Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 07/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Island Monster is a cheap film Karloff made in Italy, likely just for the free vacation. A narcotics officer has been assigned to get friendly with a female who works at a night club on a touristy island because she might have ties to a drug smuggling operation. Maybe it was the fact that he publically announced to his wife and daughter as they were sending him off on a boat loaded with people that they should only refer to him by his false identity while he is working undercover, or maybe it's because he spends most of his time on the island hanging around with local police or with his wife and kid (who follow him to the island because she is jealous) but SOMEHOW his cover gets blown immediately. Anyways, the detective has spent no more than 10 minutes with his target over a 2 or 3 day period when his mission is derailed because the head of the drug operation (who, unsurprisingly, turns out to be Karloff) kidnaps his daughter.
One interesting subplot has the family's pet dog somehow sneaking his way to where the girl is being held captive while carefully and deliberately avoiding detection. But once it finds the girl, this canine super spy immediately reverts to just keeping the girl company, thus preventing it from becoming Italy's answer to Rin Tin Tin. So it is up to the world's worst detective to come to the rescue. Island Monster is a slighly fun unintentional comedy, but is little more than a time waster.
The Chamber of Fear is Karloff's last film (he died during filming). Written by Jack Hill (a favourite of Tarantino, and a student of Roger Corman), Hill shot all the scenes with Karloff (maybe 20 minutes total) in California, while the rest was shot in Mexico by someone else. Kindly old Karloff discovers a living rock and with the help of his daughter (a total fascist) and some psychotic loonies, keeps the rock alive while trying to get it to teach them geology. Problem is that keeping it alive consists of finding wayward young women, shooting them up with psychedelics, scaring the crap out of them, then draining some of their blood to feed to the rock. Karloff is the only one who cares about keeping the women alive. Meanwhile some of the psychos he has hired are manipulated by the rock into sacrificing women to it in exchange for power and knowledge. Will the bedridden Karloff catch on and save the earth in time? Kind of like an H.G. Lewis film without all the gore. Interesting note: it would appear that Cameron copied the "King of the world!" scene in Titanic (complete with the arms-outstretched pose) from this film (only here it's a bald psycho in an underground cavern vs. Leonardo on a boat).
For this insanely fun second feature alone I would give the disc 5 stars, except it looks like it was transfered from a videotape. I know Retromedia always does the best it can with available material, but the video quality is still distracting.