Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Island of Terror (1966)

...aka: Creepers, The
...aka: Night of the Silicates
...aka: Night the Creatures Came, The
...aka: Night the Silicates Came, The

Directed by:
Terence Fisher

An interesting, pretty entertaining and sometimes amusing little sci-fi/horror programmer from England. People are turning up dead in a small island village off the coast of Ireland, but something's odd about the corpses - their bones are missing! All that's left behind are mounds of shriveled skin covering a soft gelatin-like mush of blood and internal organs. Could it have something to do with reclusive scientist Dr. Phillips (Peter Forbes-Robertson), who's just set up shop on the island doing cancer research? That's what bewildered local doc Reginald Landers (Eddie Byrne) and police Constable Harris (Sam Kydd) are hoping to find out. To aid their investigation, Landers flies all the way to London to draft some much-needed help. Famed pathologist and professor Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing) and bone disease specialist Dr. David West (Edward Judd) are the two guys for the job, even though neither are aware of any disease that is known to completely dissolve bone. They, as well as West's wealthy girlfriend Toni Merrill (Carole Gray), who insists on going since her father owns a helicopter they can use, all travel to the isle and are dropped off for a couple of days to see if they can be of any help.

Upon doing a thorough autopsy, the crew discover microscopic puncture wounds all over the flesh of the first victim. When they pay a visit to the cancer research laboratory looking for answers, they find the withered remains of both Phillips and all of his colleagues. Who, or what, is responsible? The answer is a nasty new species of creature born of radiation. Said creatures started out as an experimental living cell meant to seek out and destroy cancer cells, but now they've taken on a life and identity all their own. And mankind won't stand a chance if our teams of doctors can't come up with a solution pronto.

The extremely slow-moving monsters, called "Silicates," may not be impressive in appearance by today's standards, but the script makes sure they are well-defined, complex and interesting beings nonetheless. They look sort of like giant tortoise shells, but when they are asked to do something requiring more movement they look a little like half-filled garbage bags. There's a hole on each one where a long, snake-like tentacle pops out to do most of the dirty work. Once the tentacle latches onto a victim, they can't get free, and once it pulls a victim towards its body, enzymes do the rest. The creature then sucks out the bone matter, which is its primary food source. The shell part of the body is a tough exoskeleton which manage to survive getting whacked with an axe and being run over by a car. A posse is later organized to try to fight the Silicates, but shotguns, Molotov cocktails and dynamite all prove to be ineffective. To make matters worse, every six hours, each monster splits in half to create two different organisms! Nothing seem to stop these suckers. As a latch ditch effort, the scientists try to tempt the Silicates with an enticing buffet of strontium injected cattle. Things end with a semi-exciting Silicate attack on town hall just as the power goes out, but the film still wants us to remember that the occasional bloodbath and loss of innocent life shouldn't hinder scientific progress. Oh yeah, and look out for a Silicone outbreak in Japan! As if Godzilla going on a rampage every other year isn't already bad enough...

It's attractively photographed, fairly well written and has a decent cast; with Cushing getting the most witticisms. There's a lot of scientific discussion, but it seems relatively well thought out for one of these movies. The pacing is also just about right. There are also some choice laughs, such as one hilarious moment where a Silicate jumps out of a tree onto an unsuspecting victim. And when Cushing and Judd slip on special radiation suits, it reminded me of the "safe sex" scene from THE NAKED GUN. One of the biggest debits is Judd's character, who comes off as an abrasive jackass and chauvinistic pig. He shouts at his girlfriend, bosses her around and dopes her up any time she starts to get scared. The girlfriend character in general is a hindrance to both the storyline and the characters. She's completely unnecessary and is given next to nothing to do aside from providing a little eye candy and shrieking every once in awhile. Still, the film is worth checking out for any fan of vintage sci-fi. It's not a bad effort.


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