Unknown Island (1948)

This minor little prehistoric monster flick used to be shown on local TV quite often back in sixties when I was a kid. It was the first monster flick I saw in colour on TV. I enjoyed it back then when I was a kid and I’ve have seen it on video a couple of time recently. (Several badly transfered copies with faded colour have been around for years, but my favorite video store recently got in a newly restored version with excellent quality colour.) I have to admit I still enjoy watching this lively, island full of prehistoric monsters flick.

The monsters, with exception of a pair of what looks stop motion brontasaurus shown briefly, are men in suits, ala Godzilla. I didn’t think that they looked all that bad when I was a kid, but seeing them today they look awfully stiff. The creature often called an ape monster, is supposed to be according to the press kit from this film, a giant sloth. Whatever it was supposed to be, I thought it was pretty creepy when I saw this film as a kid. One major complaint I have about the use of men in suits as they are used here, is that unlike stop motion dinosaurs or photographically enlarged lizards, it could be very easy using this method, even in a film of this budget level, to have dinosaurs interact with the actors. The cast never seems directly menaced by the dinosaurs. In fact, with exception of the giant sloth, most of the time they never get near them! In fact I have always felt that the only advantage to using this method (along with full scale models ala THEM!)is that allows easy interaction with the actors with out any expensive split screens, traveling matte etc. that would jack a films budget up.

UNKNOWN ISLAND has a decent cast, including Barton MacLane, who is quite entertaining as the lecherous sea captain. Director Jack Bernhard keeps things moving. The film also avoids one of the most often over used plot contrivances that often turn up in these “lost world” type films; the island doesn’t suddenly blow up and then sink beneath the waves.

Overall, I still find UNKNOWN ISLAND an entertaining, enjoyable monster romp. Perhaps because the film has “quaintness” about it that I still find appealing today, despite the derision voiced in this forum by cheap cynics. Despite its faults, I’ll take this over most of todays over produced CGI special effects films any day.