The greatest mystery about Island of Terror is why this tense little Hammer clone movie has so thoroughly fallen through the cracks.
This was the first of two films Hammer’s Terrence Fisher directed for Planet Films (the other being Night of the Big Heat/Island of the Burning Damned). It wouldn’t be hard to imagine either of these films as lesser entries in Hammer Quatermass series, as they share a similar combination of uneasy British horror with a scientific attempt to defeat it. Certainly, the climactic scene, with the islanders holed up in the village hall and under assault by the creatures, is more than a little reminiscent of the climax of Quatermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth).
Here, the menace is a creature which devours the bones of its victims – and rather than being something alien or from the depths of the earth as in earlier Quatermass clones, this monster is an artificial lifeform created in a science experiment gone wrong. Peter Cushing is in fine form, as yet another famous pathologist (and NOT, I will add, the same one he played in Nothing But The Night) with Edward Judd along to do the heavy lifting, running about and romancing of the beauteous leading lady.
This film has lingered in my mind for a long time, as the final confrontation frightened me so much when I saw fragments of it back on TV many, many years ago, that I never watched the rest. It doesn’t seem quite that frightening now, but it still has a certain, undeniable power to it. One might easily note a number of flaws – the creatures are a bit dull, and we do see quite a bit of them, although the story pretty much makes that inevitable. But on the whole, it is dark and entertaining, and more than worth a look, particularly if you are a devotee of British Horror or the Quatermass films.
Unfortunately, it has been a tad hard to find, although Blu Ray Import versions are now available on Amazon, and subscribers can watch it on Hulu.
(To learn more about other films inspired by the Quatermass serials, please check this page).