Hotel tycoon Howard Carlton (Owen Cunningham) has discovered he’s the owner of a bunch of islands in the South Pacific he never knew about. Obviously, the most obscure of them is the perfect spot for a very special hotel. Too bad only one of the men in the first expedition he sent out to the island has returned, and he (Glenn Dixon) has come back acting a bit like a, well, a zombie.
Carlton still keeps to his grand hotel in the dangerous middle
of nowhere plans, of course, so off he sends professional debunker and TV
personality Phillip Knight (Boris Karloff) and assistant Adams (Beverly Tyler),
a couple of his own henchpeople, the zombie guy and a doctor. It’ll take them
quite a bit of time to reach the island next to the island they
actually want to reach, for very mildly mysterious things happen around them.
Because we can’t have nice things, our team also picks up greedy Martin Schuyler
(Elisha Cook Jr.) and sub-Charlton Heston-like manly man Gunn (Rhodes Reason,
three time winner of the “Best Name in the Biz” award), the latter of course so
that Adams can lose her professional demeanour and BECOME A REAL WOMAN in his
hairy arms. Screw you, the 50s.
After forty minutes, our protagonists finally do arrive on the
mysterious island where they are beset by a bunch of particularly lame
man-eating plants and a hilariously mixed-race tribe of Islanders whom nobody
ever told they don’t actually practice voodoo in the South Pacific. After some
time, things finally wrap up.
As a long-suffering victim of 50s low budget genre cinema, I’ve learned that
one of the foremost abilities a viewer needs to get anything more out of many of
these films than a nice little nap is to bring up the will to ignore one’s own
yawns, try to identify anything of mild interest as fast as possible and cling
to it through most of the film. After all, you don’t expect a director like
Reginald Le Borg to keep you entertained without your help, right? If you do,
you’ll be happy to hear this is a typical Le Borg joint, full of static shots
that remind me of nothing so much as of the early days of sound film,
and awkward editing that’ll at least teach you to appreciate the editing in
Cannon films in the 80s.
On the scripting side, this suffers from the usual 50s obsessions with
getting women back behind the cooking stove, rude assholes as the pinnacle of
manhood, and not giving a shit about the little stuff like the fact that voodoo
happens on rather different islands, or that there probably should something of
interest happen in a movie from time to time. The dialogue’s, well, the dialogue
is of the sort that leads to a wrily funny Karloff performance in which the
great man has obviously decided the only way he can get through this is by
delivering every single one of his lines as if he were talking to small,
somewhat slow child. Which, given the performances of everyone here not named
Karloff, Tyler or Cook, and what these poor people have to say, seems like a
perfectly appropriate approach.
So in this case, making one’s own fun as a viewer mostly consists of giggling
at Karloff’s and Cook’s performance, admiring how good the chemistry between
Karloff and Tyler is, and developing respect for the dignity Tyler tries to give
her character arc, such as it is, even though it’s a whole load of 50s bull
crap. Later on, there are also the rubber plant monsters – whose best type seems
to kill people by mildly bumping into them – and the South Sea tribe whose
leader is played by a former Austrian cavalry officer to admire. It’s not much,
but I honestly do take my enjoyment where I can find it in this sort of