• Island Of The Fishmen

    Released by: Mya
    Released on: July 28, 2009.
    Director: Sergio Martino
    Cast: Zora Kerova, Werner Pochath, Silvia Dionisio, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Carlo De Mejo
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    Sergio Martino’s Island Of The Fishmen is set in 1891 and it begins on a lifeboat where an army doctor named Lieutenant Claude de Ross (Claudio Cassinelli) is stuck on board with a group of convicts whose transport ship just sank to the bottom of the ocean. Their lifeboat wrecks up on the shore of a small island somewhere in the tropical seas and the group figure they’ve got the place to themselves. After a bit of exploring, they come across some primitive huts and then meet an odd couple - Edmund Rackham (Richard Johnson) and his gorgeous female companion, Amanda Marvin (Barbara Bach).

    After a bit of wandering around the island and getting to know these people, Claude learns that Amanda's father, a professor named Ernest Marvin (Joseph Cotten), is really into genetic engineering and has experimented enough that he’s been able to create himself a small army of mutant fishmen. Professor Marvin insists his work is legitimate and is for the good of mankind, convinced that he's doing his research for humanitarian reasons, the sneaky Edmund Rackham has got his own plan going on, one which involves not only the population of the island, but the strange secret that lay beneath it.

    An Italian take on The Island Of Dr. Moreau with a healthy dose of The Creature From The Black Lagoon thrown in as far as the monster designs are concerned, The Island Of The Fishmen isn’t the most action packed monster movie you’ll ever see but it’s entertaining enough. Martino struggles with the pacing in spots and there are moments where the picture borders on tedious but when it shines, it shines and it shines the most whenever the actual fishmen are doing their thing. Thankfully they’re on screen enough that they, along with some excellent old fashioned miniature design work, save the picture and give it enough merit to make it worth checking out.

    The picture’s also got a really strong cast, with Richard Johnson standing out as the best of the bunch and the lovely Barbara Bach adding plenty of eye candy to the film, spending a fair bit of time in a wet, form fitting outfit that likely thrilled the legions of teenage boys who probably made up the bulk of this picture’s intended original audience.

    The Island Of The Fishmen was released in North America by Roger Corman under the alternate title of Screamers in a version that had a considerable amount of extra gore added to it (none of which is included in this considerably tamer original Italian cut of the film or in the extras on this DVD, unfortunately) along with a new intro featuring Cameron Mitchell and some different editing throughout the film. The film was released on VHS in this cut, but as of this writing the Screamers version has not surfaced on DVD.


    Mya presents Island Of The Fishmen in its original 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio that, according to the packaging, has been taken from the original 35mm negative. This would lead you to believe that the progressive scan transfer is going to look pretty spiffy, but that’s simply not the case here as there doesn’t appear to have been any restorative work done to the title at all. Colors are inconsistent, looking fairly nice in one scene and then flat and faded in the next. Minor print damage and visible scratches are present throughout and some debris can be spotted without too much of an effort. If this were the only issue, it wouldn’t be that big a deal but the disc is poorly authored on top of that and the picture will sometimes stammer and hiccup. On top of that, there’s some very problematic macro-blocking that’s noticeable whenever there’s water moving quickly on screen, which happens to be quite often. The image is definitely a step up from the VHS and grey market releases that have floated around over the years, but it certainly leaves room for improvement.

    Dolby Digital Mono tracks are provided in both English and Italian, though no subtitles are offered for the Italian track, which sounds cleaner and crisper than its English counterpart which has a bit of background hiss noticeable in some spots. Overall the track is serviceable enough, even if more could have been done with it. Dialogue is clear enough and you can follow the movie, it just all sounds rather flat and unimpressive.

    Extras are slim, as seems to be the norm with Mya’s releases, but beneath the static menu screens you’ll find the film’s original Italian theatrical trailer (unsubbed) and a decent still gallery of promotional artwork.

    The Final Word:

    Island Of The Fishmen may not be a classic but it’s got its following and it’s easy to see why. The film’s got a good cast, some great monster/creature effects and some great location shooting. Mya’s DVD is a disappointment, however, not just because the extras are so slim and that none of the alternate footage is included, but because the transfer is weak and it probably didn’t need to be.