesting touch.  There’s also a surprisingly effective bit where a guy finds a horse on its side and gently steps on a flank that completely caves in.

Random observation round-up time!  Why is there a stuffed deer atop a mansion’s entrance, and on the outside?  Wouldn’t that thing quickly get all mangy from the elements?  And I liked the Tardis-like sounds we hear whenever the aliens are around.  But what about that long scene of scientists suiting up in protective gear?  Did we actually have to see that entire process, including them donning inflatable helmets that look unmistakably like condoms?

The ending of Island of Terror almost takes a turn that is shockingly close to the ending of The Mist.  Although it doesn’t take that dark turn, it still shows this is a film willing to show how high the stakes are for the characters, even if the creatures attacking them are a tad goofy.  And yet, I’m sure fans of Hammer’s output will be happy this non-canonical movie exists.

Dir: Terence Fisher

Starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray

Watched on Shout Factory blu-ray