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The Camp on Blood Island (1958)

6.1
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 156 users  
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Deep in Malaya, as World War II is rapidly coming to an end, men, women and children, trapped by the Japanese invasion, are held captive in the Blood Island prison camp. Knowing that ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Col. Lambert (as Andre Morell)
Carl Möhner ...
Piet Van Elst (as Carl Mohner)
Walter Fitzgerald ...
Cyril Beattie
Edward Underdown ...
Major Dawes
Phil Brown ...
Lt. Peter Bellamy
Barbara Shelley ...
Kate Keiller
...
Father Paul Anjou
Michael Gwynn ...
Tom Shields
Ronald Radd ...
Commander Yamamitsu
Marne Maitland ...
Captain Sakamura
Wolfe Morris ...
Interpreter
Richard Wordsworth ...
Dr. Robert Keiller
Mary Merrall ...
Mrs. Helen Beattie
Michael Ripper ...
Japanese driver
Edwin Richfield ...
Sergeant-Major
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Storyline

Deep in Malaya, as World War II is rapidly coming to an end, men, women and children, trapped by the Japanese invasion, are held captive in the Blood Island prison camp. Knowing that Yamamitsu, the sadistic commandant, will murder them all when he learns of his country's defeat, Dutch, a Dutch planter, smashes the camp radio. British officer Lambert and, in the women's prison, the recently-widowed Kate, join Dutch in arming the prisoners. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Authenticated by the very few who survived the massacre in...

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Action | Drama | History | War

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Details

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Release Date:

11 June 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die gelbe Hölle  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The novelization of the screenplay was a spectacular success, selling up to two million copies. See more »

Connections

Followed by The Secret of Blood Island (1964) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Hammer vs David Lean
18 August 2009 | by (England) – See all my reviews

The links with "Bridge on the River Kwai" go further than just the Japanese prison-camp setting and the presence of Andre Morell; there is the same theme of the commanding officer whose behaviour seems increasingly unreasonable in the face of the prisoners' privations, the lone American contrasted with the starved Commonwealth soldiers, and a morally ambiguous ending. In some ways this Hammer production suffers less from political compromise, not being required to introduce an American leading actor for the benefit of the US box office, but it has to be said that whatever flaws may exist in David Lean's film, "The Camp on Blood Island" is ultimately no competition. It's a decent and sometimes brave picture (even the women are shown hounding the suspected collaborator in their midst) but it doesn't hold the same seeds of greatness.

There is some fine acting on display, both from the actors playing the Japanese, who convey a sense of alien culture without becoming ridiculous, and those portraying the physically drained and starving prisoners: the opening shots of the young man struggling to dig his own grave are actively disturbing, both for his apparent emaciation and for his dragging movements of utter collapse. Andre Morell, of course, dominates the film as the obstinate and authoritarian Colonel Lambert, and in a sense the plot structure consists of gradually justifying his seemingly unreasonable behaviour -- but it is not that simplistic, and the revelation of the final consequences of his decisions (was it, ultimately, all unnecessary?) leaves a note of deliberate ambiguity.

The prisoners in the women's camp are, perhaps inevitably, shown as rather more glamorous than their male counterparts, with their fetching dishevelment a token gesture towards the starvation and illness stated in the script. Barbara Shelley, playing Kate, does appear rather too healthy in her close-ups for the degree of weakness and collapse she is supposed to portray during her escape. But unsurprisingly this is a male-dominated film, and all the really intriguing characters are male. Lambert himself, and the fretful diplomat Beattie, chafing under what he sees as the military mishandling of their situation. Father Paul, jeopardising his life and his cloth to pass messages via the medium of the funeral Mass. The former planter Van Elst, driven to repeated risky sabotage.

For a film that was condemned on release for its 'orgy of atrocities', "The Camp on Blood Island" is actually quite restrained in what is implied, let alone shown on screen: the horrors and Japanese 'bestiality' are as much psychological, based on petty humiliation and anticipation, as anything else. This is not torture porn -- the worst that we see is machine-gunning, plus one clean beheading. ("Bridge on the River Kwai" actually goes further in this respect.) But there is never any doubt that the prisoners' situation is horrific, and that ultimately they are prepared to throw lives away in a desperate attempt at group survival.


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