Island of Terror, 1966. Dir. Terence Fisher. Watched on YouTube so you don’t have to.
0.45 Opens with an island quayside scene so cute you expect to see rabbits and dormice unloading the boats. Except they’re smoking pipes. And wearing duffle coats.
0.58 ‘Alright. Let’s have it on the truck’ says the gruffest rabbit. But he doesn’t mean sex, apparently – he means a crate labelled Phillips Laboratories, Chemical Equipment, Handle with Care.
1:05 I love the acting in these old films. There’s a guy with a clipboard – he carefully sucks the end of his pencil, slowly taps the pencil on the clipboard, then says ‘Is that all they need?’ You can say what you like about the Island of Terror, but the admin is thorough.
1.27 Actually, I have to say, so far it’s only an island of terror if you’re scared of duffle coats. Not sure where this island is – hard to tell from their accents. One of them sounds Welsh, the constable Northern Irish. The monster’s probably a cockney.
1.58 I mean – SO many guys in duffle coats, looking cold, moving VERY slowly. It doesn’t make me want to go and live on an island. Or buy a duffle coat.
2.41 Cut to: the lab! Dials and knobs and beakers and bubbling noises. What are they cooking in there? Crystal meth?
3.10 ‘The cell cultures are prepared. We’re ready to begin.’ says a white coat. About time. Three minutes in and all we’ve seen are duffle coats.
3.24 I’m guessing they cast the chief scientist because his eyebrows go up in the middle. It’s so easy for him to look sincere.
3.34 One of the lab techs mentions ‘…the vapour applicator’ I love that! I totally want a vapour applicator. Although maybe he just means the kettle.
3.50 Turns out they’re working on a cure for cancer. What they really need is a cure for duffle coats.
4.05 The screen goes red! We get the opening credits! Wow – I can’t believe this was all just the warm up.
4.15 ‘Island of TERROR’ blares the title. Big emphasis on terror. That’s why I don’t work in film. I’d have been tempted to emphasise ISLAND.
4.51 Favourite name from the credits: John St John Earl (the art director). If I say it over and over it sounds like a car I had once that never used to start.
5.44 A guy in a duffle coat is walking in the fog with a lamp looking worried. (The guy’s looking worried, not the lamp. It’s Hammer Horror, not Disney).
6.03 There’s a horrible noise coming from somewhere. That cave? He goes in to look. You hear screams, the light wobbles about. Sound effect like me eating cornflakes. Horrific.
6.50 Cut to the constable sitting at his desk drinking beer. You’d drink a lot of beer on the Island of Terror. Someone knocks on the door. Mrs Bellows comes in with her head in a scarf and her hand in a handbag (which sounds more terrifying than it is). Her husband is three hours late and she’s worried. ‘I’m sure he’s alright’ says the constable. Well I’m pretty sure he’s not, judging by the cornflakes sound effect and all the screaming.
8.00 The constable goes off to look for Mr Bellows. Finds his body lying in the cave. Looks disgusted. Prods it with his truncheon. The duffle coat is about the only thing left. Urgh. Mind you, if I was a monster and I ate someone, I’d probably leave the duffle coat, too. Even if I wasn’t a monster I’d leave the duffle coat. What am I – Paddington?
10.05 In the posh drawing room of Dr Lander, who’s practicing his fly fishing, never mind the antiques. The constable knocks on the door. When Dr Lander opens the door he almost has the constable’s eye out with his pipe. He’s like some strange Medic/Clown hybrid.
10.50 ‘I’ve just seen Ian Bellows and his body’s like jelly.’
‘Jelly?’ says Dr Lander.
‘Aye! It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.’ (Although it IS like jelly, which he HAS seen).
10.59 ‘…there was no face…just a horrible mush…with the eyes sitting in it….’
(Sounds like something I might serve up at a dinner party).
The constable takes him to the cave to check out the mush.
