There’s a sci-fi horror sub-genre involving dramas played
out largely from the perspective of a village pub. The Doctor Who story, The Daemons
, featured a possessed
village and lots of pub action as did the cult kids’ serial Children of the Stones
and no end of
sixties films… after all, when the chips are down and your rural paradise is
under threat of alien invasion, where better to be than the pub!?
This film was based on a book of the same name by John
Lymington which had a number of screenwriters including Pip and Jane Baker who
also wrote for The Doctor and for Jon Pertwee you can not only read the booming
presence of Patrick Allen but also Peter Cushing who had just played the Doctor
in two films.
|Peter Cushing and Sarah Lawson|
Director Terence Fisher makes the most of a limited
budget with some superb atmospherics – not just in the pub – but also a pace
that builds suspense slowly but inexorably until the inevitable disappointment
of the monsters is revealed and the story winds up with almost indecent haste.
The cast do pretty well with an uneven script and lines such as “you little
(repeated twice) and “she was nothing more than a common slut, a slut I
tell you… it meant nothing!"
(or something like that).
The pleasure is in these familiar faces and their
beer-swilling journey into mystery…
|Angela arrives past the secret base...|
|...and in a very flash car!|
There’s an interesting beginning as a young woman Angela
Roberts (the lovely Jane Merrow – one of the faces of the Sixties!) drives her
white sports car past a radio research station on the Isle of Fara. As she
sweeps down country lanes, throwing her luscious hair back to the wind, we find
Christopher Lee – the mysterious Doctor Godfrey Hanson – setting up cameras and
mirrors. The camera cuts from he to she and you wonder if they will collide but
no, Fisher cleverly has them intersecting down a lane, he just missing her
speedster all after the real impact of the moment has been seen in the death of
a tramp – killed by forces unknown near the Doctor’s camera set up.
|Christopher Lee senses unnatural forces at work|
Angela’s sports car breaks down, having over-heated and
she gets a helping hand from Tinker Mason (Kenneth Cope) who explains about the
extraordinary heatwave round these parts. Angela finally arrives at The Swan
pub, where she is to be a secretary to a writer, Jeff Callum (Allen) who owns
the premises with his wife, Frankie (Sarah Lawson). Walking past the predatory
gaze of Tinker and his pal Bob Hayward (Thomas Heathcote) she enters the bar to
find Frankie serving the local GP, Dr. Vernon Stone (Peter Cushing).
|The locals are impressed with...|
|Jane Merrow and her lovely face|
There’s something about the young woman’s attitude and,
yes, the way she cradles one of Jeff’s hardbacks, that suggests she is more
than a newcomer and, sure enough, as Jeff goes to collect her at the beach his
face drops as he realises who has arrived.
Legs akimbo in a flowery bikini, Angela reels in her former
lover… he won’t be escaping her that easily.
|Dressed to impress|
|Jeff panics at the sight of Angela's bikini...|
So, as Jeff wrestles with the old lust vs love quandary, strange
sounds and mysterious events starts piling up: sci-fi horror, like life, is
something that happens whilst you’re busy making plans.
The heat is intolerably high leaving the island’s
inhabitants in a fog of slow-motion lizard logic as Ben Siddle’s sheep get
fried and Bob perishes near a gravel quarry another frozen in terror as an
unseen entity seems to burn the life from him.
As the heat rises in the love triangle between the
published, publican, his wife and secretary, Jeff finds the time to find out
what the secretive professor is doing and it’s not good news…
|The professor reveals all|
All the camera tech has been used in an attempt to
identify an alien race who have made their way to Earth following the emanations
from the islands radio transmitters. They feed on heat and have raised the
temperature on the island as they push on to absorb more heat from animals,
human and research station alike.
The evidence soon mounts to support the Professor’s ideas
as one by one the locals get fried.
As Jeff and Frankie’s marriage heads for the rocks as
Angela tells all, the reality of the invasion overtakes their concerns as the
struggle just to survive takes over…
|Preparing for the worst in the pub|
Sometimes the dialogue creaks and
sometimes the effects are less than special but this is an enjoyable film that
Jane Merrow is one of my favourite actresses of the
period and she does well even when her every appearance is accompanied by
romantic easy listening strings from Malcolm Lockyer’s score.
The two Hammer legends are, of course, class acts and
both don’t really have enough to do: Peter Cushing hanging around the bar as if
he’s doing a favour for a friend whilst Christopher Lee just has to look
earnest and mysterious (not a problem!).
|Patrick and his jaw of resolution|
Kenneth Cope’s character is overcome by the heat and lust
for Jane M and tries to assault her whilst she may eventually find solace in
the firm grip of the research station’s manager, Ken Stanley (William Lucas).
Patrick Allen is dynamic as always and makes for a believable flawed hero, in
spite of his un-pc description of his lover…
|Jane Merrow |
The film – also known in United States as Island of the
– is available on DVD and is well worth checking out if you’re
seeking undemanding period sci-fi, a pretty girl in a fast car and the welcoming
atmosphere of a country pub under threat of alien disintegration!
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