Island of the Fishmen

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Island of the Fishmen (1979, Italian aka L'Isola degli uomini pesce, dir: Sergio Martino; cast: Richard Johnson, Claudio Cassinelli, Barbara Bach)





I'm not writing this review so much for newcomers as for old fans of Island of the Fishmen ( aka L'Isola degli uomini pesce). If you've seen earlier versions of this film, you haven't really seen this film. This is the must see version for longtime fans.

I've seen several versions of Island of the Fishmen (aka Screamers) over the past 30 plus years. The American TV broadcast version. The VHS version. But this restored DVD version has many differences:

* This version is widescreen, and it makes a difference. The director has framed some beautiful compositions, which are lost on full screen.

* Many restored scenes.

* Earlier American VHS and TV versions (of what was originally an Italian film) included a new 10 minute scene (lifted from a Roger Corman film) and inserted as a new opening scene, retitling this film Screamers. This restored version of Island of the Fishmen drops that opening scene, which had characters that were (naturally) unrelated to the rest of the film's characters or story.

* This version has done a beautiful job restoring the color and sound. Great music.

So what's this film about? It's yet another 1970s Italian exploitation ripoff, of sorts. Richard Johnson is the usual rich white guy who rules an uncharted island and sponsors a mad scientist to conduct experiments. They're turning the native islanders into fishmen. Johnson uses them to salvage the lost gold of Atlantis.

If you like Italian exploitation films, if you think Johnson is a great villain (though he was also a fine hero in 1963's The Haunting), if you think Barbara Bach is gorgeous, if you like killer fishmen and Italian exploitation films, you should love this one.

Yes, this is a PAL version, so you'll need a multi-region DVD player. The DVD has both Italian and English soundtracks, take your pick. This later Mya version also seems to be restored version, in NTSC, though I haven't seen it.

There's also a one hour "making of" featurette, with interviews of the key creative people, but unfortunately, it's entirely in Italian. Not even any subtitles. The trailer is also in Italian.

Director Sergio Martino, and actors Richard Johnson, Claudio Cassinelli, and Barbara Bach all collaborated on another Italian horror film that same year -- 1979 -- called The Big Alligator River (aka The Great Alligator). Coincidentally, Mel Ferrer appears in that film and in Screamers Corman prologue (but not in the original Italian version).

So if you loved Screamers and /or L'Isola degli uomini pesce, you'll want to see The Big Alligator River.

You will also want to read my review of Screamers, for a fuller comparison of both films, and the history behind each.

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