Hot Dog! Alpha Goes to Blood Island!
Movie Lover: Rob Craig
New Haven, CT US
-- April, 3, 2010
Kudos to Alpha New Cinema for licensing the Hemisphere “Blood Island” trilogy from Sam Sherman of Independent International Pictures and releasing them in affordable DVD editions. These notorious drive-in shockers are some of the most memorable horror films of the period, and they hold up well today. They are an important prototype of the subsequent "extreme cinema" genre. Anybody who saw these over-the-top melodramas on the big screen has fond memories of them, and if you’ve never seen them, frankly you haven’t lived.
Mad Doctor of Blood Island is the second in the trilogy, and possibly the best. Filmed in the Philippines by an expert crew including director Eddie Romero (an underrated filmmaker who is twice the talent of namesake George Romero).
The morbid jungle atmosphere is creepy and seedy and full of unspeakable menace, and with the many fantastically weird creatures and scenes, there is nary a dull moment. The cinematography
by Justo Paulino relies on obscure compositions filmed in deep shadow, and includes some refreshing tricks; for instance, whenever the green-blooded monster appears on-screen, the camera starts convulsing with bizarre, strobe-like zooming, a canny fourth-wall conceit which adds greatly to the film’s otherworldly quality.
Also, the Blood Island films, and Mad Doctor particularly, feature some of the best on-screen gore ever made, far better than that introduced a few years earlier by Herschell Gordon Lewis. The gore on Blood Island is atmospheric, highly theatrical, and still quite stunning, even today. There’s a scene of the monster ripping off a victim’s head, shown in long shot, that is remarkably disturbing, as it has an almost verite, documentary feel to it.
And last but not least, the morbid and hyperbolic atmosphere of the films are greatly enhanced by the absolutely amazing, virtually avant-garde music scores by Tito Arevalo, comprised of reckless and scruffy orchestral cues that sound like they were performed by a maniacal brass band from Hell.
Alpha must have managed to finagle the original negatives to these classics, because the prints are superb, light years better than the grainy, dark prints that were floating around for years on home video.
And what can you say about the extras? Revealing commentary by director Romero and distributor Sherman, a whole reel of amazing Independent International trailers (probably the best exploitation trailers ever made, by the way). They even stuck the original “Oath of Green Blood” promo at the beginning of the film, as it was actually shown in the drive-in in ’69.
Cult film memories don’t get much better than this, folks.