Island of Terror (1966)



(director: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: Alan Ramsen/Santos Alcocer; cinematographer: Reginald Wyer; editor: Thelma Connell; cast: Peter Cushing (Dr. Brian Stanley), Edward Judd (Dr. David West), Carole Gray (Toni Merrill), Eddie Byrne (Dr. Landers), Sam Kydd (Constable Harris), Niall MacGinnis (Mr. Campbell), Joyce Hemson (Mrs. Bellows), Liam Gaffney (Bellows), Keith Bell (Halsey), James Caffrey (Peter Argyle); Runtime: 90; Universal/Planet Studios; 1966-UK)

“The climax is a battle of the man-made mutations against the men of science…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Warning: spoilers throughout review.

Dr. Phillips is a noted research scientist who for the last ten years has lived in isolation on a remote Irish East Coast island that doesn’t even have telephone lines and gets its electricity from one generator, in order to work on a cure for cancer. He has created blobs as creatures who crave animal and human bones, and they get these bones by killing. They are radioactive silicone beings (“Silicates”) that suck the calcium right out of the bones by puncturing the skin with their tentacle, and because of their hard exterior shell can’t be killed by ordinary weapons. It’s an experiment that went wrong, as the aim was to create living cells to attack the cancer. This premise made for a so-so hokum sci-fi tale that is chilling in parts and presents a creepy atmosphere on the dark island, but is more silly than scary.

The film opens as Constable Harris (Kydd) searches for a missing farmer Ian Bellows in a cave area and finds him in an unrecognizable state except for his clothes, with his body turned into mush. He reports this to the local doctor, Landers (Byrne), who says he never saw a body without bones before. He leaves the island in an Emergency Launch, the islanders only means of transportation off the island, to go to the mainland to see university scientist Brian Stanley (Cushing), a leading pathologist, for expert advice. But this is beyond Stanley’s ability, so they see a young genius bone specialist, Dr. David West (Judd). He’s bedding down with his love interest, in his swinger’s pad, a wealthy sexpot, Toni Merrill (Gray), but can’t resist the challenge of leaving his bedroom in the hopes of discovering the unknown. Toni gets her dad to provide them with a helicopter ride for fast transportation, since time is a critical factor, with the condition that she comes along with the trio of doctors so as to be near her honey.

The hardy doctors go visit Phillips’ mansion, which they note looks like Wuthering Heights, and discover Phillips and his lab technicians all dead and with jellylike bodies without bones. They also discover an isotope storage facility in the well-equipped lab and Phillips’ notes. When a local farmer reports to Constable Harris that his horse is a ball of jelly, the constable goes to Phillips’ mansion to warn the doctors of this. But he walks into one of those ugly creatures when he enters a room marked “Test Animals” and he’s made into a boneless dead man. The creature makes a mysterious electronic sound and wraps its snakelike tentacle around the constable’s neck, while carrying out the killing.

The men of science have returned from the mansion and are cramming on the scientific notes, as they learn that no disease caused the deaths. When they learn that Harris went back to the mansion, they hop into their old crate and find him dead. The mystery is also cleared up about whose doing the damage, as they see the buglike creature slowly moving along the floor. Landers makes the foolhardy mistake of trying to ax it to death and gets too close to the tentacle, as he becomes the creature’s next meal. The other three watch as the creature divides in half, and learn that just after they divide they become inactive. This allows them to flee the mansion unharmed, and while back at their headquarters, the local inn, they study more of Phillips’ notes and learn that the creatures divide every six hours (it’s never explained why all the creatures on the island have to divide at the same time). This will add up to over a hundred by nightfall, so they must come up with a plan of defense.

Needless to say there is a crisis on the island and the scientists seek the help of the Head Honcho, Mr. Campbell (Niall MacGinnis), and the trustworthy general store owner Peter Argyle (Caffrey), who gather the townspeople together in one spot and they try to keep them calm. The scientists fear the creatures are moving down from the north part of the island and will attack them by night. Since dynamite and petrol bombs and rifle shots don’t work, the plan is to starve the creatures. But they soon discover a dead creature by an almost boneless dead dog that had been infected by radiation and realize that by feeding them radiation they can kill them. To do this Stanley and West go back to Phillips’ lab to get the isotopes and inject the cattle with Strontium-90, as they hope the creatures will attack the cattle and die from the poison. While putting the isotopes in the car, Stanley is attacked and all West could do to save him is chop off his arm with an ax to free him from the tentacle.

The climax is a battle of the man-made mutations against the men of science taking place in the Meeting Hall. It ends on two notes: After the men of science win, West apologizes to the town for this scientific error by saying “Science has its risks.” The film closes in a lab doing similar research in Japan, as a lab technician is about to become boneless as he enters a room with the same mysterious electronic sound as those of the Silicate creatures.

There’s nothing special about this flick, but it does hold your interest.