A millionaire is planning to build a hotel on a South Pacific Island, but the initial survey party meet a mysterious fate. Only one member returns, and he appears to be a zombie.
Pretty dismal B-picture featuring the master of menace himself, the legendary Boris Karloff. Here the great man is Professor Knight, a famous academic and debunker of myths and legends, who heads out to the island to put an end to all this voodoo nonsense. Along for the ride are his mousy assistant Beverly Tyler, company man Murvyn Vye, cynical blonde Jean Engstrom, nervy local businessman Elisha Cook Jr and bitter (but handsome) boat captain Rhodes Reason.
The film’s first act isn’t actually too bad, with Karloff giving his expert a touch more arrogance than was usual in his characterisations, and the production obviously competent and professional in the hands of experienced director Reginald De Borg. The first warning signs come when it becomes obvious that the film’s in no hurry to get us to the island, in fact it’s half way through before the expedition sets foot there. However, some plane trouble does serve to rope in a pre-stardom Adam West, who plays a weather station radio operator in his first ever film role.
By the time we (eventually) reach the island, the relationship dynamics of the principals are all fixed, and they are as tiresomely formulaic as you might expect. ln a less than riveting subplot, we already know that the nerdy Tyler is going to blossom into a major babe by the fade out, and will be resting comfortably in the arms of reformed drunk Reason who will happily quit the bottle to make for the usual Hollywood ending.
Apart from that, pretty much all that happens is a few half-hearted encounters with the deadly local flora and fauna. These mostly comprise of the female members of the cast writhing about with rubber branches and screaming at plastic crab things. The monster SFX are not impressive. lt’s also nice to see the women doing the cooking and complaining about the bathroom facilities, while the men go off on heroic quests like getting the supplies from the boat.
There’s also a nagging suspicion that the production ran out of money before the end of filming. There is simply no climax at all, and with the film running about 75 minutes, it may be that the intended finale was never filmed. Having said all that, De Borg was actually a capable director who had made some decent ‘B’ thrillers back in the day, including entries in the ‘lnner Sanctum’ series like ‘Weird Woman’ (1944), as well as some of Lon Chaney Jr’s academic ruminations on Egyptian mythology in ‘The Mummy’s Ghost’ (1944). But without the backing of a major studio, there’s little he can do to paper over the cracks of the half-baked story. Scriptwriter Richard Vaughan also gave the world the dire ‘Frankenstein 1970’ (1958), with Karloff again, but mostly worked on TV, writing episodes of ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, ‘Cannon’, and several others.
Actually, on closer inspection, proceedings don’t make a whole lot of sense either, with an isolated tribe on the island seemingly able to affect matters on the mainland despite being completely cut off from the world. It’s the power of voodoo I suppose, which is quite remarkable since the practice never got anywhere near the vicinity of the South Paciﬁc!
Karloff gives a typically authoritative performance here, but really this project is simply not worth his time. Checking his films of the period, it does appear that he made decisions based on exotic filming locations, rather than the material involved, with this one being mostly filmed on location in Hawaii. Perhaps he simply enjoyed travelling! Reason top-lined Japanese Kaiju classic ‘King Kong Escapes’ (1967) and appeared on an episode of the original series of ‘Star Trek’ as well as plenty of other TV properties.
But please spare a thought for actor Glenn Dixon who plays the catatonic survivor of the first expedition. Almost his entire part consists of staring wide-eyed while remaining motionless. When he does get to do something it mostly involves standing up out of a chair, walking a few steps and then falling flat on his face. Still, it was a living I suppose.
A very minor entry in the Karloff catalogue.