Mystery on Monster Island [Misterio en la isla de los monstruos] (1981)

(aka, Jules Verne’s ‘Mystery on Monster Island’; Monster Island)

The theory here is that this one is based on Jules Verne‘s Mysterious Island.

As I’ve noted before, there seems to be no real connection between a Jules Verne movie and anything he actually wrote.  But even by that standard, this one has remarkably little to do with Verne.

This is also the biggest Shaggy Dog story of a movie I have ever seen (well…I’m probably blanking out my memories of Joe Dante’s Explorers.  But it is close).  If you know what’s really going on here, then it makes roughly Ninety percent of the movie a big joke.

Or is that a “bigger joke?”

I suppose it almost fits, as The Mysterious Island has its own Shaggy Dog of an ending, when they discover that their mysterious benefactor is in fact Captain Nemo.  But the original book just doesn’t have any gill men.  Or seaweed monsters.

Actually, those fish men do deserve a mention here, as they are among the most cartoony-looking monsters I’ve seen — at least, outside of an episode of Scooby Doo.  The big, Godzilla-like dinosaur thing they find on the island has a similarly simplified and cartoony look, as if it were a big monster doll.  Mind you, that might be deliberate (for reasons we won’t discuss), but it seems unlikely.

If there’s a prize out there for most annoying comedy relief character, then it should go to David Hatton’s Professor Artelect, with crossed palms, gold oak-leaf cluster, and the distinguished veterans’ bar.

Heck, let’s give him two of them.

Now the reason most people are going to watch this particular Spanish/US co-production is that it “stars” Peter Cushing and Terence Stamp.  Naturally (we know how these things work) both of them only appear in a few scenes at the beginning and end.  Well, unless, that is, you believe that Terrence Stamp is actually hiding under that big face scarf and those orange, goggle-eyed glasses when he’s in disguise.

Yeah, I don’t either.

The bad movie fans will perhaps be almost excited because Paul Naschy, the star of a series of cheap Spanish Wolf Man copies (including that insanely silly guilty pleasure, Assignment Terror) as well as countless other bad horror films, gets a quick cameo in the opening sequence.

While I don’t find this film as boring as many have, it is very silly.  Frankly, I enjoy it for the goofy monsters and the absurd plot.  You can’t take it seriously for a moment or you will suddenly realize just how awful it really is.  It definitely isn’t one of the great BAD films, it is merely a silly attempt to make a Ray Harryhausen film without all that unnecessary talent and skill.

So your opinion of it will depend on your tolerance for silly, inept and (yes) politically incorrect.  If you’re a Jules Verne fanatic, you’ll definitely want to avoid this one as well.  But, in the right frame of mind, and with the help of a few sarcastic comments, it goes well enough with a midnight viewing.

At least as long as the popcorn doesn’t run out.

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