Surrounded by Aquatic EVIL, No One Can Escape “The Island of the Fishmen!” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

Check out the scantily-cladded woman encroached upon on “The Island of the Fishmen” Blu-ray!

A French prisoner ship sinks to the bottom of the Caribbean leaving only a handful of prisoners and the Left Lieutenant Claude de Ross, the ship’s doctor, stranded on a lifeboat for weeks until they a mysterious force drives them through the fog and crash them on the rocks of a seemingly deserted volcanic island. Only a few prisoners and the doctor manage to survive the wreckage, stumbling upon a ritualistic area of empty graves and abandoned artifacts of an island society. This is where the haggard and hungry men meet the beautiful Amanda Marvin on horseback and follow her through the island jungle to a clearing where the edifice of Edmond Rackham sits imposing on them. Having left his home country, Rackham settled upon this uncharted island, garnering local Caribbean inhabitants as servants, and being a greedy treasure hunter who might have just discovered the lost city of Atlantis. There’s only one problem, the city is surrounded by aggressive fishmen kept at bay by Amanda’s famed disgraced biologist father who has fallen severely ill, charting a course for the good doctor, Lt. Claude de Ross, to be unharmed in order to care for perhaps the only person who knows how to manage the wrath of the fishmen.

A swimmingly aquatic creature feature with an all-around gratifying men in costume pastiche, familiar to the style of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” in Sergio Martino action-adventure horror “The Island of the Fishman.” Also know under the revamped shots of “Screamers” aka “Something Waits in the Dark,” here we have the original film in all it’s natural glory from the director of “Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key” and “Torso” director Martino from a script by Martino, Sergio Donati (“Orca”), “Slave of the Cannibal God’s” Cesare Frugoni who workshopped with Sergio Martino’s older brother, Luciano Martino, (“So Sweet… So Perverse”) on the original story. Some would also say that “The Island of the Fishmen” is also a crossbreed between H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and, aforementioned, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The 1979 Italian production stars an international cast shooting along various locations in Italy and is produced by Luciano Martino under Dania Films and Medusa Distribution.

American, United Kingdom, and, of course, Italian come together to form “The Island of the Fishmen” cast that doesn’t stray too far away from their individual innate dialects. The most pompous is he Essex-born Richard Johnson’s sadistic and fortune hungry Edmond Rackham with a caricature of a voice that isn’t like anything in his performance in Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie.” As Rackham, the inflections reminisce of a British Humphrey Bogart mixed with a one Dick Dasterdly and so Johnson comes off a bit cartoony and overly dramatic compared to the film’s panache malnourished yet earnest hero in Italian actor Claudio Cassinelli (“Murder Rock,” “The Scorpion With Two Tails”) as Left Lieutenant Claude de Ross, a ship’s doctor who suddenly becomes the medical caretaker and leading guard over a lifeboat full of hardened prisoners, some who have blood on their hands. Franco Javarone and Roberto Posse play a pair of surviving convicts, especially two at odds on how they should treat their next in rank penal officer. Though being thrust into the oversight position, the Lieutenant doesn’t have to worry about his prisoners for too long as the island’s baleful environment with jungle death traps, poisonous water, voodoo priestess, a sadistic lord of estate, and mutant fish people swimming in circles around the island’s parameter and through the cut through waterways sees to their wellbeing. “Island of the Fishmen” does have a few predominant male figures of different caliber but there are also a pair of women inhabiting the island who, too, have counteracting roles. Bond girl Barabara Bach (“The Spy Who Loved Me”) became plagued by the ocean’s frightening fishmen only two years later as the captive dame of Edmond Rackham who holds her hostage as he pushes her father (Joseph Cotton, “The Survivor”) to continue with his mind control potion over the fishmen. Then, there’s Shakira. No, not the Brazilian singer-song writer with the hypnotizing booty shaker. This Shakira is a voodoo priestess, played by Jamaican actress Beryl Cunningham (“Dorian Gray”), who works for Rackham but ultimately envisions foreboding doom on the volcanic island. Giuseppe Castellano and Franco Mazzieri round out the cast.

