I did have a request lined up for today (speaking of, I’m still taking Full Moon Friday requests, so feel free to leave yours in the Comments), but this popped up in my email all sudden-like. Must be fate. Or karma. Or the universe speaking to me. Or, y’know, just an email notification from Full Moon announcing a newly available movie.
Be that as it may, this is obviously one of many titles that wasn’t produced through The Glorious House Of Full Moon or connected with Charles Band. But come on, a 1979 effort from Italian director Sergio Martino calle Island Of The Fishmen? Who am I to argue with that?
While not a complete stranger to horror, the bulk of Martino’s filmography is comprised of spaghetti westerns and giallo. And not just any giallo, but rather some particularly strange ones often featuring the always mesmerizing gaze of Edwige Fenech.
Sure, giallo is generally strange already. But these were some of the more out there titles like The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh, The Suspicious Death Of A Minor, and, ever in the interest of economy of language, Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key.
But I digress.
Right. On to Island Of The Fishmen. It’s 1891. A handfulla survivors from a sunken prison ship crash their lifeboat into a rocky outcrop on a remote island. Most of these survivors are prisoners except for the ship’s doctor Claude (Martino regular Claudio Cassinelli). In the process, they are attacked buy our titular fishmen and run afoul of them a time or two more in the process of exploring the island. Oh, and one dude falls in a stake pit. Oops.
Soon enough, the lads also stumble across a spot where the islanders perform their voodoo rituals. This is important later. Oh…Wait. Hang on a second. No it isn’t. In fact, the voodoo angle never gets connected in any meaningful way to anything else going on in the plot.
So yeah, this definitely marks Martino as a director of giallos where this kinda thing happens all the time. At this point they get saved by Amanda (Barbara Bach) when she shoots a snake what apparently has evil intent. She then tells our hapless (not to mention, y’know, shipwrecked) band to leave the island as the head dude doesn’t tolerate trespassers.
They of course absolutely do not in any way heed her warning and shortly thereafter find themselves face to face with the evil lord of the manor, Edmond Rackham (Richard Johnson sounding a bit like cross between Professor Quirrell from the first Harry Potter movie and Tim Curry in Barbie Nutcracker).
From there, the story becomes a weird little paella of Lovecraft and H.G. Wells, specifically The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Island Of Dr. Moreau, and maybe a really bad attempt to include “Dagon.” Maybe that was supposed to be the reason for the voodoo cult. Who knows?
At any rate, Rackham has an ace up his sleeve—disgraced Professor Ernest Marvin. Marvin (an almost unrecognizable Joseph Cotten) was conducting experiments y’see. These involved transplanting animal organs into human subjects. Eventually this led to his discovery of a method to turn humans into Creature From The Black Lagoon rejects as well as his dismissal from the scientific community.
Rackham convinces Marvin that he wants to help in this noble quest to solve humanity’s ills. But there’s something, well, fishy goin’ on. In reality, Rackham only uses the creatures to swim down to the ruins of Atlantis (which he somehow happened upon, like ya do), and bring him all the treasure they can find. Oh, and this is possible because Marvin also has some kind of serum that allows him and Amanda to communicate with and control the creatures.
Meanwhile there are voodoo rituals and predictions from Shakira
about death and the destruction of the island. Oh, did I mention the island is volcanic? Yeah, it’s gonna blow up any minute now. Naturally, as so many of the best laid schemes aft do (spoilers) these all gang agley as well. Claude mercy kills one of his companions who’s being transformed into a big ol’ guppy. The enraged professor says Claude has ruined the culmination of all his experiments as this one would have retained human intelligence. Oops.
Intending to flee the island by boat with his filthy lucre, Rackham turns on everyone. He kills the professor and one of his own henchmen, shoots Shakira and her two acolytes, leaves our hero to drown in a filling water tank, and attempts to abscond with Amanda. Meanwhile Shakira manages to drag herself to the tank and free Claude.
For the big fin-ish, the escape ship and estate (or models thereof) are destroyed while Rackham is shredded by the gill-men who also rescue our plucky duo as the island goes kablooie.
As ridiculous as this all sounds, Island Of The Fishmen is pretty damn fun and manages to pace its 98 minutes quite nicely. There are a few unintentional yuks. The creatures are about as frightening as any fish would be once it’s dragged outta the water. There’s also a point at which Amanda tells Claude that he can’t just wander around the island on his own, springs a nearby trap to illustrate her point, then heads off leaving Claude to wander around the island on his own.
Ultimately the embattled couple is saved, most of the monsters survive, and they all live happily ever after, at least until later that year when New World adds a new opening for U.S. audiences and renames it Something Waits In The Dark which goes nowhere, so Jim Wynorski (who also directed Chopping Mall) renames it Screamers in 1981 and adds a scene of some dude getting turned inside out and ends up getting half a star from Gene Siskel.
BODIES- at least 18 (tough to say how many prisoners and fishmen are offed in the beginning and end of the movie)
Streaming- Flix Fling, Full Moon, Tubi, YouTube
Rent- Flix Fling, Prime