Starring: Edward Judd, Peter Cushing, Carole Gray, Eddie Byrne and Sam Kydd
Director: Terence Fisher
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars
Bone specialist Dr. David West (Judd) and pathologist Dr. Brian Stanley (Cushing) travel to a remote island off the coast of England to help stem an outbreak of a strange disease that seems to be dissolving the very bones of animals and island residents. The soon discover that the island is about to be overrun by gigantic, mobile, mutated cells that survive by sucking calcium and other minerals from their victims. Will the scientists find a to destroy the seemingly indestructible, rapidly multiplying monsters before they kill everything on the island... and then spread to the rest of the world? More importantly, will the lovely Toni (Gray) slap Dr. Stanley for his heavy-handed flirtatious comments?
"Island of Terror" is a GREAT monster movie with a fabulous setting and a cast that deliver excellent performances. The movie starts creepy, builds tension steadily, and ends up with an exciting climax where survivors are crammed into a single building for a desperate last stand. It is a classic in every sense of the word, from the Golden Age of sci-fi in at the cinema.
I've heard this film compared to the original "Dr. Who" series, both in a favorable and a disparaging sense. I tend to think the comparison is accurate, particularly of the John Pertwee and Tom Baker years. The monsters bear some resemblance in design to many of those we saw on "Dr. Who" (and perhaps they may seem laughable to the "sophisticated" viewer in the 21st century) and the setting, nature, and development of the story is likewise similar to the stories featured on the TV show. However, "Island of Terror" is much better paced, far better acted, and far better filmed than any "Dr. Who" storyline. (I also suspect that a couple of people who have made such comments have had limited exposure to British sci-fi from the 50s and 60s... and so perhaps everything would remind them of "Dr. Who.")
If you like monster movies and classic sci-fi films, you owe it to yourself to check out "Island of Terror." Another reason to see it is Peter Cushing's performance. He gets to show off his more comedic side, as his character of Dr. Stanley is a lovable joker who is always playfully hitting on his colleagues fiance, Toni.
Unfortunately, this very excellent film has not yet been made available on DVD. The continuing cinematic tragedy of garbage like "Night of Ghoul" being available in several different versions, yet a real classic like "Island of Terror" (and the equallly excellent Cushing thriller "Cash on Demand") continue to languish in VHS obscurity, even being out of print on that media.