Return to The Island of the Fishmen

A while ago I blogged about the U.S. horror flick Screamers, released in 1981, in a post about movies featuring cameos by Cameron Mitchell, in which I referenced this original 1979 version of the film, although I had never seen it. The 81 version cuts out a bunch of stuff then adds a bunch more horror-oriented stuff, yet still runs ten minutes shorter.

THE ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (1979)

Now director Sergio Martino’s original The Island of the Fishmen has been released on Blu-ray by Full Moon. It’s definitely not as much fun as Screamers because there’s less horror and gore and it suffers from some pacing issues. Plus there’s no Cameron Mitchell, who only appears in the pretty long opener added to Screamers.

The opener here, which comes later in the 81 version, is a reminder of how good 1970s horror did water creature scenes at night. Eek! They just weren’t afraid of dark water scenes back then. I, however, am, so I lightened the screen shots a little…

The plot starts with prisoners and a doctor escaping a sinking ship on a small lifeboat. The fishmen attack the boat, and the survivors end up washing up on an island. There are more attacks during the day in some swamps, and then the few survivors meet up with Barbara Bach, who invites them into the one house on the island.

The film loses its fear factor and mystery rather quickly as effective voodoo rituals and fishmen attacks are overshadowed by the logic of science (blah), and the fact that Barbara Bach can order the fishmen around like they are her pets.

Truth is humans are being turned into fish people by a mad scientist…to excavate treasure from the lost city of Atlantis (now found). In fact, the most gruesome moment in the movie has the doctor discovering a half transformed human.

Eek! This is the one scene that is better in the original than the enhanced horror cut, which basically just makes the discovered experiment look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The big-eyed monsters are still really creepy cool in a rubber suit sort of way, but the original version of the film feels more action/sci-fi than horror.

THE FISHMEN AND THEIR QUEEN (1995)

Not so much a sequel as a reimagining, this film sees Sergio Martino creating a rewrite of the plot of The Island of the Fishmen and making a movie using loads of footage from the original film plus his 1983 film 2019: After the Fall of New York.

It’s a post-apocalyptic world, and a white kid and Black kid run with a crowd of survivors sick with radiation. When “warriors” on horses raid their warehouse, the boys get away and end up in a Mad Max car race.

Then they meet an old man who tells them about an island that they set off on a boat to find, taking the old man’s dog with them. The movie essentially goes from Mad Max to Huckleberry Finn to Dagon over the span of about 90 minutes.

On the island the boys go swimming and it’s very icky that the white kid, who may be fourteen or fifteen, is basically wearing a loincloth G-string. Then the boys meet a girl who is part of a female tribe on the island run by a “queen” that created and controls the fishmen with magic. And she is using them to excavate the lost city of Atlantis for treasure.

It’s a tween adventure film essentially, With the fishmen helping the kids defeat their evil queen (through spliced footage from the original movie).

The kids also use magic to turn a deformed Black servant dude in a mask into a handsome white prince. WTF?

And just when the film is almost over and you think it can’t be more of a mess…in comes the space ship. Sigh.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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