11.50 Dr Lander pokes the body of Mr Bellows with a stick. He says he doesn’t think the body has any bones. I’m hoping Dr Lander isn’t the Coroner, or if he is, he writes his reports in crayon.
13.00 No – he IS the coroner. Back at the mortuary he confirms that this IS the body of Mr Bellows. He recognises the appendectomy scar (and the duffle coat). He tells the constable he needs to get the help of the eminent Dr Stanley – which I’m guessing is Peter Cushing, because that sounds like the sort of part he might want to play.
13.58 Dr Landers meets Dr Stanley in his lecture hall (Dr Stanley’s lecture hall, not Dr Landers-es). I have to say Peter Cushing has the best voice ever. It’s like a glass of cold blood. With a biscuit. Absolutely top class. Now. What can I do for YOU?
14.50 I mean, the way Peter Cushing says LIBRARY. LYE-BREH-REH. Every letter articulated. Beautiful. My time is completely vindicated. LYE-BREH-REH. Mmmm.
15.02 They both go to see an eminent bone expert. We see him at home pouring a couple of drinks, a sleazy sax playing in the background. The shadow of a woman getting dressed just visible through an open bedroom door. This is the kind of life an eminent bone expert would lead, I suppose. Maybe golf – with a femur for a Pitching Wedge (and you can bet I Googled THAT)
15.13 She comes through, wearing his shirt. ‘How’s the dress?’ he says. ‘Oh, the spot’s out but it’ll take some time to dry,’ she says, sitting down. He sniffs her feet. Apparently they met when she wrote off a Maserati and broke her leg. He was the bone doctor and they fell in love. There’s some sexy banter, then they kiss – in that awful, mouth closed, head rocking from side to side way that they learned one afternoon at RADA.
17.40 Dr Landers, Dr Stanley and the eminent bone doctor Dr West talk about the strange case of the man with no bones. ‘No bones?’ ‘No bones.’ ‘Not a trace?’ ‘Not a thing.’ etc etc. Dr West has never heard of this before. At least he’s spared the constable’s description of the ‘horrible mush with eyes sitting in it. ‘With eyes sitting in it?’ ‘Eyes.’ ‘In the mush?’ ‘In the mush’ etc etc.
18.20 Dr West’s girlfriend offers them her dad’s helicopter if she can come to the island to see the body, too. ‘Are you a good screamer?’ says Dr Stanley. I’m kidding – but I bet she is. ‘Jolly good. I can show you my LYE-BREH-REH,’ says Dr Stanley. I’m kidding – I just wanted to hear him say library again.
19.02 For reasons I don’t understand, the helicopter can drop them there but can’t pick them up again for a while. Maybe it’s rush hour or something. ‘This means we won’t have any contact with the mainland,’ says Dr Landers, impressively.
19.50 Off they go in the helicopter. This scene takes a full five minutes. Maybe there weren’t many helicopters in 1966. Wow! I mean – look at those rotors… The orchestra gets pretty worked up, too. A xylophone plays loudly – which I suppose is reminiscent of a helicopter. Kinda choppy.
20.35 The constable is waiting for them on top of a craggy outcrop. He lights a bonfire then stands well back – just as well if a helicopter is going to be flying over a bonfire. We get an extended close-up of him looking at the night sky admiring the helicopter as it xylophones in.
21.00 Lots of hellos and what not. We get to hear about Dr Phillips, the reclusive professor hiding away on the island, working in cancer research. ‘Before we do anything, let’s go and look at that body,’ says Dr West, who’s really only here for the bones.
22.10 Cut to: Dr Lander’s autopsy room. He pulls a sheet back from Mr Bellows. We see his face for the first time. Looks like me after I’ve eaten too much risotto.
23.00 They talk about the results of their examination. The body is covered in tiny holes. Maybe something sucked the bones out through them? (I’m guessing they got their medical degrees online). They need to go to Dr Phillips’ lab for more tests, because he’s in research and enjoys more funding.
