• The Blood Island Collection (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: October 23rd, 2018.
    Director: Gerardo de Leon, Eddie Romero
    Cast: Richard Derr, Francis Lederer, Greta Thyssen, Kent Taylor, Beverly Hills, John Ashley, Angelique Pettyjohn, Celeste Yarnall
    Year: 1959/1968/1968/1970
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    The Blood Island Collection – Movie Review:

    Severin Films offers up a quartet of Filipino horror trash film classics on Blu-ray for the first time anywhere!

    Terror Is A Man:

    The first film in the set, co-directed by Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero and released in 1959, Terror Is A man tells the story of one William Fitzgerald (Richard Derr), an unfortunately soul who winds up shipwrecked on a remote island somewhere in the South Pacific. While at first the island appears to have been abandoned, he soon learns that it is in fact inhabited by doctor named Charles Girard (Francis Lederer) and his lovely wife Frances (Greta Thyssen).

    Girard is unusually hospital to the island’s newest inhabitant, explaining to him that those who once called this island home left only because of their irrational fear of the scientific work he was conducting. Now he and Greta, along with his assistant, their servant Selene (Lilia Duran) and her son basically have the place to themselves. What was it that Girard was up to that led to the locals taking off? Well, like another Doctor who lived on a remote island, his work involved trying to create beings that are half animal, half man – he’s even started his work, resulting in a ‘panther man’ (a guy with bandages, whiskers and pointy cat ears) that roams the area causing trouble…

    Yeah, this one ‘borrows’ just a little bit from H.G. Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau but that doesn’t dampen the entertainment value that this picture offers. The effects used to create the panther man are memorably goofy, he kind of looks like ‘The Fiend’ in Science Crazed, but somehow it manages to work. There’s some nice, shadowy atmosphere that helps us look past the fact that the picture was obviously made fast and cheap. The cinematography in the film is definitely better than you might expect. The score works quite well, and the movie is pretty quick in its pacing once we get past the slower first reel of the film.

    The cast are also fun to watch. Richard Derr, an actor who kept busy with a lot of TV work but who also had decent roles in When Worlds Collide and Firefox, makes for a good leading man. He’s pretty macho, tough and noble and out to do the right thing. Francis Lederer, from The Return Of Dracula, is a kick as the film’s mad doctor and gorgeous Greta Thyssen, of Journey To The Seventh Planet, quite striking as his bride. Lilia Duran is also fun to look at.

    Sure, you’ll have no trouble figuring out where it’s all going but this is good stuff. You’ve got to love any movie that opens with a text warning from ‘The Management’ that states “"We suggest the squeamish and faint-hearted close their eyes at the sound of the bell and reopen them when the bell rings again.” This one doesn’t get talked about as much as the others in the set, but make sure you take the time to check it out, it’s quite effective.

    Brides Of Blood:

    The first installment of the formal ‘Blood Island' trilogy was this shocker from 1968, that was, like its predecessor, unleashed upon an unsuspecting North American audience by Hemisphere Pictures. Directed by the great Eddie Romero and shot entirely on location fast and cheap in the Philippines, it's a great mix of sex, gore and exotic locations with a memorable monster and some great set pieces.

    The film follows Dr. Paul Henderson (Kent Taylor) and his gorgeous if philander of a wife, Carla (Beverly Powers) who, along with a Peace Corps volunteer named Jim Farrell (John Ashley) arrive by boat on Blood Island. After mingling with the natives, they soon discover that this remote island is not quite all that it seems. Something has gotten into Mother Nature and the jungles seem alive with plants that sport branches and roots that grab people and hold them in place. If that weren't bad enough, there are mutant insects and giant crabs and worst of all a monstrous slimy green beast that ever so primitive natives refer to as The Evil One.

    Eventually, after some snooping around, Jim learns that the natives of the island worship this monster as a god and in order to keep it satiated provide it with female sacrifices! Understandably appalled and upset by this practice, Jim tries to gather up enough likeminded individuals to prevent the next sacrifice before it's too late!

    Retitled and rereleased multiple times to cash in on the film's drive-in success, Brides Of Blood is a pretty enjoyable monster movie. The Filipino locations do a lot to give this film an exotic and more expensive looking backdrop than a lot of the competition and Eddie Romero does a great job of milking that for all its worth. The jungle is just as important a character as any of the human actors in the film, and it's frequently intimidating and almost always ominous - especially when our characters are running through it in the pitch-black night.

