You may remember a few years back (in 2015!) I noted that Kelsey Grammer was slated to be in a spider movie called The Nest. Well, the title has changed to 7 Guardians of the Tomb, and it looks to be finally coming out this year. I can’t say it looks good, but it does look delightful. Ancient tombs, spiders, and things going boom — I’m in!
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)
Action, Adventure, Comedy
Based on comics by Jacques Tardi.
In order to heal her sister’s near-fatal tennis injury, writer Adèle Blanc-Sec retrieves the mummy of the physician to Pharoah Ramses II for a physicist on death row to bring back to life.
Reasons to Watch
- It’s utterly ridiculous and delightful
- There’s a pterodactyl
- Near-fatal tennis accident
In a just world this would have launched a series of movies. There is however a later animated film based on Tardi’s work, April and the Extraordinary World.
Directed by Irwin Allen
Based on The Lost World Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Written by Charles Bennett and Irwin Allen
Starring Michael Rennie, Jill St. John, David Hedison, Claude Rains, Richard Haydn, Ray Stricklyn, Fernando Lamas, and Vitina Marcus
The conceit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is enthralling. Explorers discover a region that stands apart from the modern world, where evolution stood still; a place where tribes battled apes—sure, he was ripping off Jules Verne to some extent, but who didn’t? And it is Doyle’s title that we use to describe plots that involve isolated pockets of prehistoric life. It’s been filmed many times but only once was it done by the master of disaster, director and producer Irwin Allen.
Mysterious Island (1961)
Action, adventure, science fiction
Based on The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. (Sequel to both Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and In Search of the Castaways.)
Castaways fight giant animals and pirates with the help of Captain Nemo while trying to escape before the island’s volcano erupts.
Reasons to Watch
- Harryhausen creature effects
- Joan Greenwood
- Herbert Lom
Although based on a Jules Verne novel, the giant creatures came in by way of H.G. Welles’ The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth. Nemo is trying to solve world hunger through enlarging food sources, a common misconception about the motivation of the scientists in that book. This is an ironic combination of plots, as Verne despised the lack of scientific basis in Welles’ stories.
Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Written by H.E. Barrie and Richard E. Cunha
Starring Rudolph Anders, Irish McCalla, Tod Griffin, Leni Tana, Victor Sen Yung, Gene Roth, and Charles Opunui
The English language is cluttered with phrases like “too much of a good thing” and “everything but the kitchen sink”. These perfectly describe why I love She Demons, because if it wasn’t so over-stuffed with cliches that pay it probably wouldn’t be interesting all. It’s as though the creators couldn’t decide what story to tell and went with everything.
The Island Experiments theme is all about mad science, just in a specific remote location. But what turns ordinary, ill-advised science mad? The movies I’ve selected all feature monsters created by scientists. Their motivations may differ — and in one case the creature was even an accident — but in every case it is the scientist who built the beast!
The five films I’ve selected vary in quality and tone. I wanted to pick movies that I love that aren’t necessarily well-known to casual viewers. Hence, an older classic and some interesting ones from a bit more recently.
Genre fans have likely heard about most of these, if not seen them already. You may have other preferences (obscure or popular), and I invite you to share them! Add them in the comments, and let everyone know what other Island Experiments films they should check out!
The Flesh Eaters
Dir. Jack Curtis
A fun under-seen creature-features from the early 1960s. Martin Kosleck plays a Nazi scientist, living on a remote island to carry on experiments to weaponize flesh-eating microbes. When a small plane is forced to land due to mechanical problems, a pounding rainstorm is the least of their problems.
Lo-fi special effects, but surprisingly gory in parts. Lots of spousal arguing. Watch it for Kosleck and the microbes’ final attack.
87 min., b&w, 1964
No MPAA rating
Island of Lost Souls
Dir. Erle C. Kenton
When you think of 1930s horror, Universal’s monster movies are inescapable. But it was Paramount that produced this moody adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau (the first film version with sound). Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi anchor the cast as Moreau and his Sayer of the Law, and Kathleen Burke’s Panther Woman is nearly as iconic as Dracula and Frankenstein.
Though there are some light prosthetics and hair applications, this is not really a movie about effects. It’s driven by character and mood.
70 min., b&w, 1932
Island of Terror
Dir. Terence Fisher
An accident in a research lab creates a bone-eating monster that splits every few hours. In no time the island is swarming with them, forcing the locals to seek shelter in a church. Co-star Peter Cushing and legendary Hammer director Terence Fisher bring class to the independent production.
The creatures are a bit silly but get the job done. The mounting tension leading to a siege is where it’s at.
89 min., color, 1966
No MPAA rating
Jurassic Park III
Dir. Joe Johnston
After The Lost World: Jurassic Park ripped off King Kong, this sequel proved that the franchise could still deliver by ripping off the first film. Sam O’Neill leads a team to one of the park’s research islands to help William H. Macy and Téa Leone find their son. It’s a rousing adventure that, while not providing anything new, gives more of what we liked about the original.
The dinosaurs aren’t the surprise they were in Jurassic Park, but it’s still solid work. Expect some moderate gore.
92 min., color, 2001
Dir. Ken Wiederhorn
I’m in a minority here, but I really like this one. John Carradine takes a boatload of tourists to a remote island where Peter Cushing is watching over his cache of Nazi zombies. It’s a bit on the tedious side, to be honest, but I love the ending. Wiederhorn’s biggest film would be Return of the Living Dead II, which should lower your expectations appropriately.
There’s very little going on effects-wise, but the zombies are creepy and there are a couple of effective shots of them.
85 min., color, 1977