Unknown Island (1948)

I haven’t thought about this one in a long time.

It is actually one of the movies I own, as it was part of my Dad’s old collection, but it has been some time since I watched it. But clips of the film showed up in a Mexican horror film I watched not too long ago and that sent me looking for that old DVD.

I was a little surprised to see that it was made in 1948. We’re so used to the idea that the big science fiction started in the Fifties that we tend to forget that there were a few interesting SF films in the Forties.

Not many, mind you.

The obvious influence here is King Kong; the basic plot is almost identical, at least until they leave the island.

However, despite the fact that they obviously spent a lot of money on this one — after all, it is in color, something unheard of for SF films at the time and for most of the next decade — the dinosaurs are not stop motion animated. Instead, they are men in suits, long before Godzilla. I suppose it is better than big lizards with fins glued on them.

Although the “ground sloth” is just a guy in an ape suit with a little extra hair glued on in odd places.

The dinosaur suits are rather strange and distinctive, with an almost painfully upright posture.

Or, in other words, tall, straight and skinny.

To be fair, there are also a few brontosaurs that are reasonably well done puppets, and some very good looking Dimetrodon puppets which can’t do much but wiggle.

What we have here is your basic South Seas adventure stuff, with the former Navy pilot who saw the island during the war and goes back to get proof with the help of his fiancee and a drunken ex-marine who was stranded on the island when his boat sank. Of course, we know he’ll sober up before the end and get the girl because he’s played by Richard Denning who starred in so many of these SF and Horror films, including the classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon. We also have Barton MacLane playing yet another tough and disreputable character, this time the Captain of the ship they charter.

I was struck by just how quickly we get to the island, particularly when compared to similar films like The Land that Time Forgot or Hammer’s The Lost Continent. Even with the early scenes where they try to charter the ship or persuade Richard Denning to come along — and of course, the mutiny — it only takes us Twenty-Six minutes to get there!

Other movies have done this sort of thing better. But it is reasonably entertaining and far better than most of these Lost World movies, like Two Lost Worlds, King Dinosaur or Caesar Romero’s Lost Continent.

And, what’s more, it doesn’t even reuse those battling “dinosaurs” from One Million B.C!

So, if you love dinosaur movies, you should take a look.

Just remember, though, that it isn’t Jurassic Park.

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