A whole lot is going on in this film that from the surface seems, surfacing meaning the home video covers and posters, to focus chiefly on the hostile half-fish half-man creatures that bubble to surface, check out top side for any unwanted visitors, and quickly dispatch them before disappearing under the glassy waters of the Caribbean. I adore the design of the rather stiff but crudely convincing creature suits with buggy fisheyes, razor piranha like teeth, and cladded entirely green and scaley in a design by Massimo Antonello Geleng who by vocation was more a production designer with credits including this film along with “Cannibal Holocaust,” “City of the Living Dead,” “The Church,” and “Dellamorte Dellamore” to name a few. Yet, the fishmen were not a sole source of danger on an island that had a deadly schemer in Edmond Rackham, the motif of voodoo and jungle trap throughout, a volcano ready to erupt and engulf the island with lava, and the lost city of Atlantis as the grand epic finale that pivots this story on an acute elbow left that shows a mighty ambitious story on an Italian slim budget. To put it frank, Sergio Martino was able to put all the elements together into a cohesive, coherent plot with action, horror, exploitation, and mad science fiction albeit the story’s wild and diverging concepts.

Though many U.S. audiences know this film as Roger Corman’s highly altered, New World Pictures presented cut retitled as “Screamers,” Full Moon features releases the original oeuvre of Sergio Martino with a remastered Blu-ray release from the original 35mm negative. The 99-minute film is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio that captures in perfect matte composition and frame the locational miniatures, such as the manor house or the underwater Atlantis temples, in a compression that doesn’t make the structures obvious fakes. Slightly tinged yellow, the overall color palette is renders out well enough to suit the release with a pristine transfer seeing no signs of real significant damage. The English language tracks come in two formats – a PCM 2.0 and a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The English-speaking actors have their original tracks intact while the Italian cast have their original dialogue re-dubbed in English for posterity on new releases such as this one. Dialogue, nor any of the corresponding audio tracks, show any signs of fidelity issues or damage, but do feel muffled, even on the 5.1 as if the sound was boost stifled and left with some of the channels lacking vigor. Aside from Full Moon trailers, the R-rated film rides solo on this hi-def release. “Island of the Fishmen” is a small film fighting hard to swim upstream and really does a number on many different levels regarding where the audiences should focus their attention on, but I can see why Roger Corman wanted to give Martino’s film a second run after a commercial flop with a new, gory scenes edited right into the heart of “Island of the Fishmen’s” flexible, cartilaginous bones. Despite Corman’s efforts, Sergio Martino’s unmolested, original reeling reel is the one and only catch of the day for this purist.

Check out the scantily-cladded woman encroached upon on “The Island of the Fishmen” Blu-ray!

Evil’s Calling… “Cell” review!

