Mill Creek Drive-in Classics: This Island Monster (1954)

Well, for me, this tale of an Italian undercover treasury agent infiltrating an island-based drug smuggling ring that results in the kidnapping of his young daughter isn’t a drive-in classic: it’s a scratchy n’ snowy, UHF-TV classic (well, bore). Those UHF days were the days when a young kid was enamored with all things Boris Karloff. What did my snot-nosed little brat of yore know about Karloff being way past his prime at this point in his career?

Well, with a title like that, well, at least I can warn you this is not a horror film. Leave your memories of The Body Snatcher (1945) and Isle of the Dead (1945) at the porta. Oh, and Boris is barely in it: he shows up in the beginning, vanishes in the second act, then returns to finish off the flick. Plot spoiler: he’s the head clubbing and gun shooting mastermind behind the kidnapping to stop the investigation. His cover story is that he’s a kindly gent who runs a child’s hospice . . . and runs bootleg milk.

Ugh. This flick is cheap and clunky and that smokey ballroom scene looks like they were going for Casablanca — only Karloff is no Bogart — and the production is so cheap the American distributor didn’t make the effort to hire the ex-Frankenstein actor back to dub his own voice in this Italian thriller — a thriller with no action and too much talk (and the high-pitched dub on the kidnapped kid is beyond annoying; somebody gag her, already). Sure, everything you’d expect in a pre-Giallo Italian noir is here: We’ve got a government agent and drug smugglers, cops-in-the-pocket of a criminal mastermind (Karloff), a femme fatale, double-crosses, herrings of red, and chinzy car chases. But again: all done with a lack of action and too much chitty chat.

Director Roberto Bianchi Montero bounced around from genre to genre in the Italian film industry: spaghetti westerns, with Seven Pistols for a Gringo and The Last Tomahawk, to peblum, like Tharus Son of Attila, war movies, like 36 Hours to Hell (with Richard Harrison), Eye of the Spider (with Klaus Kinski), exploitative erotica, like Mondo Balordo (1964), and horror, like So Sweet, So Dead (1972).

Screenwriter Carlo Lombardo sounds like a familiar name with a long resume in many genres (you’re thinking of actor Carlo Lombardi, by the way), but he’s not: amid Lombardo’s work in operas — he’s regarded in Italy as the father of the late 19th and early 20th Century revival in operas — he wrote two more, Italian-only TV movies.

We never reviewed Frankenstein (1931) proper, but rest assure: we reviewed ALL of the knock-off flotsam amid our pages. You need more Giallo? Check out our “Exploring: Italian Giallo” featurette. “Film noir,” you ask? There’s our “Drive-In Friday: Black & White Nite” to ponder, along with our reviews of Rope, Spellbound, and Dead of Night (all 1945) to get you started.

You can watch a nice rip of This Island Monster on Tubi.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and Medium.

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