Monday, 26 January 2015

Dodgy Sci-Fi double bill - Island of Terror & Night of the Big Heat

Being as I have suddenly found myself with some time on my hands, I decided to roll out some more B-movie related action (yay!).

This time round, its the turn of a couple of British made films which were made by the same company, Planet productions, released one year apart, 1966 and 1967 respectively, use the same director, and tell basically the same story, that story being "a remote community comes under attack by some strange and horrible creatures".

Island of Terror (1966)

The remote Petrie Island is home to a small community of people of Irish/Scottish heritage, and also a secret biological testing laboratory.
In the pre credits sequence, two scientists discuss the critical stage of an experiment they are working on, which appears to involve using radioactive materials to create mutant creatures. One of the scientists speaks out about the possible moral implications of what they are doing, but the other scientist points out that they could wake up tomorrow to find they have discovered a cure for cancer...

An unspecified amount of time later, a man stops to investigate a strange sound emanating from a small cave in some rocks. As he enters the small cave, he screams as he is attacked by an off screen creature.
The following day, the local bobby is sent out to look for the missing man, and he finds his corpse in the cave, albeit whats left of it, as the corpse seems to have no bone structure and, as the bobby describes it "it was all like jelly".

The local doctor, baffled by what he finds when he performs an autopsy on the jellified corpse, contacts noted pathologist Dr. Stanley (Peter Cushing), enquiring whether he has ever heard of any disease that destroys only the bones of a body, but does no damage to any of the organs or other soft tissues. Dr. Stanley has not heard of any such ailment, and intrigued, he sets off for Petrie Island to see for himself.

Eventually, Stanley and his group come across the secret laboratory, but find everyone there has been killed in the same manner as the local man, He deduces that whatever has happened on the island must have originated from the laboratory, but can find nothing within its walls that gives a definitive answer, aside from the jellified corpses all appear to have small fang like punctures on the skin, which indicates that some chemical or venom was introduced into the bodies which broke down the calcium in the bodies.

As it turns out, the lab experiments got out of hand, resulting in the creation of a new species of silicon based creatures that feed on calcium. Because of their unique make up, the creatures are difficult to kill by conventional means (the locals try axes, petrol bombs and bullets on the creatures to no effect).
Eventually, it is discovered that the creatures can be killed by having them ingest Strontium-90, a highly dangerous and potent radioactive material. The locals get hold of some Strontium from the lab and contaminate some cows with it, which the creatures, now named "Silicates" eat and die.

In the films epilogue, it shows that after the island was evacuated, investigation teams moved in, and some unspecified time later, a Japanese laboratory is attempting to replicate the work done to create the creatures...with the same inevitable result...

This isn't a bad story, albeit a cliche filled one with a completely predictable "Deus-ex" type ending.
The special effects used for the creatures are laughably low budget, with the creatures themselves simply being inflated rubber blobs with tinned spaghetti poured over them. In the odd scene where one of the creatures uses its tentacle, its obvious its just a piece of rubber pipe being wiggled about on a piece of string.
Despite the el cheapo special effects and cliche ridden story, "Island of Terror" is an enjoyable enough bit of film which doesn't ask too much of its viewing audience.

Night of the Big Heat (1967)

(Also released as "Island of the burning damned" and "Island of the burning doomed")

The remote Scottish island community of Fara is experiencing a massive winter!. As temperatures soar, the locals begin to notice some odd things happening, strange lights are seen in the sky, radio, telephones and TVs stop working and windows, bottles and cars start exploding in the heat.
The local innkeeper, Jeff (Patrick Allen) and his wife moved to the island recently, supposedly because his work as a novellist was being crippled by writers block, however in reality it was due to Jeff having a sexual relationship with a young woman named Angela, who has followed them.

A local man is found apparently having been burned to death, which on top of the unexplained deaths by burning of some of the local farm animals, arouses the curiosity of Dr. Hanson (Christopher Lee) a scientist with a penchant for unexplained phenomena.

As it turns out, the island is being used as a beach head for an alien invasion (hence the strange lights in the sky). The aliens themselves being composed of a highly resistant magma like substance which radiates an immense heat, which means any living thing they approach is consumed by fire.
Dr. Stone (Peter Cushing) attempts to travel to Faras coastal radar station to warn the mainland about the invasion, but is killed after his car overheats and he is cornered by one of the creatures.
Dr. Hanson deduces that the aliens are attracted by heat and light, so they contrive a plan to lure all of the aliens to the gravel pit by setting fire to some hay bales, and then blowing the gravel pit up and burying the creatures alive. In the mean time, the immense heat is driving people insane, and a local man attempts to rape Angela, which causes Jeff to reveal the true reason for their being there (and provides one of the films most hilarious unintentionally funny lines in the form of "don't you understand woman?, I wanted her, I wanted her body!", which when said in Patrick Allens, gruff, authoratative voice sounds ridiculous) 
Eventually the trap is sprung, however after the explosives have detonated, it turns out that the creatures were completely unaffected by being buried, and burrow their way back out, however, just as all hope is lost, a heavy rainstorm blows in from the sea, and the aliens, who depend on heat for survival, are all killed as the heavy rainfall cools them down and dissolves them.

This is an extremely silly film on many levels. Firstly the aliens who we are told come from a planet which is much hotter than Earth, decide to invade one of the coldest parts of the British Isles.
Secondly, the effects used to show the aliens are proper bargain basement, with the aliens being little more than plastic bubbles with a light inside them, however being as this film stars both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as well as Patrick Allen, you can see they had to save a few bob somewhere.
Most of the films actual "story" comes from the interactions between the locals, especially so with Jeffs pseudo love triangle thing going off.

Again, this is a film which doesn't expect much from its audience, but provides something to watch in lieu of there being nothing else.

No comments:

Post a Comment