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Clay Riddell just landed in Boston after scoring a huge deal in New York involving concepts for his graphic novel. With all the cellphone charging stations occupied, Clay calls his estranged wife from a pay phone to speak with his son, but when the landline severs communications, that’s when it started. People on their cellphones turn into Phoners, murderous maniacs who tear through anyone in a destructive path mindless insanity. Clay, in the midst of panic, bumps into subway train conductor Tom McCourt and fight their way out of the city, barely escaping with their lives. Fleeing a burning Boston overran by Phoners, Clay is determined to track down his family in New Hampshire with the help of Tom and two teens, Alice and Jordan, but the Phoners are not just absentminded anymore as individuals start to flock together exhibiting the beginning signs of their telepathic network lending to something far more sinister than just temporary mayhem.
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“Cell” is the feature film adaptation to Stephen King’s novel of the same title and reunites John Cusack with Samuel L. Jackson once again since their last costarring venture of King’s book-to-silver screen production of “1408.” King shares screenplay credits with Adam Alleca, who co-penned “The Last House on the Left” remake in 2009, and with “Paranormal Activity 2” director Tod Williams at the helm. From the first inkling of a “Cell” movie, back with Eli Roth was attached, the excitement couldn’t be contained as I read the Stephen King novel and was captivated by the unique story of mixed and varied human emotions and the uncontrollable yearnings to be a part of the collective through being electronically connected that ultimately becomes mankind’s undoing.
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However, “Cell” was heading in the direction of certain doom from the moment Roth unattached himself from the project, sending “Cell” into the annoyance of limbo until a production company conglomerate formed to pull “Cell” from it’s stagnant state and attached Williams to direct. Yet once again, King’s beloved story goes into the throes of uncertainty with distribution after filming wraps in 2013. 2016 comes and Saban Films, along with Lionsgate , distributes “Cell” theatrically and within the home entertainment market respectively.
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After all the monumental problems, I personally wanted to “Cell” to be one of the most entertaining and frightening horror films of the modern age, but as fate would have it, the Williams’ film disappoints. An film adaptation of a King novel needs more minutes to cover the story’s girth and “Cell” lacked pages of warranted minutes to be a full tell all for Clay, Tom, and the Raggedy Man. Portions of the novel were translated to the screen, but for the majority of the film, a rushed version of the story debuts to silver screen audiences that loses the book’s essence and dilutes character development, such as with Raggedy Man who has a sizable role in the book, but the character in Williams’ movie barely scratches the surface with being just a figurehead for the Phoners and not the collective’s soap box looming leader. The film started out great with intense chaos at Boston airport, pictorializing to life the Phoners from the King’s book with pinpoint precision, but from there on, the story’s time span goes vague whereas the book stretches out the length of time. Only a matter of two or three days does it seem the survivors jump from Boston, to the school, to the bar, to the story’s final location of Kashwak, but in reality terms and in the amount of devastation and character portrayal, weeks have passed.
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The ending has been rewritten from a surprisingly mixed reaction to the book’s and yet, the unravelling of the finale does more than convolute matters when Clay finds his son. There lies almost a dual ending where one’s interpretation can be the film’s own storybook ending. Stephen King’s “The Mist” had an ending that, when compared to Frank Darabont’s totally new ending for the film, was totally inferior to Darabont’s and I feel like that’s the stage that was trying to bet revisited here with “Cell” and it just missed the mark completely. Not all changes are for the worst. Character Tom McCourt, whose white in book, went to Samuel L. Jackson who absolutely fits the role without question, nailing PTSD stricken McCourt with little emotion but with untapped hurt. If I ever had to choose an middle aged white actor for the role of Clay, John Cusack would be my first and only choice even before casting began for the film. I do feel like having a white Raggedy Man was purposefully steered away from social sensitivities with an antagonistic young black male in a hoodie. The cast rounds out with Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, and Stacy Keach (“Slave of the Cannibal God”).
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The digital visual effects were so poorly constructed and composited that I’m not surprised “Cell” didn’t have a longer theatrical run. The book had a number of jaw-dropping visuals the imagination could run with and now with seeing the depictions of those visuals on screen, they seemed seriously slapped together in such haste to where the devastating sensationalism turns inane and bland. King’s apocalyptic story warrants Hollywood scale effects, but received a few levels below that bar, failing to deliver major catastrophe on a world ending scale to the likes of “War World Z” or to cleverly style the film through a smaller medium such as George Romero accomplished with this first three “Living Dead” films.
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Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release is presented in widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the 1080p Hi-Def resolution becomes a disadvantage that clearly outlines the quality of the effects. The English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is par for the course, but slightly in-and-out with dialogue that’s difficult to balance. The 98 minute feature’s bonus features includes an director’s commentary and “To Cell and Back: The Making of the Film” which is redundant if you’ve read the novel. Bottom line is if you’re fan of Stephen King’s novel, you’ll be sorely disappointed with Tod Williams’ “Cell” that’s nothing more than a long awaited entertaining rated-R apocalyptic horror with obsolete effects and with star-studded names attached to this Stephen King story adaptation.