24.50 Dr Phillips’ house ‘looks like Wuthering Heights,’ says Dr Stanley. He probably read the book in his LYE-BREH-REH.
25.40 They ring the bell but no one answers. Dr Stanley takes a torch to find a way in. He forces a window and climbs in. Creeps around. Almost trips over the boneless body of Dr Phillips in the library. Lets the other chaps in. They creep around trying to find the laboratory. It takes them ages. It’s worse than the helicopter.
28.40 Actually, the lab’s in the crypt behind a door marked KEEP OUT : RADIATION. They go in.
28.50 ‘Isotopes!’ says Dr Stanley, looking inside. Maybe that’s a sciency swear word, I don’t know.
29.10 All the lab technicians are lying boneless on the floor. Typical lab technicians. I mean – the pay’s terrible, it’s repetitive work, they get creative with the isotopes…
29.13 Peter Cushing tips his hat back, which is Peter Cushing for ‘Fuck Me this is Awful’.
29.22 ‘Good news – they found a cure for cancer. Bad news – it sucks your bones out.’ (This is why I can’t ever be a script writer).
30.07 They look in the computer – sorry, filing cabinet – for clues.
30.10 Cut to: a worried looking villager walking down a creepy looking road (mind you, all the roads on Terror Island look creepy. It’s probably in the brochures and everything).
30.40 He finds a horse – or a cow? I don’t know, I’m not a vet – with all its bones sucked out. Runs to find the constable. Tells him he found one of his horses dead (Ahhhhh).
32.09 The constable rides over to Dr Phillips’ place to tell Dr Landers about the boneless horse. He lets himself in. Finds the bodies. Explores the rest of the house. Goes down into the crypt. Into the lab. Hear’s a noise coming from a room marked ‘Test Animals’. Opens the door. Gets a tentacle round his throat and his hat falls off.
35.00 Dr Landers goes round to the constable’s house. Rings the bell. Nothing. Gets back in his car. Drives down to the harbour where some guys in duffle coats are aimlessly painting the hull of an upturned boat (it’s the little details that make the film so authentic). The farmer is there. The farmer tells him about his boneless horse. Dr Landers jumps back in his car again. The farmer has the best quote of the film: ‘There’s some peculiar goings on going on on this island’. Try it for yourself. You can’t help but sound mysterious.
37.00 Everyone seems to be going to see everyone else about the peculiar goings on going on on the island. With their hands in their duffle coat pockets. The head of the island walks to his landrover with another guy at about the same pace the doctors walked out to the helicopter. But this time without xylophones.
37.20 Dr West is busy smoking a fag and explaining how Dr Phillips probably found a cure for cancer. Which is just as well. Toni, Dr West’s girlfriend, (I should edit that in earlier but I’m running out of time) – Toni says she doesn’t want to be left alone when they go off to look at the boneless horse. If the monster appears they’ll need a good screamer.
38.33 Toni watches from the car as the three doctors stand around the boneless horse prodding it with a stick. She hears a horrible noise. There’s a thud on the car roof. Something hideous and globular slides down the back window and when she realises it’s not Dr West she screams. The doctors come running but when they get there, it’s gone. ‘What did it look like?’ ‘I don’t know! I don’t know! It was greyish!’ Hmm. They get back in the car to drive to the village for help – but the next thing you know, they’re pulling up outside Wuthering Heights again.
41.00 They see the constable’s bike outside. Down in the crypt they find him lying on the floor, boneless (not that much different to when he was alive, to be honest). A tentacle sneaks out round the door and flaunts itself in their faces. Then the rest of the creature trundles round the corner. It looks like shit on wheels. A motorised pile of shit with a tentacle on the front. They turn to run, but there’s another pile of motorised shit in front of them, waving. Toni looks particularly distressed – having seen something similar back in Dr West’s flat.
41.55 Dr Lander grabs an axe that’s on the wall behind him. Whacks the motorised pile of shit (MPS for short). But the MPS grabs him by the tentacle – which is worse than it sounds – and sucks his bones out. Then it splits and a whole load of spaghetti comes out. Sorry to be so scientific about it. I can only describe what I see. One of these days I’ll write a paper on it and put it in the LYE-BREH-REH.
