Monday, February 27, 2012

The Island of the Fishmen (1979)

It took me a few years to actually watch Sergio Martino's Islandof the Fishmen, but when I finally took the time it was well worth it. Maybe I was a bit sceptical after Martino's disastrous The Big Alligator River and the generic and uninspired Mountain of the Cannibal God, both from the same time - but this fishy tale had such an interesting look and feeling, almost like on of Kevin Connor's adventure movies with Doug McClure mixed with a healthy dose Island of Dr Moreau and Lovecraft. Can't go wrong with a combination like that!

Claudio Cassinelli is Lt. Claude de Ross, a doctor working on a ship that just sank - so we're meeting him and some of the surviving crew fighting for their lives in the stormy ocean. Some of them find their way to an uncharted island where a crazy fucker named Edmond Rackham (Richard Johnson) prances around pretending to be some local king. He's having some kind of romantic relationship with the young and hot Amanda Marvin (Barbara Bach), the daughter of a crazy scientist, Professor Ernest Marvin (Joseph Cotten), who's the unofficial prisoner of Rackham. Everything could be quite normal here, but under the damn island is the remains of Atlantis and it's habitants is fishmen who worship Amanda like a queen! Everything so that Rackham can have them bringing up gold and other treasures from the ruins! Our hero, de Ross, wants to the girl and run - like always with those darn heroes - but it will be harder than they both thought!

This is a very old-fashioned movie, almost family-oriented (almost, because I'm sure some kids could be scared by it and the violence is intensive without getting bloody and gory) and somehow I can understand how it flopped in the US, even under it's other title of Screamers ("Be Warned: You will actually see a man turned inside-out!". It's a lot of story and it just takes time to get going. But if you can get through that first half hour this is a damn fine adventure movie! It has everything I want from this genre, from secret temples and a hunky hero to monsters and a volcano.

Talking about heroes, Claudio Cassinelli - what a man! It's interesting how his career never generated the hype among cult movie fans like it should have a long time ago. Especially here, a brilliant and convincing performance, handling both the action and the action like a pro. It's a damn pity he left us some years later during the shooting of Sergio Martino's Hands of Steel. A tragic helicopter accident that took his life way too early. The other actors is great also, especially the always wonderful Richard Johnson - here more or less playing a fresh and mentally stable version of his crazy doctor in Zombie Flesh Eaters. Joseph Cotten is frail and old, but do what he's suppose to do. Barbara Bach was always a welcome sight during the seventies, and I think she's a very underrated damsel in distress.

The Island of the Fishmen was a lot better than I expected it to be, though I could have wanted some gore and blood - just for the fun of it! We're talking fishmen here, not teddybears dammit!


Anonymous said...

Cool to see you are still reviewing...keep up the good work.

Sounds like a loveletter to you mentioned.

Who is Doug McClure...I couldn´t find him on IMDB..?

Nigel Maskell said...

There is a sort of a sequel too that is worth a look- Fishmen and their Queen. It is a family film in the mould of goonies with added fishmen footage and some clips from After the Fall of New York. I felt it worked too.

Alex B. said...

I've seen this movie many times and am a huge fan of it. As you say, a bit on the harmless old-fashioned children cinema side, but in a good way. The fishmen themselves are amazing, don't you think? The scenes of them underwater are amazing. Thanks to Martino for this movie, one of the few adventure films that is dear to my heart. And yes, Cassinelli is damn good in this one

Ninja Dixon said...

Doug is the MAN!:

I have the sequel also, started to watch it afterwards but couldn't get into it. Will try it again in a couple of weeks.

Yeah Alex, the Fishmen is so cool. Primitive but very effective. But I still feels this is an actors adventure movie!

Alex B. said...

I got a VHS of WARLORDS FROM THE DEEP with Doug!
The sequel to fishmen is supposed to be total shite, but if you brave it then 'd like to hear your thoughts, dude

Anonymous said...

Ninja: Why thank you!

Ah...I see he´s an actor....I misunderstood your review....I thought he was a another director.