    The highlights of the film are definitely the sacrifice scenes, in which gorgeous young native girls are bound by their hands and wrists to bamboo crosses to await a meeting with the goopy green monster. The beast is about as ridiculous looking as they come, and by modern standards is far more cartoonish and childish looking to be the least bit frightening, but while he may not send shivers down your spine, he's at least pretty cool to look at. Remember the old Skywald Publishing comic book The Heap? He kind of looks like that. A poor man's Swamp Thing who looks like he's started to melt.

    The film would be followed by two better sequels - Mad Doctor Of Blood Island and The Beast Of Blood - both of which would up the sex and gore quotients by a noticeable degree but this original film remains a fun watch. Its low budget shines through but it's got a great cast, some perfect locations, no shortage of beautiful women and a monster that you won' t soon forget.

    The Mad Doctor Of Blood Island:

    Up next, The Mad Doctor Of Blood Island, released the same year as Brides Of Blood and again distributed by Hemisphere. Before we get to the story, however, there’s the little matter of the ‘The Oath Of Green Blood’ prologue that must be addressed. Here, in the film’s opening minutes, we see a group of horny teenagers take the titular oath by swallowing little vials of green liquid. Why? Well, when the film played theaters, packets of similarly green liquid were handed out to patrons who were encouraged to drink them during the appropriate part of the film. It was a gimmick in the fine tradition of hucksters like William Castle, and it’s a pretty neat way to start the movie. Keep some green liquid of your choosing on hand when you watch this to play along.

    At any rate, the plot revolves around a heroic American doctor named Bill Foster (John Ashley again) who has accompanied the beautiful Sheila (Angelique Pettyjohn) to the island in hopes of finding out what happened to her missing father. Shortly after their arrival, they learn that Dr. Lorca (Ronald Remy) seems to be mixed up in some strange experiments. In fact, a local named Carlos Lopez (Ronaldo Valdez) seems fairly certain that Lorca had something to do with the recent death of his father. Could all of this possibly have something to do with the strange creature running about that oozes weird green blood? Yes, yes it could.

    This one is a blast from start to finish. The monster is awesome, the cast are all in fine form and the movie is very quickly paced. Director Eddie Romero doesn’t shy away from the sex and violence in the story, definitely playing to a more adult crowd than what had come before it. On top of that, the movie employs some crazy zooms anytime the action picks up, somehow making it reminiscent of Jess Franco movies and Wayne’s World skits from Saturday Night Live at the same time. Ashley is once again in fine form and Angelique Pettyjohn is consistently… impressive. The effects are memorable and plentiful and there’s no shortage of grue throughout the picture (including some regrettably real animal violence that will definitely put off more sensitive viewers).

    Beast Of Blood:

    The final film in the set, 1970’s Beast Of Blood, is a pretty fantastic amalgamation of sex, blood, monsters and make up all set against a sweaty Filipino backdrop that makes for an effectively exotic location. Picking up where The Mad Doctor Of Blood Island left off, the film once again stars John Ashely as Dr. Bill Foster, the only known survivor of the rampage that the chlorophyll monster went on in the fantastic opening sequence set on the deck of a boat out to sea. Faced with the harsh reality of what's happening around him, Foster decides that it's up to him to save the inhabitants of the small island he's taken such a liking to from the horrors of the monster and the insane Dr. Lorca (Eddie Garcia), who has captured the beast and removed its head from its body. You'd think that would kill the thing, but nope, Lorca, through the wonders of science (fiction) manages to keep enough oxygen and fluid going to the brain that the head is alive and well, if unable to go on more bloodthirsty rampages.

    Lorca, being a bit of a loon, decides that it's a good idea to taunt the monster's head until it decides that no matter how, it will get revenge against him. All of this is going on while Foster, with some help from the foxy Myra Russell (Celeste Yarnall), is rounding up some men to square off against Lorca and stop his insanity from ruining everything they've worked towards, but they didn't count on a headless body wreaking havoc...

    If you enjoyed earlier Filipino ‘blood' movies from Eddie Romero, then Beast Of Blood will be right up your alley. It's gorier and crazier than both Brides Of Blood and The Mad Doctor Of Blood Island and Romero really cuts loose with the monster effects work both in the killer opening slaughter and all throughout the last half hour of the film. Now this doesn't mean that the picture is good in a traditional sense - the bad ADR work is still there, the cinematography is still primitive and effects are as hokey as they are plentiful - but it provides all manner of welcome jungle mayhem and pretty damsels in distress and loads of gratuitous sex and violence that don't serve to further the plot at all. Good stuff!

