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Joseph H. Lewis
A mad scientist is forced to leave San Francisco when his experiments become known. He lands on a tropical island, takes control and terrorizes the local populace. The survivor of a shipwreck washes ashore on the island, sees what is happening and determines to free the natives from his rule. Written by
Mad mess of a movie that shoots itself in the foot by badly blending comedy and horror. Only notable as Lionel Atwill's last leading role
Lionel Atwill plays Br Benson a scientist experimenting with suspended animation. Atwill has found a way of putting animals in to suspended animation, then curing their disease and then bringing them back to life. Unfortunately when he tries to move to people the good doctor finds that he can not revive his subjects thus provoking the police to look for the murderer. Fleeing he boards a ship and heads for the south seas. When the ship catches fire, Atwill and several other survivors end up on an island where Atwill uses his medical tricks to enslave the natives.
B movie or not this is a mess of a movie. The film starts okay, with Atwill trying his experiment on a man trying to get money for his family. The police burst in and he's forced to flee. After that comedy sets in and the film doesn't know what it wants to be. Once the ship sinks and the survivors end up on the island things become a mixed bag.
Its it suppose to be serious or a comedy? First billed Una Merkel makes me think it was a comedy. Merkel as a crazy woman going to New Zealand for the fifth time to find love would usually be in the background to Atwill's craziness, but here she's often front and center. The problem is that the comedy is very heavy handed and not very funny. As a drama it isn't much better. Its natives in sarongs bowing before the mad Atwill, who looks bored and distracted. It reminded me of some of the dreadful jungle monster pictures from the 1950's where the mad scientist goes to the jungle and sets some creature loose like in From Hell it Came, except those movies were fun.
I don't think that it helps that this film has something resembling a budget. Certainly the use of stock footage helped, but the fact that Universal spent probably twice what something like Republic, Monogram or a Poverty Row studio made me think that this would be something more than a really cheesy film. I know the reasonable look of the film made it hard to forgive the dopey script.
To be honest this is a hard film to really discuss. Its a light weight B movie that is not bad enough to make one want to spend time commenting on it. Its a bad movie that makes you want to forget it after you've seen it, with a "well that was a waste of an hour" before moving on to something else. Its a misfire and not worth saying anything bad about simply because the movie inflicts enough damage on itself.
Not worth bothering with except as a footnote in Lionel Atwill's career, his last starring role, and possibly his worst performance.
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