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Island of Mutations

  • Release Date: 01-12-80
  • Vipco Catalogue Number: VIP002
  • Director: Sergio Martino
  • Writers: Cesare Frugoni, Luciano Martino, Sergio Donati, Cesare Frugoni, Sergio Martino
  • Actors: Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Richard Johnson
  • Storyline:
    Aquatic creatures threaten the existence of a mysterious island.

  • Country: Italy
  • Language: English
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They Fight and Live on the Bottom of the Ocean ...

Review

This Italian-made mystery island adventure, offering a bizarrely mutated fishy twist, which was perhaps loosely based upon H.G.Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau novel, was filmed in Lazio and Sardinia – the latter being the autonomous Italian hot-spot, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Boasting some startling coastal and underwater photography, this amphibious horror oddity opens with a bunch of shipwrecked survivors – prisoners aboard the stricken vessel. These luckless lads soon wish they’d completed their journey upon meeting the sinister Edmond Rackham (enigmatically played by Zombie Flesh Eaters star Richard Johnson), a mad scientist type who presides over a native tribe of locals, whom have faithfully endured Rackham’s dabbling in both science and the occult – a horrifying series of voodoo-tinged genetic experiments that produced an amphibious race of ‘mutations’ which inhabit the island’s murky swamps and contrastingly beautiful shores.

Filmed in 1979 by the prolific and hard working Italian-born Sergio Martino, a filmmaker who has made more than his fair share of enjoyably weird and wonderful schlock, the man behind such diverse gems as Torso, Prisoner of the Cannibal God and A Man Called Blade. The aptly named Island of Mutations (original title: “L’isola degli uomini pesce”) was actually re-titled from its American release, which had already been altered twice by its Stateside distributor: First as Something Waits in the Dark and again as Screamers – the latter touted with the absurd tagline of: “See A Man Turned Inside Out” which outraged many drive-in viewers when these so-called scenes were conspicuously absent, leaving American viewers feeling cheated!

The film also featured one-time “Bond Girl” Barbara Bach (who plays Rackham’s beautiful female captive, who has a conspicuously seductive influence over the Fishmen), just before she appeared in Sergio Martino’s The Great Alligator, another ‘monsters of mayhem’ type effort of his; the actress would soon tie the knot with former Beatle, Ringo Starr!

UK fans may have noticed the incoherent flow of several scenes in this early VIPCO-produced version; indeed some scenes made little sense, as VIPCO – whom possessed the full 99-minute version of the movie – decided to edit the film down to fit onto a 90-minute cassette. This impromptu decision of theirs was quite a common move by VIPCO, whom edited a number of films in this manner, including Abel Ferrara’s controversial The Driller Killer which was shorn of some 6-minutes of footage before its appearance on tape by the company.

During the drought that was the Nineties, Martino must have been pretty desperate for ideas, because he actually followed-up this film with the decidedly poor apocalyptic sequel The Fishmen and Their Queen (original title “iLa regina degli uomini pesce”) in 1995, which he also co-scripted with Sauro Scavolini.

Eagle-eyed viewers might also have noticed that Richard Johnson most likely donned the same clothes for his dishevelled appearance in Lucio Fulci’s ground-breaking Zombie Flesh Eaters, which was released in both cut and uncut versions by VIPCO. Utilising the same locations and sets to great effect, the latter production – which was also filmed on the cheap – went on to become one of the more influential (and controversial) zombie-themed films of all time.

Written by Kevin A Hall Last modified on Saturday, 23 February 2013 17:13

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