An atmospheric ripoff of Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau"
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 01/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Blood Creature" is the reissue title for this film, originally released as "Terror Is A Man" but also known as "Creature from Blood Island" and "The Gory Creatures." The script by Harry Paul Harber is obviously inspired by the uncredited H.G. Wells novel "The Island of Dr. Moreau," which is enough to tell you that this 1959 film is about a mad scientist turning animals into people. But except for a tacky little horror film gimmick, this is an above average B-movie of the horror genre.
What we have is a shipwrecked American sailor, William Fitzgerald (Richard Derr), whose lifeboat ends up on Isla de Sangre, where he is rescued by Dr. Charles Girard (Francis Lederer) and his assistant, Walter Perrera (Oscar Keesee Jr), who are on a hunting expedition for an escaped lab animal. The young sailor is attracted to the doctor's wife, Frances (Greta Thyssen, a Danish beauty queen), who wants to leave the island and her husband as soon as possible. He was a successful New York City surgeon and she was his nurse, and now he has dragged her to this island to conduct his research in private. But before their illicit romance can go too far or they can make their escape (the supply boat is not due for two months), Fitzgerald discovers what Girard is up to in his laboratory and the fun begins.
The biggest difference between "Blood Creature" and other versions of the Wells story, from 1932's "The Island of Lost Souls" to the 1977 and 1996 film adaptations of "The Island of Dr. Moreau," is that we are only talking about one panther being surgically transformed into a human-looking animal. However, the single creature does enough killing to make almost all of the natives flee the island early on. Filmed in the Philippines by director Gerardo de Leon, "Blood Creature" does have some atmospheric moments and the make-up for the creature is pretty good given the budget. Actually, the romance between Fitzgerald and Frances is handled pretty well. The scene where she invites him into her bedroom is effectively done without dialogue, and the ambiguity of her feelings towards her husband makes this more than the stereotypical love triangle in a horror movie. There is actually character development in this film.
Along those same lines Girard is not really played as a mad scientist, which also works in favor of this film because his reasonableness adds to the element of horror. After all, the whole point of the story is that no one should try and play God, which harkens back to the Universal film version of "Frankenstein" (if you go back to Mary Shelley's original novel the doctor's great sin is not bringing his creation to life but rather abandoning it, but the movie version has cemented the idea in the popular consciousness that the sin is trying to be like God, which harkens all the way back past the Towel of Babel to the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden). So we know intellectually that Girard is wrong, but he seems more reasonable than the rest of his mad kin and the credit goes to Lederer for playing him with such dignity and gravity.
The bottom line is that for a B-movie the performances are actually pretty good, the characters are rather well developed, and the production is suitably atmospheric. There are even a couple of pretty effective camera set-ups by Leon that heighten the production values and even the musical score is above average for the genre. For a low-budget film "Blood Creature" has a lot going for it, so the obvious question is why have you probably never heard of this film under any of its various titles?
The answer is "The Terror Bell." For reasons that passeth understanding, having created a pretty good low-budget horror film, the makers of "Blood Creature" decided to go the William Castle route and have this tacky little chime that warns the weak of heart something bad is about to happen and they should avert their eyes. So we get this "Warning" from "The Management" at the start of the film to close your eyes when you hear the bell and reopen them when it sounds again (What is so bad? A surgical incision without any blood). I can see why others would dock this film at least another star before of the stupid bell, but Lederer's performance is too good for me to that do that in this case, as tempting as it might be when you realize "The Terror Bell" sounds like an old-fashioned telephone."
CURIO FOR FILM BUFFS
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 09/06/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I stayed up late one night when I was about 10 yrs old and watched this movie in the dark. It was called "BLOOD CREATURE" then and my parents were VERY concerned about my appetite for horror films and had forbade me to watch it. HA! It scared the bejeezus out of me and I spent the rest of the night looking out the window to be sure nothing was "out there"...Of course, today I see that it's a low budget oddity and nothing like what upset me so bad all those years ago. But what I appreciate about it is just that--it's an odd little movie that really is kind of weird in it's own way. Vivisection, mad doctor, voluptuous heroine, disoriented hero, and a monster running around an island jungle scaring off the natives. All this on a low budget and not done very badly either. What's not to like? The black & white photography and the island atmosphere give it a strange,goofy Saturday-afternoon-at-the-movies-when-I-was-a-kid feel that compensates for the so-so acting (or lack of in some cases). And the monster is bizarre---if rather cut-rate---a panther/man in bandages and great torment. All in all, considering what's out there on DVD now---thanks to Image, this is a small treat that's worth keeping for repeated viewings on sleepless nights."
First and Best of the Blood Island Movies
Freeman Williams | Houston, TX USA | 07/21/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A shipwrecked sailor washes ashore on Blood Island and is nursed back to health by the local mad doctor (Francis Lederer) and his neglected blonde bombshell of a wife. Our mad doctor has spent two years surgically transforming a black panther into the semblance of a man, complete with some sort of drug regimen to enlarge the creature's brain. Smart as it now is, the beastie keeps escaping and killing the locals, who get fed up and evacuate the island, leaving the foreigners to their fate. This is pretty much a by-the-numbers imitation of the Universal horror films, with obvious inspiration from Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau. It's Lederer's performance as an unnervingly calm, ultra-rational scientist that keeps the movie from becoming a cliche - the insanity is in his work, not in his demeanor. which just seems to make it more chilling."
Image Transfer Info
Diego Baz | California | 07/08/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"From Mark Zimmer @ Digitally Obsessed: "The original aspect ratio appears to be 1.33:1, and there's no evidence of cropping that I saw. Black levels are somewhat weak and shadow detail is only mediocre. There is some speckling but it only becomes significantly distracting near the reel changes. On the other hand, there is some fairly good detail and texture present, and the greyscale is acceptable. A nasty tear and shake in the soundtrack is present at 21m:05s and there's a less severe rip near the end at 01h:27m:21s; since these appeared on Image's now-out-of-print disc issued in 1999, this appears to be derived from the same source print, if it's not the same video transfer. The bit rate's not bad, hovering around 5 Mbps, so this is probably as good as this is likely to look short of a different print or a major restoration effort.""