    If you see the film on its own without checking out Mad Doctor Of Blood Island first, it can be a tiny bit confusing at first, but once the plot picks up you'll have no problem figuring out what's going on or why - this isn't a particularly deep or complex picture. The movie goes at a good pace and Ashley proves his typically reliable self as he sweeps a few ladies off their feet and shows the bad guys what a real man is made of. Mad Doctor benefits from better make up (maybe it was made at a more relaxed pace) and it's got more atmosphere and more scares than Beast can claim, but in terms of bizarre plot twists and headless monster action, you really can't go wrong here.

    Note that while the other films in this collection are getting single disc releases, Beast Of Blood is exclusive to this limited edition boxed set release.

    The Blood Island Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    The four films in the set are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.33.1 fullframe, appearing to be open matte presentations. Terror Is A Man is taken from a new 4K scan of a fine-grain print that was taken from the UCLA Film Archive and it looks quite striking. The only black and white picture in the set has nice contrast, strong black levels, clean whites and a good greyscale throughout. Brides Of Blood is taken from a 4K scan of a 35mm interpositive and generally speaking, it looks fantastic. Colors are really nicely reproduced here, we get strong black levels, nice skin tones and realistic looking skin tones. The image is free of compression, DNR issues and edge enhancement, it looks quite filmic. Mad Doctor Of Blood Island looks even better, scanned in 4k from the original 35mm negative, this is a pretty massive upgrade over past editions, especially in the film’s darker scenes which are now much clearer than they have been in the past. Again, this is a film like transfer devoid of any digital tomfoolery, it looks great. Beast Of Blood, unfortunately, looks weaker than the other three movies but it too is quite a bit improved over the past DVD editions. It’s softer looking with some noticeable color fading, you can see the difference noticeable in the screen caps below, but at least the image is stable and there’s certainly improved depth and detail here when compared to standard definition offerings.

    Each of the four films in the set gets the DTS-HD Mono treatment, in English, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio here does show the low budget roots of these pictures but for the most part it all sounds fine (save for some background noise on the first feature in spots). You might pick up on some occasional hiss and a few level jumps here and there but overall the dialogue is clean, the levels properly balanced and the tracks stable and perfectly audible.

    The special features in the set are ‘film specific’ and as such, presented on the appropriate disc in the set. Terror Is A man starts off with a six-minute piece called Man Becomes Creature where Hemisphere’s own Samuel M. Sherman talks about his work on the picture. Originally seen in the Machete Maidens documentary, this footage is interesting and how he made the transition from working at Famous Monsters Of Film Land to Hemisphere Pictures. Fun stuff. Dawn Of Blood Island spends five-minutes with co-director Eddie Romero who talks about collaborating with co-director de Leon, while in the two-minute Terror Creature we get an all too brief interview with Pete Tombs, co-author of Immoral Tales and the man behind the Mondo Macabro label. He talks about the film’s significance in terms of the impact that horror films from outside the United States and Europe would have. Lastly, When The Bell Rings interviews critic Mark Holcomb for two-minutes about the film’s take on the Moreau story and what makes it work as well as it admittedly does.

    Special Features for Brides Of Blood start with the commentary track carried over from the Image Entertainment DVD Samuel M. Sherman, the film's producer. It plays over the first half of the film (it stops about fifty-minutes in). As usual, Sherman's memory is pretty sharp as he tells us about what it was like working with John Ashley on the film, dealing with the Filipino side of the production, and what had to be done to the picture in order to get it in a suitable form for television broadcast. His commentary ends at an appropriate time and he finishes it by noting that he'll pick up the story when he talks about the sequels (and there are commentaries provided for those films as well).

    The seventeen-minute archival piece Jungle Fury is an interview with Romero that covers working with de Leon again, how and why he wound up doing a stint in England, writing the film and then taking the director’s chair for himself with this film. A second archival interview, Here Comes The Bride, gets Sherman in front of the camera for twenty-two minutes. He talks about Romero’s direction and how solid it was, his thoughts on the quality of the film, it’s success and, of course, the marketing that was involved in making it the success that it was.

