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Friday, November 9, 2018

TERROR IS A MAN -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

Being as it's the prelude film to what is known as the "Blood Island Trilogy", I watched TERROR IS A MAN (Severin Films, 1959) expecting something cheap and lurid--in a "so bad, it's good" sort of way--and was delighted to find that it's a terrific film, well-made, with a fine cast, and all the flavor of the best horror/sci-fi thrillers of the 50s.

It's a modest production, to be sure, but its budget is well-used and the sets and locations--a reclusive scientist's island home and laboratory, and the surrounding jungle--more than adequate.

Expertly and stylishly directed by Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero, the film is photographed in crisp, atmospheric black-and-white (this 4k restoration from a recently-discoverd fine grain print looks great in Blu-ray) that's noirish and often gorgeous to look at. It also boasts a robust musical score.

Sort of a cross between "The Island of Dr. Moreau", "The Most Dangerous Game", and "The Creature Walks Among Us", the story begins when a lifeboat containing one William Fitzgerald (Richard Derr) washes ashore on a secluded island in the Philippines, where Dr. Charles Gerard (Frances Lederer) lives with his wife Frances (Greta Thyssen), sadistic animal wrangler Walter (Oscar Peesee), and a native boy and girl who are their servants.

It doesn't take long for Fitzgerald to discover that Gerard is involved in some pretty unethical experiments in evolution--namely, attempting to surgically transform a panther into a human being.  Fortunately for us, this has resulted in a horrific but very cool monster that tends to escape pretty often and go on murderous rampages which have already driven the island's terrified native population to flee in boats.

Naturally, Gerard's wife Frances is a beautiful woman who hates her husband's work and is strongly attracted to the handsome stranger, an attraction that he reciprocates in record time.  Before long, they plan to escape the increasingly-unbalanced Gerard and leave the island together, but before this can happen the panther-man breaks loose again and his current rampage will result in catastrophic death and destruction for several of those involved.

For those who love vintage 50s horror films, this one should fit the bill quite nicely--at times it even has shades of the old Universals in a slightly low-rent sort of way, with a tragic, tortured (but adequately frightening) monster who evokes sympathy even as it strikes out in bloody violence against those who have caused it pain.

The cast is fine, starting with Frances Lederer who was so effective in the title role of THE RETURN OF DRACULA and the gorgeous Greta Thyssen, best known as the leading lady in the Three Stooges' final Columbia shorts such as "Sappy Bullfighters."  Richard Derr, a veteran of such films as FIREFOX and AMERICAN GIGOLO and a two-time Admiral on "Star Trek" ("The Alternative Factor", "The Mark of Gideon") gives a solid performance as well.

Giving it a touch of the old William Castle bally-hoo is the announcement in the film's foreword of a warning bell intended to give the squeamish time to close their eyes when something ghastly is about to happen. It's only used once, and the scene isn't all that ghastly, but it's the sort of touch that makes movies like this just a bit more fun.

Severin Films' Blu-ray comes with the usual array of fun bonus material, including:

Man Becomes Creature: Interview with Hemisphere Marketing Consultant Samuel M. Sherman
Dawn of Blood Island: Interview with Co-Director Eddie Romero
Terror Creature: Interview with Pete Tombs, Co-Author of “Immoral Tales”
When the Bell Rings: Interview with Critic Mark Holcomb
Poster & Still Gallery
Reversible BLOOD CREATURE Cover

(NOTE: Something I didn't notice the first time I watched the Severin Blu-ray disc is an annoying buzzing noise that begins somewhere near the middle of the film and lasts for several minutes. Others have reported hearing this on their copies as well. I checked an earlier posting of the film on YouTube and this noise was not there.)

As the film that kicked off the "Blood Island Trilogy" of American/Filipino horror productions  (the rest of which we'll be covering in the coming days), TERROR IS A MAN is an old-school monster lover's delight that's just pure fun to watch.

Buy "Terror Is A Man" on Blu-ray From Severin Films

Buy the Entire "Blood Island" Collection at Severin Films


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