STEWART KING reviews Island of Terror (1966)
TITLE: Island of Terror
YEAR RELEASED: 1966
DIRECTOR: Terence Fisher
CAST: Peter Cushing, Edward Judd and Carole Gray
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This is a great slice of 1966 sci-fi horror that was shot in rural England and is a particular childhood favourite of mine. I remember first catching it on a late night showing while on holiday.
It’s a bit like watching a graphic, feature length episode of 60s/70s Doctor Who – it has a distinctly British feel, there’s some mad science and some nasty but cut price monsters that remain hidden at the start of the story. Peter Cushing’s presence re-enforces this but it’s also atmospheric and hugely enjoyable.
Set on the remote, phoneless (!) Petrie’s Island, just off the coast of Ireland, a cancer research centre unleashes radioactive lumps of tissue called the silicates – I told you it’s like Doctor Who – that inject a bone-dissolving enzyme into their victims and leave them looking like human trifles. The silicates are like small, crawling, organic versions of the saucers from War of the Worlds complete with snaking antennae.
When the film opens we see farmer, Ian Bellows, fall victim to the silicates but as we only hear the bone crunching attack can only imagine his fate. Constable John Harris discovers his filleted body and town physician, Dr Reginald Landers (Eddie Byrne) calls in pathologist Dr Brian Stanley (Cushing).
He, in turn, brings in bone expert Dr David West (Edward Judd) who wangles a flight out to the island in a helicopter belonging to the father of glamorous jetsetter, Toni Merrell (Carole Gray) whom West is dining with. Toni insists on coming along for the ride.
Arriving at the research lab they find that Doctor Lawrence Phillips and his colleagues have also been reduced to quivering heaps of jelly but secure the Doctor’s notes and deduce that the silicates were the result of an experiment with the silicone atom.
Shaky science out of the way it’s time for them to take the battle to the silicates and things go from bad to worse with the monsters attacking more humans as well as learning to climb trees! Nothing it appears can stop them – bullets, fire or even a good old-fashioned axe. The rare isotope Strontium-90 is the answer and there’s a store of it back at the lab. Cushing is attacked by a silicate and loses his hand as they try to obtain it.
Cattle are then contaminated with Strontium-90 and our heroes lie in wait for the silicates to take the bait. Order is restored and everyone is relieved that the reign of terror was isolated. But we then cut to Japan where similar experiments are already underway.
The screenplay by Gerry Fernback was originally entitled The Night The Silicates Came, and after producer Richard Gordon took on the project and got Terence Fisher to direct, Island of Terror was released by Universal on a double bill with The Projected Man.
Make no bones about it – sorry about that – it’s certainly worth tracking the silicates down on DVD.
Watch Island of Terror 1966 trailer
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