Sunday, August 7, 2011

Island of the Fishmen (1979) - 2 of 3: Westerners in the Wild Trilogy

Island of the goggly eyes

This ambitious film is set in the 19th century, gave a dab of action-adventure with mythology to boot, some shocks of horror and a nod to science fiction if that wasn't enough. "Island of Dr. Moreau" it wasn't entirely, though the initial premise is no doubt given nod to.

The zoom ins, dated synthesizers and blatantly overdubbed sound effects that usually came with campy Italian cinema can give these pictures charm like no other. However, the inconsistent creature effects and cringe worthy miniatures unabashedly shown in close-ups, instead of rolling in the fog or covering up with shadows, were just asking too much from a viewer's imagination. Most of these films have flaws from cheap production to speedy filmmaking, mirroring what was done in the '50s/'60s, but it's just a matter of how many you are willing to overlook (especially by '79). If really easy, this could be more up your alley. If not, take the detour.

The acting and even the English dubbing were of decent and serious caliber to moving this along without being one giant accidental farce; which leads me to believe the producers gave the green light with a tight cast but without realistically scaling back their overzealous production costs. The owner of the island was villainous though a charming and eccentric gentleman, his former Bond-girl (Barbara Bach of "The Spy Who Loved Me") wife was an exquisite treat to look at, and the guest of honor, that got there from a shipwreck, was a commanding and confident presence on screen.

"Island of the Fishmen," aka "Screamers," was not as mystifying as set out to be as an adult fantasy film. Applied to the goals the filmmakers had and their ability to realistically pull them off, the old idiom "less is more" usually works better in these cases, otherwise it's a challenge to step in with both feet and truly let yourself go minus the unintentional smirks.

Rating: 4/10

Director: Sergio Martino (Torso)
Stars: Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli
Link: IMDB

Facts from the Black and Red:

- Actor Claudio Cassinelli died in a helicopter accident in 1985 while on location in Arizona for another Sergio Martino movie called "Fists of Steel/Hands of Steel."

- Mudskippers, snakeheads and Senegal Bichir are fish that can survive for periods outside of water.

- The 1912 accident of Titanic had a total of 1, 517 lives lost, making it one of the most fatal peacetime disasters.

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