(director: Reginald Le Borg; screenwriter: Richard H. Landau; cinematographer: William Margulies; editor: John F. Schreyer; music: Les Baxter; cast: Boris Karloff (Phillip Knight), Beverly Tyler (Sarah Adams), Murvyn Vye (Barney Finch), Elisha Cook Jr (Martin Schuyler), Rhodes Reason (Matthew Gunn), Jean Engstrom (Clair Winter), Frederick Ledebur (Mitchell), Herbert Patterson (Dr. Wilding), Glenn Dixon (Native Chief), Owen Cunningham (Howard Carlton); Runtime: 76; United Artists; 1957)
“Karloff’s role demanded little of him except to talk like an antiquated professor…”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An unconvincing and dull horror story that has a hokey payoff. It’s about a mysterious island that real-estate developer Howard Carlton wants to make a tourist attraction with hotels. But only one of the four surveyors he sent to the Pacific island returned, and he’s in a zombie-like trance. Carlton’s house physician Dr. Wilding finds nothing wrong physically with his patient, Mitchell, but TV personality Phillip Knight (Karloff) is also present and scoffs at the idea of the island being tabu and Mitchell a victim of voodoo. He talks the developer into letting him have a free reign in his research of the island and all expenses paid. He takes with him six people. The others besides Knight are: his loyal and robotic research assistant, Sarah Adams (Tyler); Carlton’s hard-headed business advisor, Barney Finch (Vye); the alluring lesbian designer for the project, Clair Winter (Engstrom); Dr. Wilding; and, Mitchell.
Knight hopes to prove that it wasn’t the supernatural that caused the trance and Carlton hopes to make a bundle on developing the island. But strange things happen, as their private plane has to land before reaching their destination because of bad weather and the radio mysteriously malfunctions. When they land, they learn there has been no bad weather reported and no reason why the radio doesn’t function. They then land on the unpopulated Wake Island and are greeted by a disgruntled skipper, Matthew Gunn (Reason), who works for the greedy island resident Martin Schuyler (Cook Jr). The crew also receives six death wishes upon arrival. After being bribed with money, Schuyler agrees to take them by boat to the mysterious next island. That is where Carlton hopes to develop his hotel and where Mitchell and the others explored.
Once there, a few murders take place as they are attacked by man-eating plants. A tepid love affair develops between the old-fashioned Adams and the macho Gunn. Adams rejected a pass Clair made at her and felt repelled by the self-pitying Gunn. But when Gunn saves her life from one of those carnivorous plants and then tells her that he ended up on this remote island after WW11 when he felt haunted by guilt because the men under his command died in battle, she opens up to him.
The professional skeptic, Knight, will change his mind about voodoo when he’s taken prisoner with those still alive, by the island chief, and learns why the chief’s tribe does not want visitors on this island ever since coming here 50 years ago.
The film seemed to be missing a good story and the actors seemed to play their parts as if Mitchell wasn’t the only one in a trance. Karloff’s role demanded little of him except to talk like an antiquated professor and give the viewer some hope that scary things were on the horizon. But the film was too flat to provide many thrills.
REVIEWED ON 6/22/2002 GRADE: C