(director/writer: James P. O’Connolly; screenwriter: from the novel by George Baxt; cinematographer: Desmond Dickinson; editor: Henry Richardson; music: Kenneth V. Jones; cast: Bryant Haliday (Brent), Jill Haworth (Rose), Mark Edwards (Adam), Jack Watson (Hamp Gurney), Anna Palk (Nora), Derek Fowlds (Dan), Dennis Price (Bakewell), Anthony Valentine (Dr. Simpson), Gary Hamilton (Brom), George Coulouris (John Gurney), Candace Glendenning (Penny Reed), Robin Askwith (Des), Seretta Wilson (Mae), John Hamill (Gary), William Lucas (Inspector Hawk); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Richard Gordon; MGM; 1972-UK/USA)

“I would think only lovers of really appalling low-budget 1970s Brit slasher/horror flicks will dare find this putrid one to their liking.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

I would think only lovers of really appalling low-budget 1970s Brit slasher/horror flicks will dare find this putrid one to their liking. James P. O’Connolly (“Smokescreen”/”The Valley of Gwangi”/”Vendetta for the Saint”) proves himself adept at directing and writing such a bad cult film. It’s based on the novel by George Baxt.

Two British fishermen with deep family secrets, Hamp Gurney (Jack Watson) and his father John Gurney (George Coulouris), cautiously navigate through the thick fog their boat called the Sea Ghost as they approach the rocky waters to the eerie Snape Island. On the barren rocky island, that has an abandoned lighthouse and such evil vibes that even the seagulls refuse to go there, they discover the bodies of three teenagers brutally slain and mutilated. While looking around the lighthouse, John is attacked by a crazed frightened naked girl bolting out of a cupboard with a knife. Hamp knocks her out with a stick after she kills his father, which leaves her in a catatonic state. The police ID the girl as an 18-year-old American named Penny Reed, who is given some kind of a truth serum and has disco lights flashing in her eyes to temporarily get her out of her stupor while a chatty police psychiatrist (Anthony Valentine) asks her what happened on the island. She tells of how the four American teenagers, on their summer break took in a jazz festival and someone there directed them to go to the deserted island where they smoked grass and had sex. Her boyfriend Gary is disappointed that she won’t give him any sex and says “I get the only chick in Europe who doesn’t want to get laid”, but Penny assures her new boyfriend that she knows how to take care of a man and gives him a blow job evidently believing that is not sex. Penny then is induced to tell how the three were murdered, but she can only black out with a gripping fear and scream hysterically without telling who did it. The unconvinced police charge her with the brutal murders of her companions Gary, Mae and Des. Her parents thereby hire private investigator Brent (Bryant Haliday) to prove she’s innocent of the three murders and only killed the fisherman in self-defense because she feared for her life.

Mae was beheaded and Gary had his arm removed by a Phoenician ax, while Des was impaled with a solid gold scepter. We soon learn from museum types that the scepter was buried on the island 3,000 years ago with a visiting Phoenician chief, along with their shrine to Baal, a god of fertility which they worshiped, which to outsiders became associated with the Devil.

The scepter murder weapon interests this group of unseemly museum archeologists–the wormy Dan Winthrop (Derek Fowlds) and his unfaithful slutty wife Nora Winthrop (Anna Palk), the romantic short-skirt wearing Rose Mason (Jill Haworth) and the cheerful Adam Martin (Mark Edwards)–to form an expedition party arranged by their museum boss (Dennis Price) to Snape Island to find the chief’s tomb and the rest of the gold. They are joined by the no-nonsense Brent who is convinced the real killer is still living on the island in secret, and are taken there by Hamp and his free-spirited bohemian jazz festival attending nephew Brom (Gary Hamilton). The disparate party of sexually obsessed archeologists have all slept with each other but remain civil while dissing each other. They set up camp in the rundown lighthouse, where the murders took place. Before you can say boo this crass, exploitative film gives us adulterous sex, shows lots of body flesh, has a smelly corpse being devoured by crabs discovered by a woman who screams louder than the one in Psycho, lays on us a wild tale that a madman or two are running around the island in undetected underground caves, has the killer confront Rose but not kill her because she reminds him of his mother, and a number of slashings that has the archeologists being picked off one by one with the most sexually active getting it first until there are only three pillars of virtue left standing after the island is burned to the ground.

None of it made sense. But if you’re in the mood for an absurd film that is ready-made for laughs at its inept execution and oddball mixture of sex and gore, you’ve struck the mother lode. The characters say the oddest and most vulgar things, the potboiler becomes more ludicrous the more the mysteries are explained, and the incompetent filmmaker leaves it so addled that he never decides whether to attribute all these killings to inherited insanity, devil worship or to the supernatural powers of the devil himself.

REVIEWED ON 12/14/2008 GRADE: C-