Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Island of Terror (1966)

From The Blog Where Horror Dwells

A small island off the coast of Ireland is the setting for "Island of Terror" (1966).  An isolated cancer research facility on the island is experimenting with a new idea for cancer treatment when something goes horribly wrong.  Then a farmer on his way home at night hears an unusual sound.  When he goes to investigate, his fate is sealed.  His wife reports her husband missing to the local constable (Sam Kydd), who discovers the man's strangely mutilated body in a cave.  Constable Harris rushes to the home of Dr. Reginald Landers (Eddie Byrne), the island's only physician.  The two men bring the body back for an autopsy, and are shocked to find that the body is totally devoid of bones.

Unable to explain this bizarre condition, Dr. Landers takes the island's only emergency launch to the mainland to consult with Dr. Brian Stanley (Peter Cushing), an eminent pathologist and university professor.  Stanley is equally puzzled, and suggests bringing in another scientist, Dr. David West (Edward Judd), who is a bone specialist.  He too is unable to come up with an explanation, so both men decide to head immediately for the island with Dr. Landers via a helicopter belonging to the wealthy father of Dr. West's girlfriend, Toni Merrill (Carole Gray), who insists on coming along.  Once on the island, the helicopter must depart for another job, which leaves the island totally cut off from the mainland.  The doctors begin an investigation on the body but decide they need more specialized equipment than the local doctor's clinic can provide.  Dr. Landers suggests calling on the reclusive Dr. Phillips, head of the cancer research laboratory, to ask if they can use his facilities.  A trip to the residence of Dr. Phillips, however, only leads to more boneless bodies and the suspicion that the lab was the source of the cause for this condition.

By studying Dr. Phillips' notes, Stanley and West conclude that the researcher was attempting to create a cancer-eating organism, but somehow instead produced huge, one-celled, silicone-based creatures with a taste for vertebrate bones.  The monsters reproduce by mitosis, and are multiplying at an alarming rate.  As more humans and livestock succumb to the creatures, including Constable Harris and Dr. Landers, Stanley and West recruit a couple of prominent island citizens (Niall MacGinnis and James Caffrey) to round up all of the residents and their animals in one area, hoping to fend off the creatures so that they starve to death.  They also try several methods to destroy them, but to no avail.  Once they discover that radiation can kill the silicates, however, the two doctors head back to the cancer lab to gather radioactive material.  This is where the most horrifying scene in the movie occurs, but I won't spoil the movie by revealing what that is.  A last-ditch effort to kill off the creatures with the radioactive material from the lab saves the day, but not without more casualities, and also not without a surprise twist for the final scene.

"Island of Terror" is one of my favorite Peter Cushing movies.  He even gets the rare opportunity to display a bit of his delightfully dry sense of humor in a few scenes.  This movie was produced by Planet Film Productions, a sort of lesser cousin to the well-known Hammer Film Productions.  The director was Terence Fisher, who also directed many Hammer films.  You can watch the movie on YouTube.

Interesting Facts: Edward Judd also starred in "First Men on the Moon" (1964), a science fiction film based on a novel by H. G. Wells.  Niall MacGinnis played the villain Dr. Julian Karswell in "Curse of the Demon" (1957), based on a short story by M. R. James.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 2

Peter Cushing in "Island of Terror" (from Monster Movie Music)

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