(director/writer: Val Guest; screenwriter: story by Jon Manchip White; cinematographer: Jack Asher; editor: Billy Lenny; music: Gerard Schurmann; cast: André Morell (Colonel Lambert), Carl Möhner (Dutch), Walter Fitzgerald (Cyril Beattie), Edward Underdown (Maj. Dawes), Phil Brown (Lt. Bellamy), Barbara Shelley(Kate Keiller), Michael Goodliffe(Father Paul), Michael Gwynn (Tom Shields), Ronald Radd (Col. Yamamitsu), Marne Maitland(Capt. Sakamura), Wolfe Morris (Interpreter), Richard Wordsworth (Dr. Keiller), Mary Merrall (Helen Beattie), Michael Ripper(Driver), Edwin Richfield(Sergeant), Barry Lowe (Betts); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Hinds; Hammer/Columbia; 1958-UK)


Too grim a World War II drama about a sadistic POW camp to be entertaining.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Too grim a World War II drama about a sadistic POW camp to be entertaining. At least there’s a payoff in the end, as the sadistic Japanese commanders get their comeuppance. Val Guest (“Carry on Admiral”/”Quatermass 2″/”Expresso Bongo”)directs and writes the unconvincing screenplay, that’s based on a story by Jon Manchip White. It’s based on a real incident, but seems like fiction. Yet what makes it doubly frightening, is that such atrocities actually took place. Too bad it couldn’t depict Japanese cruelty in its POW camp in a way that made it clearer what the film’s intentions were in showing all the gore and brutality.

Towards the end of World War II, in 1945, a group of British POW’s, who have been interned for the last three years by the Japanese at a barbaric prison camp off the coast of Malaysia, are reaching their breaking point physically and mentally. The infamous camp is commanded by the war criminal Colonel Yamamitsu (Ronald Radd) and his sadistic Capt. Sakamura (Marne Maitland). The camp is known as “Blood Island” for its inhumane treatment of the prisoners. There’s also a separate camp for the women prisoners that’s adjacent to the men’s.

After stealing radio equipment to build a secret radio, the leaders of the men prisoners learn that the war has ended. But the trouble is that the madman Colonel told the prisoner’s commander, Colonel Lambert (André Morell), that he will massacre all of them if the war ends with an Allied victory.

Going against the rules of the Geneva Convention, Yamamitsu executes six prisoners chosen at random because one of the prisoners was caught trying to escape. Under Lambert’s stern command, his aides do everything in their power to keep Yamamitsu from learning of the war’s end, and to no avail insist that he follows the Geneva Convention. An elderly British diplomat (Walter Fitzgerald) mistakenly thinks he can reason with the swinish Japanese commander and argues with Lambert that he’s causing unnecessary suffering by going against the prison commander and allowing these escapes. But Lambert holds fast in the belief you can’t bargain with a psychopath.

The film is an unpleasant drag until the climax, when a downed American Navy pilot (Phil Brown) brings new life to the camp and escapes to warn the Allies of the madman; meanwhile Lambert leads his brave prisoners in a bloody revolt with hand-grenades and make-shift weapons.

Of note, the film was a big success at the box office with the British public, who knew such atrocities existed and demanded to see such truths in their films.

REVIEWED ON 11/10/2012 GRADE: B-