(3 out of 5 stars)
"I saw Doomwatch at the old Queen Theatre in Toronto in August/September 1974. It was part of a triple bill with Garden of the Dead and Grave of the Vampire. Cinepix, the local distributor, had changed Doomwatch's title to Island of the Ghouls for the show (a title I've never seen Doomwatch referred to anywhere else). Cinepix already owned the rights to Garden and Grave. Since Doomwatch hadn't received any distribution in Ontario the distributor figured the title change made for a perfect triple bill for the back to school crowd. All three flicks were rated "Recommended as Adult Entertainment" (what the Ontario Film Review Board used to call PG). Therefore, as an excited thirteen year old, off I went! Doomwatch is the movie version of the eponymous British television show (1970-72) about a team of environmental scientists/investigators who monitor polluters. I've never seen the tv version. However, Doomwatch the movie, is fun, albeit slow. It concerns strange incidents on an isolated island off the UK coast. If anything, Doomwatch suffers from the lack of any real villain. It's tough to anthropomorphize pollution. Still, it's worth the low price. The print is complete and in excellent condition. Unfortunately, the DVD is full frame. However, in its defence, Doomwatch doesn't appear to have been shot with more than a 1.66:1 aspect ration in mind anyway. I didn't notice any obvious misframing. Overall, worth the money for fans of British science fiction and horror."
Moderately-paced but very intelligent drama
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 07/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"MOST URGENT.TO COMBAT WORLDWIDE POLLUTION PROBLEM
RECOMMEND FORMATION NEW GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT
TO BE CALLED...DOOMWATCH.That is the message rattled out on the teletype machine preceding the opening titles. The poignant scenes of dead oil-covered birds scattered on the beach and people rolling barrels down a cliff show a devastating effects of petroleum on a local habitat. A timely movie, considering how the United Nations Declaration on the Environment also came out in the 1970's, heralding ecological awareness that arose in Britain in that decade, and that filtered into Doomwatch, inspired by the TV series of the same name, and Dr. Who stories such as The Green Death. In fact, Doomwatch was written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, the co-creators of the Cybermen in Dr. Who.The story: a year previously, off the island of Balfe, an oil tanker spill caused ecological devastation to the sea and beach. Dr. Del Shaw is sent by Doomwatch to discover the effects of the detergent used to clean up Balfe and to send samples as well as examine the marine life. He gets more than he bargains for, as he discovers a body, and then digs around some more when headquarters report a massive increase in the phytoplankton and animal plankton concentration. His boss, Dr. Quist, asks him for fish samples, and we realize something's wrong when Del's shown a turbot the size of a very large dinner plate. Something else has clearly happened near Balfe, something even more catastrophic than the oil spill. Without giving too much of a hint, "old mother nature has been nobbled."As for the people of Balfe, they are a "strange closed lot" with an air of secrecy about them. It's the typical small village mentality, where outsiders aren't welcome-(q.v. Dr. Who-The Daemons, The Reptile).He is befriended by Victoria Brown, a schoolteacher and mainlander transplant who is just being accepted by the islanders. She is willing to help Dr. Shaw, but not at the cost of intruding into the lives of the islanders.Ian Bannen (Shaw) is all right, but his brusque manner isn't exactly typical for a scientist. Judy Geeson, best known as the schoolgirl with a crush on Sidney Poitier in To Sir With Love, lends credible support as Victoria. John Paul is Dr. Quist, a plummy Jon Pertwee-ish type. George Sanders (Sir Geoffrey) appears in one of his last roles--he committed suicide later that year. And Shelagh Fraser (Ms. Straker) is best known as Luke's Aunt Beru in Star Wars.Another bit of info. Balfe is clearly a fictional island, but in one scene, the admiral points near the southwestern peninsula of England, off Land's End to indicate where near the mainland Balfe is.An intelligent ecology drama that slowly builds up, especially in the second half, and one whose message is still relevant today. A Doomwatch member's wry comments on trying to get petroleum companies to remove lead additives from gas reminds me that back in my day, "regular gas" meant petrol that had lead in it. Another message is the implied responsibility high tech industrial companies have to nature and people but seem blissfully unaware of. Why else are movies like Erin Brockovich or A Civil Action still being made?"
BBC meets Hammer House of Horror?
Junglies | Morrisville, NC United States | 07/11/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Doomwatch was one of those BBC dramas aimed at the youth market fulfilling the BBC remit to entertain and educate. The television shows utilised the concerns of environmentalists of the nineteen sixties and seventies and forged an articulate and intelligent series of shows which became a sort of mini-cult and was made possible strangely enough by the success of Doctor Who and other SF dramas.The television shows were somewhat formulaic in their need to hook the viewer from week to week by standard dramatic devices but the plots were based on the latest scientific material and the evidence of some ecological problems so that they were somewhat reality based which added to their attractiveness. Added to this was the use of child actors portrayed as relatively normal teenagers with a sense of discovery rather than the Enid Blyton goody-two shoes types or the Swallows and Amazons of the world. Basically it was not really a talking down type of show.The success of the show heralded a foray into the world of the big screen with a tale of chemical pollution on an imaginary island off the Southern English coast thought to anyone familiar with Britain the scenes seemed to have been shot in Scotland. A minor quibble but...The story herein is more like a Hammer House of Horror meets Quatermass with strange genetic results happening a few years after some chemical waste is dumped in the sea. As an extension of the TV show it did not really work as the youthful aspect was absent and the heroes were a couple in their late twenties or early thirties, generously speaking.Therein lies the relative failure of this movie. Not a horror movie nor a teen movie but something else. It did not do too badly but there was never another one.Perhaps the BBC could see itself clear to bringing the show to DVD a format which has proved so successful here in the US. That is if they were not too environmentally sensitive by reusing the tapes as they did with other shows of the time.Still a worthwhile effort even if the scientific basis is now seen as somewhat questionable."