Buy “Cell” on Amazon! Cusack and Jackson reunite!

If You Don’t Know Who You Are? Then Evil Does. “The Ninth Configuration” review!

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An insane asylum located in the North West region of the United States attempts an experimental test to root out Vietnam soldiers faking signs of psychosis. A new commanding officer, a military psychiatrist named Colonel Kane, will take the lead of the experiment. But Kane’s methods are unorthodox and Kane himself seems distant from what’s expected from him, leaving the military patients, and even some of the personnel, wondering about his state of mind. Kane lets the committed soldiers live out their most outrageous fantasies and the further his practice plays out, the more that there might actually be something terribly wrong with the new commanding colonel.
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“The Ninth Configuration” is the big screen adapted version of William Peter Blatty’s novel entitled “Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane.” Blatty, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, dives back into motion pictures once again after the success of another previous adapted novel; a little piece of work you may be familiar with called “The Exorcist.” In the span of seven years, Blatty was able to cast again the versatile Jason Miller, who had portrayed a much more serious Father Karras in “The Exorcist,” as one of the leading asylum inmates in “The Night Configuration.” From then on, the hired case was forming into a formidable force of method actors including Stacy Keach (“Slave of the Cannibal God”), Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), Ed Flanders (“The Exorcist III”), Robert Loggia (“Scarface”), Neville Brand (“Eaten Alive”), George DiCenzo (“The Exorcist III”), Moses Gunn (“Rollerball”), Joe Spinell (“Maniac”), Tom Atkins (“The Fog”), Richard Lynch (“Invasion U.S.A.”), and Steve Sander (“Stryker”). This cast is a wet dream of talent.
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What’s unique about Blatty’s direction of this film is the non-displaying of action and dialogue off screen. Whether it’s character narration, dialogue track overlay, or slightly off camera view, the spectator, for more about half the film or perhaps even more, isn’t being directed to focus on the current action or dialogue and this creates the illusion of hearing bodiless voices or activities, as if you’re part of the ranks in the mentally insane roster. Only until the truth or catalyst is reveal is when more traditional means of camera focus is applied.
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To make this technique work and to make it not become tiresome to the viewer, Blatty had to write some amazing dialogue and with him being a novelist and all, the dialogue was absolutely, 100 percent brilliant. Lets not also neglect to mention that with unrivaled dialogue, out of this world thespians must be accompanied to breathe life into the black printed words that are simply laying upon white pages. Scott Wilson’s and Jason Miller’s craziness is unparalleled while, on the other side of the spectrum, Stacy Keach delivers a melancholic performance that balances out the tone of the film from what could have been considered an anti-Vietnam war comedy at first glance that spun quickly with an unforeseen morph into a suspenseful thriller about the consequences of war PTSD and the affect it has on those surrounding.
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Gerry Fisher’s cinematography encompasses the Gothicism of the remote Germanic castle to where every ghastly statue and crypt-like stone comes alive like in a horror movie. The setting couldn’t be any of an antonym for a loony-bin set. Even though the film is suppose to be set in North West America, the location used was actually in Wierschem, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany at the medieval Castle Eltz and the story subtly explains how the castle came to be in “America.” To the opposition of such a barbarically beautiful castle, the score by Barry De Vorzon (The Warriors) in the first act into the second is playful, lighthearted, and childish in an appropriate story tone, but turns quickly sinister and angry during progression, building upon the revealing climax.
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Classic film and TV distributor Second Sight brings this cult classic onto DVD and Blu-ray in the UK. Since this was a screener copy of the DVD, I’m unable to provide any audio or video technical comments, but the screener did include the generous amount of bonus material including interviews with writer-director William Peter Blatty, and individual interviews with Stacy Keach, Tom Atkins and Stephen Powers, composer Barry De Vorzon, production designer William Malley and art director J. Dennis Washington. There are also deleted scenes and outtakes and a Mark Kermode introduction. A substantial release for Second Sight and a fine film for any collection so make sure you pick up or order this Second Sight release today!