43.38 Dr Stanley manages to sneak past the shitty pile of spaghetti. Toni is too scared to follow, of course. But Dr West shouts at her and that seems to work. They escape up the stairs.
44.23 The car won’t start. So Dr West opens the bonnet to check the screenwash or something. Meanwhile another MPS is sneaking up on them across the lawn. ‘Hurry!’ says Dr Stanley. ‘I’m trying!’ says Dr West. ‘….I think that’s got it!’ he says, slamming the bonnet on his fingers (I wish). They speed off.
45.10 Back in a house somewhere. Toni is resting in bed. Dr West mixes some powder into some water, for menstrual cramps or screaming, I’m not sure.
48.00 Cut to: the docks. Two villagers meet with another villager. He’s only there because he wants ‘his guts’ (I think – no idea – must be an island thing). Tells them about all the doctors who came in last night on the plane – although it was clearly a helicopter, so … erm .. what about his guts? The villagers look suspicious and hurry away to find the doctors.
48.19 Nineteen seconds later and they’re walking in the door whilst the doctors are reading through Dr Phillips’ notes. Dr West explains about the MPSes, how they’re killing everyone and threatening the island. How they were the results of Dr Phillips’ anti-cancer experiments. ‘I’ll need ten good men in half an hour in the meeting hall’ he says. ‘Right,’ says the chief villager, or mayor, or whatever you want to call him. The one in the hat, anyway. ‘I’ll better go and tell the constable,’ he says. ‘I’m sorry. You’re too late. He’s dead,’ says Dr Stanley. ‘And Ian Bellows.’ Awks.
50.50 Everyone meets at the meeting hall for the … erm … meeting. Dr Stanley explains that Dr Phillips created a silicate monster that eats bone. Everyone looks at the village dog, for some reason. They make a plan to find as many guns and bombs as they can. Also to deny the MPSes food by hiding the cattle. The guys all go off and Toni is left to organise the kitchen and stop everyone from panicking (although she needed a powder earlier on, so….)
55.20 All the guys including the doctors go out with shotguns and bombs as it’s now MPS open season. The doctors shoot an MPS right in the tentacle, but it’s no good. Dr Stanley goes over with a geiger counter – which looks suspiciously like a lunch box – and almost gets filleted by an MPS that sneaks up on him. Dr West throws some petrol bombs. The MPSes seem to actually like the flames. At least it means they don’t have to wear a duffle coat. The farmer who lost his horse says he’ll get up closer. One of MPSes is up a tree and drops on his head. He ends up like his horse – a non-runner. ‘Come on – let’s try the dynamite!’ says Dr West. I wish he was my doctor. Although if he’s wary prescribing antibiotics, he’ll be even slower handing over dynamite.
1.00 A villager runs up. It’s his big moment. He gives a big, breathless speech about how one of the MPSes is dead after eating Dr Phillips’ dog. You know – the one that had all that radiation poisoning? He drags the speech out as long as he can, but it has to end sometime and they all run off to look, with him tagging on behind wondering when he’ll get another acting job (which is never, I’m guessing, on the strength of the radioactive dog speech).
1.01 Dr Stanley prods the MPS with a stick (I could be a doctor; I can prod stuff). Yes. It’s dead. They load the dog and the MPS on the truck and take them back to the clinic.
1.03 They examine the MPS. Decide that the only thing that can kill it is Strontium 90. If they can poison the cattle with Strontium 90 then let the MPSes eat the cattle – well, it’s not the vegetarian option but it’s some kinda hope. Dr Stanley and Dr West drive out to Dr Phillips’ place to get the Strontium 90. Jeez – there’s a lot of driving on Terror Island.
1.04 Back down in the crypt. The lights flicker. They go into the lab and put on some protective clothing. It takes them ages. Even longer than putting on a helicopter. The tension is undetectable.
