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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Horror Island (1941)



Back to the ‘40s we go with another of the old dark house movies. This time around it is really more of a castle on an isolated island than it is a house. There are treasure maps, murders, and a Phantom stalking the halls. This one has potential!

The action opens when we meet Bill, a man struggling to stay ahead of the bill collectors. Hah Bill has bill issues! He is on his boat when he and his first mate save a man from drowning. The man was looking for Bill because he found a map that indicates a treasure is on Morgan’s Island somewhere within the walls of the castle built there by a legendary pirate. It just so happens that the worthless rock is the only thing that Bill still owns outright. They take the map to get it checked out, but are assured by an expert that it is a fake. Inspired by the idea of hidden wealth they decide to sell a trip to the island as a treasure hunt for paying customers. This brings an assorted crowd, including a beautiful young woman Bill has an eye for, a cousin that showed up and tried to buy the worthless island for twenty thousand bucks, and the man who said the map was a fake! There are others along for the trip as well. And when they finally get to the castle there is also a Phantom lurking about trying to scare them off.

If you have read my other reviews for an old dark house movie you know that there is a formula to these. Certain “must have” components for it to be a fun watch. You have to have a creepy atmosphere, which Horror Island has. Even before they get to the island we have action set on a foggy dock with a peg legged man being stalked by the Phantom. There is also a bomb that arrives too late to do any damage, but sends a message that maybe they shouldn’t go to the island. It is a fun way to kick off the mystery. Who sent the bomb and why try to stop the hunt before it begins? I mean all the suspects are on the boat, or are they? See there is a mystery here.

Beware the Phantom!
Once the action moves to the castle and on the island, many of the other must haves kick in. There is the creepy setting with the storm outside and strange noises echoing inside. We get secret doors and passageways that allow the Phantom to stalk his prey. Towards the end we even get a twist when someone who you wouldn’t expect to ends up dead. That one had me scratching my head in a good way. What I mean is that it is confusing until the end where everything is revealed and it all makes sense. Nothing worse than a movie that is full of twists that are never explained or make no sense. This solidly written script makes sure that you have that “Ah Ha” moment as the pieces fall into place.

I mentioned this when I reviewed another old movie, The Black Cat also from 1941, that I get many younger viewers don’t like these. Something about the pacing and acting that maybe doesn’t appeal to them. I find that very sad because a movie like Horror Island has a lot going for it. Do me a favor if you are one of those people. Some night when it is late shut off the lights curl up with your favorite beverage and give Horror Island a chance. You might just dig it like I do.



© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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