42nd Street Cinema

Island of the Fishmen (1979)

Island of the Fishmen/L'isola degli uomini pesce was co-written and directed by Sergio Martino, one of Italy's most dexterous directors. The screenplay was co-written by Cesare Frugoni, who also had a hand in crafting the two other films in Martino's "Adventure Trilogy". Those two being, The Mountain of the Cannibal God/La montagna del dio cannibale (1978) and Big Alligator River/Il fiume del grande caimano (1979).

Worthy of note are the other two screenwriters Sergio Donati, who wrote the screenplays for Once Upon a Time in the West/C'era una volta il West (1968) and A Fistful of Dynamite/Duck , You Sucker!/Giù la testa (1971). The other, Sergio Martino's brother Luciano who also produced the film. Upon release in the States the film was retitled Screamers and had gorier opening featuring Mel Ferrer and Cameron Mitchell.

Starring: Claudio Cassinelli, Barbara Bach, Richard Johnson, Beryl Cunningham, Franco Iavarone, Joseph Cotten, Roberto Posse, Franco Mazzieri and Giuseppe Castellano.

Lost at sea, Lt. Claude de Ross (Cassinelli) and a ragtag group of convicts are suddenly thrown overboard when their life raft crashes into a mysterious island's coastline. Awakening on the shore, a dilapidated Ross roams inland for water, finding one convict dead and saving another from sealing his fate by drinking from a grubby spring. He and José (Iavarone) go in search of fresh water, here they meet up with the other survivors and they're quick to remind Claude that without his revolver, he poses no authority over them.

They soon encounter the gorgeous Amanda Marvin (Bach), Amanda warns the men that they must return to the beach and find a way of leaving the island, instead they follow her back to a mansion. Here, they meet the island's owner Edmond Rackham (Johnson), a pompous troll who likes to impose his authority and self importance onto Claude, thankfully Rackham provides food and shelter for the uninvited guests. It's not long before the surviving convicts begin to disappear and Claude smells something "fishy" is at hand. As it turns out, Rackham is conducting bizarre scientific experimentation in an attempt to salvage gold from the lost city of Atlantis and nothing will stand in the way of his desire for fortune.

Island of the Fishmen successfully blends themes from H.G. Wells' novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, Jack Arnold's Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and an added element of 'planation owner' from Russ Meyer's Black Snake (1973). At times it even feels oddly like Sinbad the Sailor mixed with the TV show Stingray.
Lacking very little nudity, save for a few glimpses of Bach's nips, very little gore and fishmen that look like they're made out of papier-mâché. Martino manages to create an ambitious picture with an intriguing story, packed with wild set pieces, crazy costumes, lush locations and a wobbly undercurrent of power play and governance.

While it's not Martino's best, it's definitely one worth fishing out as it's entertainment value rarely wears thin, even after repeat viewings.


Ray of the Dead said...

This is, hands down, one of the best reviews I've read for this film. I hold a very soft spot in my cinema heart for this Martino effort. It is highly underappreciated and is his most overlooked film (my opinion). I'm glad you've done the film justice. Although not his best, it is a personal favorite and one of his more ambitious attempts. Great job!

James said...

Thanks man, your comment means a lot and it definitely is an under-appreciated/overtly ambitious film of his.

Spooky Sean said...

I love me some fucking fish men!
Fuck zombies, fishmen 4 LIFE!!!

Anonymous said...

Was this not Screamers??

price per head casino 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.

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