Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Unknown Island


Film Classics, Inc.–Producers ReleasingCorporation
Starring: Virginia Grey, Philip Reed, RichardDenning, Barton MacLaine.
Producer: Albert J. Cohen
Director: Jack Bernhard
Story: Robert T. Shannon
76 minutes.

Summary: In a Singapore bar, Ted says, “I hate bringing you to aplace like this, Carol,” for the bar is animalistic alienterritory. And Carol is the prey, we discover, as Captain Tarnowski,a loud lowlife from whom Ted wants to charter a ship, obviouslywants this “dame.” Ted intends a voyage of photographicdiscovery, a photo-safari to an island in the South Pacific, butmentions animals “dead for millions of years.” Theresponse from Tarnowski, who just literally threw two men outof the side room so they could talk, shows the talent of our screenwriter:”Oh, I see. You mean the fossil bones of extinct beasts–theskeletons of the big boys like the giant brontosaurus and theflesh-eating tyrannosaurus. Museum stuff.” Tarnowski hasalways been reluctant about a “woman sailing with us . .. until now.” Ted flew over the islands “during thewar”: “I saw things, living things, three times thesize of army tanks.” The island perhaps is the tip of avast continent sinking into the ocean, on which “prehistoricmonsters” still live. Ted shows a photo and says the creature”waddled like some gigantic hideous sort of lizard.” There are some nasty undertones concerning “Miss Lane’s”funding of Ted’s intended expedition.

Additionally, Tarnowski wants Fairbanks,an ex-Marine officer and now drunkard, to accompany them. Fairbanksconveniently is at the same bar and Tarnowski sends for him, offeringbooze. One theory is that “too much sun scrambled his brains.” But he claims to have seen dinosaurs on an island in the SouthPacific when he and his men crashed there. Tarnowski announcesthat they’re going “back to find the beasts that chewed upyour pals while they was still alive and kicking. Ha ha ha!” Fairbanks says, “I’d blow my brains out first before I’dgo back to that island.”

But Fairbanks is allowed more drink and isshanghaied aboard. When he wakes up, he is snarky and swaggeringlyfatalistic. The ship is “nothing but a floating pigpen,”used to transport wild animals. The crew, because the destinationis “taboo island–the home of monsters,” attempts amutiny, but fails.

Off the coast of the island, binoculars showa bronto: “Holy Jasper! It can’t be!” We questionFairbanks’ manhood a few more times. Tarnowski brags about gunsand grenades, and Fairbanks decides to accompany the search partyin order to hear the eventual screams of Tarnowski.

On the island they discover tracks. Fairbanks:”Flesh-eaters . . . they won’t come to you, with the exceptionof that hairy monster; he’ll look us up once he gets the scent.”

We see brontos peacefully bathing: “giantdinosaurs! . . . 75 feet if they’re an inch, as high as a two-storeybuilding. . . . Some of them weighed as much as two tons.” So, lots of male awe expressed in size and numbers. Asked ifwe’ll need grenades, Tarnowski says, ” We could use fieldartillery, and still not be sure.”

They settle down and Ted insists, “Thosebeasts won’t come near the camp.” Apparently they instinctivelysense our superiority. A servant is sent to fetch water overthe ridge (although why we made camp so far from the water source. . .). Screams. Ceratosaurs (carnivorous bipeds depicted hereby actors in rubber suits) are wobbling clumsily over the manin a field. The rest shoot at the dinos repeatedly and futilely. They decide to shoot the man instead, to save him from a fateworse than death: uh, death. Of course, he could have gatheredhis wits and run away, but we decide to get this embarrassingscene over with.

At camp, Ted obsessively works on his photosto the disapproval of Fairbanks since Carol is being ignored. Ted’s view on the death: “It’s unfortunate, but it happens. Men have been killed before in the interest of science.” Tarnowski now insists on capturing an animal vs. the others’disapproval. Someone in a bad gorilla suit with enormous teethhanging out of its ratty head threatens the camp. We assume it’sabout to “charge and tear us all to pieces.” But itgoes away.

Tarnowski attacks Carol, but Ted leaves hispix long enough to save her. Carol: “We’ve gotta get offthis offal island!” (Okay, “awful island.”)

The next day, presumably, the batch of idiotscome to a field remarkably similar to the last one we saw. Fairbanks:”Well, this is one of the barren spots I told you about.” A herd of ceratosaurs roam. Carol, in her best Aunt Mary / two-packs-a-dayvoice: “It’s unbelievable!”

Tarnowski: “A whole slew of them . .. looks like a prehistoric graveyard.”

Ted: “That’s exactly what it is. Thoseflesh-eating monsters have been eating each other for centuries. Survival of the fittest. Seems a pity, doesn’t it?” (This,let me say for the eighty-sixth time, is not “survivalof the fittest.”) Tarnowski: “Quiet; start unloadingthat ammunition. They’ve sighted us! They’re coming at us!”

While the dinos lumber, Tarnowski kills hisfirst mate with a knife over some disagreement about running away. An ammo bombardment turns away the rubber monsters. But Tarnowskiinsists, “I ain’t leavin’ here ’til I get one of them bigbabies alive.”

We decide Captain Tarnowski has “junglefever.” Carol decides to go “for a walk” (!!!). She finds Fairbanks shooting a tree. “Shooting squirrels? Ha ha ha.” (What’s so goddamned funny?) No, he’s “playinga game”: if he misses a bottle he has to drink it. Fairbanksis supposed to be world-weary and wise-cracking: he says he’s”good to my parents, kind to animals, love children”while he shows Carol his gun.

Tarnowski is drunk and preparing a barracade,a “wall of fire.” Are we leaving? Not leaving? Who’sleaving? Okay, who’s not leaving? Endless. Tarnowski seemsto be looking for bait among the humans. The native sailors areall killed in their attempt to steal the boat and get away, onefrom a bullet. Meanwhile, the fire-wall goes up, most of thepictures are gone, and Carol is pissed.

No, there’s lots more. Tarnowski has grenadesand is stupidly dismissed by the others because of his “junglefever” and drunkenness. While the others try building araft, he hides another boat away. He kidnaps Carol, attemptsto rape her, is interrupted by a tyrranosaur, lobs grenades; Carolfaints; the dino collapses. The others search Carol, but Tedsays casually, “Carol’ll get away from Tarnowski.” Fairbanks more nobly blames the darkness, uh, coming darknessfor calling off the search.

Tarnowski and Carol talk by a campfire. Having no choice and stalling, she agrees to run away with him. He prepares to sleep, to her surprise, but he explains: “Iknow you ain’t gonna run away with all these hungry monsters roamin’around loose in the jungle. Heh heh heh heh.” When theCaptain is asleep, she steals his gun, but a dinosaur with teethlonger than its head looms. Fairbanks shows up. Tarnowski triesto shoot him but is out of bullets. Fairbanks wins a fist-fight. The ape-brute-thing is approaching when Tarnowski awakes. Fairbanks,running away with Carol, gets those screams he wanted.

Fairbanks and Carol later watch the ape-goonbattle a tyrranosaur. After bloody tearings, the dino falls offa cliff. All survivors meet up (except the ape). Suddenly they’reoof the island, looking back. Ted gets blown off. Carol andFairbanks turn their butts to us. The End.

Comments: I can’t confirm the implications of the Movies Unlimited cataloguedescription which claims that the safari “turns up more giantsfrom another age than a two-hour ‘Love Boat’ special. Step onit, Audrey, it’s a Gavinosaurus!” (?)