Island of the Fishmen (1979)
A guilty pleasure I’ll surely watch again when the opportunity presents itself.
Equal parts, Voodoo, Dr. Moreau, Atlantis, Sunken treasure, Mad Scientist, Mutations, Greedy Villain, Barbara Bach, Giant Fishmen and an active volcano thrown in for good measure. That’s a mouthful. All courtesy of director Sergio Martino who also gave us that Ursula Andress jungle classic The Mountain of the Cannibal God.
When a handful of men in a lifeboat arrive on a mysterious uncharted island they begin to dwindle in numbers due to the dangers of the jungles and whatever it is that lurks beneath the waves.
Claudio Cassinelli leads the other two survivors through to the island’s interior to discover Barbara Bach living in a plantation styled mansion overseen by a rather unfriendly Richard Johnson. When Claudio’s companions disappear he wants answers and soon finds that Joseph Cotten is hanging around the estate as well.
It seems Cotten is Bach’s father and he’s an outcast from the medical world who has devised a way of creating the creatures of the film’s title. Shades of Dr. Eric Vornoff perhaps? Johnson is less interested in the scientific field than he is in having the swimming fishmen fetch him the treasures from below. Could it be that the island is hovering over the remains of the much sought after lost city of Atlantis? And could ex-Bond girl Bach possibly escape the unwanted advances of evil Richard Johnson and find a safe haven in the arms of leading man Claudio Cassinelli? I’m not telling.
There is a bit of the Jules Verne theme mixed in here as well down the stretch as all the ingredients I went over earlier converge in a fun climax that sees some volcanic stock footage used along side some scaled down models creating a Journey to the Center of the Earth type feel.
The print I saw of this film released by MYA on DVD is apparently the original uncut edit before it was stretched and re-edited for North American release under the title Screamers. Mel Ferrer and Cameron Mitchell were added into that edition of which I haven’t seen. The sleeve cover on the MYA DVD is a great example of exploitation art and truly was my main reason for picking this up.
All three leads minus Cotten would also appear in the director’s Big Alligator River a couple of years later. Sadly Claudio would be killed in a helicopter crash in 1985 working with director Martino on a film titled Hands of Steel in which he costarred with John Saxon.
Richard Johnson would also star in another Italian shocker that has maintained a steady following through the home video market over the years, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie which I must admit to liking a little more each time I re-visit it.
A nice bit of trivia here is that one of the credited writers on the screenplay is Sergio Donati who also has his name on the script for Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon a Time In the West. Quite the genre switch here.
This one is a fun flick to sit back and catch for a late night viewing. As a point of interest I’ll have to look for the stretched version titled Screamers to see how it compares to this one that I found much more enjoyable than I had expected.