    Severin has also included a seven-minute archival video interview with Beverly Powers (credited as Beverly Hills in the film), the beautiful buxom blonde bombshell female lead from the film. This twenty-minute interview is a good one, as Ms. Powers is plenty keen on discussing how she was chosen to work on the film, what it was like on set, and her relationships with her co-stars. She notes how she came on board this picture after working on an Elvis film, mentions the intricacies of Filipino cuisine, and how she feels about her performance in the film.

    The Brides Of Blood disc also contains the neat Brides Of Blood Island title sequence and the Jungle Fury title card alternate footage, preserved here for posterity’s sake!

    Special Features for Mad Doctor of Blood Island include a new audio commentary with Horror Film Historians Nathaniel Thompson and Howard S. Berger. It’s an enjoyable track and it’s clear that the guys are having a lot of fun going through the picture. They talk about the history of the series, Romero’s directing, the cast’s performances, the gore scenes, the marketing of the film and quite a bit more. Also on hand is the archival track featuring Sherman wherein he once again offers his memories on the making of the film, the marketing behind it and his thoughts on the picture and those who got it made in the first place.

    Pete Tombs pops up again for the nine-minute Tombs Of The Living Dead featurette which lends some focus to Romero’s history in the industry, how he started as a lower man on the totem pole and, through hard work and talent, worked his way up to become a very important player in the Filipino film business. A Taste Of Blood gets Holcomb back in front of the camera for twelve-minutes to share some thoughts on the history of Hemisphere Pictures and how they went about importing these films and bringing them quite successfully to an American audience. We also get an archival interview with Romero here entitled The Mad Director Of Blood Island that runs just under seven-minutes. In this piece Romero shares some stories from the making of the film and how he was starting to make pictures with exporting them to the United States in mind.

    This boxed set also includes a really nice extra in the form of the original motion picture soundtrack for the film included on a separate CD – the music from this picture is a whole lot of fun and this is great background music for pretty much any occasion!

    Special Features for Beast Of Blood again start off with the Sherman commentary carried over from the Image DVD. It plays over the first half of the film (it stops about fifty minutes in). Anyone who has heard one of Sherman's other commentary tracks will tell you that his memory is as sharp as his sense of humor and that, as such, he's always fun to listen to. He talks about this picture amiable, dishing dirt on Hemisphere Pictures, discussing the marketing of these pictures, and sharing some great stories about this picture's unusual history.

    Also included on the disc is Celeste And The Beast, a twelve-minute interview with actress Celeste Yarnall conducted by Sam Sherman himself, done at Chiller Theater. Yarnall starts the interview by talking about how she found out that she was pregnant about a day before flying to Manila to shoot and how the shoot was rough once she arrived and obviously this led to some issues. She also talks about some of the people she worked with, what it's like doing your own stunts on location, and how making movies in the Philippines can be ‘pretty rough.'

    The three-minute Dr. Lorca’s Blood Devils spends a bit of time with actor Eddie Garcia talking about his experiences on set and the influence of foreign parties on the making of the picture. There’s also a really cool Super 8 Digest Version of the film included here, running just under sixteen-minutes in length titled The Blood Devils. Obviously, the full-length version is the one to go to but it is always impressive to see stuff like this preserved on Blu-ray releases. A few radio spots are also included.

    A trailer, a poster and still gallery, menus and chapter selection are provided for each of the four films in the set and their respective discs. Additionally, each disc gets its own reversible cover art sleeve – always a nice touch.

    The Blood Island Collection – The Final Word:

    The Blood Island Collection is a lot of goofy, gory fun. Severin Films has done a really nice job bringing these films to Blu-ray, they look quite a bit better than they ever have before and there are loads of extras old and new here to take in as well. The film’s themselves definitely entertain – highly recommended!


    Click on the images below for full sized The Blood-Island-Collection Blu-ray screen caps!


















































































    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      Even though I already have the 4 of these on dvd, I'll be buying this. Ashley's sideburns have a life of their own and you can see them expand over the course of the three films.
    1. chriszilla's Avatar
      chriszilla -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gary Banks View Post
      Even though I already have the 4 of these on dvd, I'll be buying this. Ashley's sideburns have a life of their own and you can see them expand over the course of the three films.
      I believe I read somewhere that by the time of BEAST OF BLOOD, his sideburns actually had their own hairdresser on the set!

      Thanks for the write-up, Ian! I've really been enjoying this set so far. I never thought I'd see the day these films would get such nice transfers.