‘It’ll be a lot easier to practice crop rotation with this new irrigation system.’
Blood Island in the South Pacific was on the edge of the nuclear bomb testing area in the 1950s and was the recipient of reallocated natives from the more affected regions. Ten years later, a research scientist and his party arrive to check for the possible effects of residual radiation and find the flora and fauna prone to strange mutations. The natives are also sacrificing their women to a sex-starved monster.
Trashy exploitation horror from the Philippines that launched a brief cycle of films and provided a second career for American actor John Ashley, who looks a bit like Elvis and had starred in ’Dragstrip Girl’ (1957) for American-International Pictures. Here he’s working for the peace corps, hitching a ride with stoic scientist Kent Taylor and his buxom wife Beverley Powers (brilliantly billed as ‘Beverley Hills’.) For reasons never explained, Taylor is completely indifferent to his wife’s obvious physical charms, preferring instead to collect cockroaches and other bugs. Frustrated, she enjoys rough sex with one of the crew on the boat, and isn’t exactly subtle about trying it on with the local landlord, played by Mario Montenegro. Ashley falls for island girl Eve Darren, and isn’t best pleased when she’s strung up topless to face the randy attentions of the mysterious jungle beast. Killing isn’t the creature’s main priority; basically it’s just a side product of his rather aggressive bedroom manner.
It was probably by chance that the producers hit on this cheerful winning formula of ‘nudity and blood’. They were probably not the first to do so; American director Herschell Gordon Lewis had certainly brought the gore, and Hammer Films and other Euro-Horrors had certainly mixed the elements, but much of it had been left to the imagination. Not that either element is particularly excessive here (although I suspect the version I saw was probably cut), but sex motivates all the action. This is never more obvious than at the end of the film when, rather than run the credits after the villagers go all ‘Frankenstein’ with flaming torches, instead we get another five minutes featuring a horny tribal dance. This is seemingly just so that two of the leading characters can finally get it on.
In terms of execution, the results are rather patchy, verging on the inept. The jungle monster resembles a man swathed in foam rubber painted by a 5-year old and is about as frightening as a large muppet. The cast keep straight faces when wrestling with trees (just why are they attacking people?) and facing a large, hungry moth on wires; although it’s always possible that this not-so special effect was filmed separately.
Tatty it may be, but the film was successful enough to start a series; beginning with ‘The Mad Doctor of Blood Island’ (1969), although it was not a direct sequel. Ashley became both the star and the producer, and it was in the latter role that he enjoyed the biggest success of his career. lf you could find him, maybe you could hire him. Yes, he produced TV’s ‘The A-Team’ and also delivered the iconic opening narration.
Location filming may have given female lead Beverley Powers the taste for island life, as her last known location was Hawaii. Her job? An ordained minister. Wonder if her previous career comes up in conversation at church socials?