1.05 They end up looking like inflated condoms. I bet they gave their agents hell.
1.06. Seriously? Now they’re putting on enormous gloves. Very slowly.
1.07 All to open a cupboard marked ISOTOPES. Mind you – I’m the same when I go to the fridge to check if the hummus is still in date.
1.08 Dr Stanley has the isotope gun in a briefcase and goes back up the crypt stairs. Dr West goes back – he’s forgotten the gloves (yeah, right). Dr Stanley is so busy locking the briefcase in the boot he doesn’t notice an MPS. It grabs his hand. He shouts for Dr West who comes running back up and cuts Dr Stanley’s hand off with an axe – which is possibly a psychotic response to the recent glove trauma. Then takes one of the gloves, shrugs and tosses it over his shoulder (just kidding – it’s horrific – poor Dr Stanley – how’s he going to fondle the books in his LYE-BREH-REH?)
1.10 Back at the clinic, Toni bandages his stump and gives him a paracetamol. ‘Thank you nurse’ he says.
1.11 Dr West goes all James Herriott. Drives over to the cows. Puts on some enormous gloves. I thought he was supposed to inject the Strontium 90, not shove it up their arses.
1.12 Back at the hall they hang lights around the hall like they’re going to have a ceilidh or something. The Island of Terror (and Community Dancing).
1.16 There’s a romantic scene between Toni and Dr West (just after he’s attended to Dr Stumpley’s stamp – I mean – Dr Stanley’s stump). He almost proposes – but Toni says Ssh and puts her fingers on his lips. All of them. ‘David? Be careful,’ she says. ‘I love you.’ They kiss (worse than being slapped in the mush by a tentacle). He doesn’t say he loves her back, though. She can totally do better. (Shame all those lab technicians got completely boned so early on).
1.18 The MPSes attack and eat the cows. Dr West, the Mayor and a guy in a duffle coat watch through binoculars. ‘It’s a nightmare,’ says the Mayor. Which is true. It’s night, he’s the mayor. Just sayin’. They hurry back into the hall.
1.19 The MPSes surround the hall. The lights go out. The villagers panic, light scented candles. But I’m guessing if Strontium 90 won’t do it, a Bay & Rosemary candle doesn’t stand much chance. Ironically, the sound cuts in & out on me at this point, so I panic along with the villagers. It looks like the mayor points the gun at the villagers and says nobody move, but I could be wrong. Tentacles smash windows. A villager gets deboned where he stands. Then an MPS drops down through the roof and debones another one. They all run out into the corridor. ‘Steady as you go’ says a marshall, the sound cutting back in. He sounds surprisingly calm, but that’s probably why he got the gig. They all retreat into the clinic and put clinical furniture up against the doors. It’s all looking hopeless. Dr West gets a needle ready to euthanize Toni (honestly? she REALLY could do better). But then the tentacles start to go flaccid. ‘Careful’ says the mayor. Dr West throws the doors open. ‘We’ve done it!’ he says. ‘They’re dead!’
1.24 The helicopter comes to pick them up. I know! A helicopter! ‘Have you searched the island thoroughly?’ says Dr West. ‘Yes. We killed them all. I’m certain of that,’ says the mayor. ‘If it had happened anywhere else, I don’t think we would’ve been able to destroy them,’ says Dr West, hugging Toni, who looks about as boneless as anyone at this point, TBH.
1.25 Cut to: A Japanese lab. A racist’s impression of a Japanese scientist knocks on a lab door, gets no reply. Opens the door. Cornflakes sound effect. Screams.
And that’s it!
So what’ve I learned?
- Motorised shit with a tentacle is surprisingly effective, except when it comes to duffle coats
- Helicopters sound like xylophones
- Never give a bone doctor an axe
- Everybody should hear Peter Cushing say LYE-BREH-REH at least once
- No. Seriously. LYE-BREH-REH. Mmmm…