Island of the Fish Men (1979)
(aka: Screamers – 1981)
Directed by Sergio Martino
A ship transporting prisoners gets lost in storm and fog near the Caribbean Islands. They are thrown upon the rocks of an uncharted island and shipwrecked. The survivors, Claude, a naval officer and doctor, and several prisoners wash up on shore of this strange island. Men start disappearing in the salty marshes as they search for fresh water. They are stopped by a woman, Amanda, (Barbara Bach) on horseback who first tells them they must leave the island. Then they’re invited back to an estate, the only shelter on the island. They are greeted by the owner of the private island, Edmond Rackman (Richard Johnson) and a voodoo priestess who commands a tribe of natives to do Edmond’s dirty work. When a suspicious Claude (Claudio Cassinelli) investigates he is attacked by strange looking fishmen with Piranha-like heads and scaled skin but he is saved by Amanda. He finds out that the island is near a submerged lost city. Edmond uses these Fishmen to dive for the sunken treasures, gold and jewels, of the lost city. A scientist working with Edmond, Professor Marvin (Amanda’s Father), tells Claude the fishmen are the last survivors of Atlantis and he gets them to dive in exchange for drugs. Yes, he has them addicted to a milky drug that keeps them diving for gold. Only later do we find out that Marvin is actually turning the natives into these creatures, a point that echoes the Island of Doctor Moreau. Natives revolt, fishmen go on a feeding frenzy, a volcano erupts, Claude and Amanda fall in love and attempt to escape the sinking island.
There is tons of stuff going on in this film but somehow it works. Tightly shot to build tension in the beginning of the film, it opens to grand shots of island jungle, native ceremony, and underwater shots of swimming fishmen and the massive lost city. The Fishmen themselves look a bit silly by today’s standards but work well for this creature-feature style flick. The US released version Screamers is edited with added scenes and a new beginning, hardly necessary for the film, so I would recommend getting/watching the “Fishmen” version (Mya Entertainment). Enjoyable as a fun Saturday afternoon monster flick with some high island adventure thrown in, not to be taken too seriously. I hear there was even a sequel.