In October, I celebrated the greatness that was and still is Boris Karloff. Over the course of more than 31 days, I revisited a ton of Karloff flicks and relished every minute of it. However, we’re now in the middle of the Countdown to Turkey Day and all that was great in October is in the past. All we have this month are scraps. There will be plenty of more Karloff classics in 2015 but first, let’s get something out of the way. November 23, 2014, would have been Karloff’s 127th birthday. So, in honor of the day, let’s take a look at The Island Monster (1954).
Karloff loved to work and he was willing to do almost anything as long as it either looked promising or had something unique to offer. But sometimes, all it took was the possibility for him and his wife to enjoy a vacation for him to take a film role. Such is the case with The Island Monster. In the early 1950s, Karloff was starring in such television series as Suspense and Tales of Tomorrow as well as accepting the occasional film role. His horror flick renaissance hadn’t yet happened, so the choices were not as plentiful as they once were. So, with the opportunity to visit Italy, Karloff jumped at the chance to star in what initially seemed liked a fun little Italian crime flick. It would turn out to be one of his worst on-set experiences.
The Island Monster was filmed on Ischia, a little island off the coast of Napoli. Karloff quickly became frustrated at being the only English-speaking actor on set. It left him isolated and confused, not that easy to accomplish considering the script about drug smugglers didn’t make any sense. And no, there is no monster in the movie. The title was an obvious attempt to capitalize on Karloff’s horror background. Oh, there is a child kidnapping but that’s about as close as we get to anything terrorizing. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. How boring and poorly filmed this flick is can be quite scary. When production wrapped, director Roberto Montero (63 films to his credit and no titles anyone will recognize) struggled with what to do with the film. Unfortunately, it would get worse.
The worst part about The Island Monster is the dubbing. Oh sure, you see Boris Karloff but you never get to hear him. What you hear in the dubbed version is an English-speaking actor doing his worst Karloff impression and I do mean bad. Why did they not take the time and effort to have Karloff read his lines? The end result is quite annoying and, for me, it was a key factor in my overall displeasure with this film. That said, did Karloff enjoy his vacation? Apparently not as the usually ever-pleasant Karloff was at almost constant odds with a very unpleasant hotel manager the entire stay. Suffice to say, a lousy experience for one and all.
The Island Monster is in the public domain and pops up from time-to-time on various box sets. There is a DVD release with Chamber of Fear (1968) but save yourself a few bucks and just watch it on YouTube for free. I’m not even sure I can recommend this one to anyone other than the most die-hard Karloff fans.
We have just enough time for one more slice of really bad turkey. Come back on Wednesday as we see the legendary Peter Cushing slumming around in the dreadful Tender Dracula (1974).