Blood Island Collection, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: David Steigman
  • Review Date: Dec 12, 2018
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Blood Island Collection, The (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Gerardo de Leon/Eddie Romero

Release Date(s)

1959/1968/1968/1971 (November 13, 2018)

Studio(s)

Valiant Films/Hemisphere Pictures (Severin Films)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: B+
  • Overall Grade: A-

The Blood Island Collection (Blu-ray Boxed Set)

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Review

The Blood Island series encompasses four low budget horror ventures made in the Philippines by directors Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. The four films, Terror is a Man, Brides of Blood, Mad Doctor of Blood Island, and Beast of Blood, were mostly co-directed by the two, while the latter was helmed by Romero himself, always present as an active producer. Each of the four films were also successful with drive-in audiences, giving them a taste of the exploitation boom that would soon come into being.

Terror is a Man revolves around a mad scientist, Dr. Girard (Francis Lederer). Living on a secluded island, he begins experimenting with animals, attempting to transform them into human beings. A group of shipwrecked survivors, including a man named William (Richard Derr), are given shelter by the doctor and his estranged wife Frances (Greta Thyssen), whom William soon becomes romantically involved with. It isn’t long before Dr. Girard’s primary experiment, a half-man, half-panther like creature, escapes and savagely kills some of the island’s natives.

Arguably the best in the series, Terror is a Man is an atmospheric film with good direction and above average performances. Although the film isn’t all that gory, a brief moment during a surgical scene was equipped with a ringing bell when the actual cutting occurs, which was installed as a gimmick to warn the more squeamish of theater patrons. By today’s standards, it’s still fairly gruesome as the scene was shot by carving into an actual pig. Regardless, it worked in helping to bring in willing audiences to see it in 1959.

Brides of Blood followed eight years later. While it’s the second in the Blood Island series, it’s the first of three films to feature actor John Ashley. He stars as Jim, a researcher who arrives on a tropical island with Dr. Henderson (Kent Taylor) and his wife Carla (Beverly Powers aka Beverly Hills) to investigate possible radioactivity from atomic bomb testings. The three stay at the home of the aristocratic Esteban (Mario Montenegro) and his servant Goro (Bruno Punzalan). While roaming the island, they encounter man-eating plants, mutated animals, and a hideous monster, whom the natives offer virginal Filipinas to as sacrifices. Eventually, Farrell and Henderson discover the horrible truth behind this grotesque atrocity against nature, but not before the natives attempt to stop them in fear of retaliation.

Also known as Island of Living Horror, Brides of Blood is fairly sleazy, Z-grade fare. However, the poor performances, terrible make-up effects, and flawed editing actually make it fun to watch. It will also leave you with many unanswered questions, like why exactly does the beast need to apparently rape women, or why was Carla even married to Dr. Henderson in the first place? In the film’s sexy subplot, Carla is a sexually-frustrated woman looking to hop into bed with anybody, and her husband doesn’t seem to be aroused by her advances at all, which is beyond all comprehension. The film is also filled with much more gore and nudity than its predecessor. Unsurprisingly, there was continued success, and John Ashley and Eddie Romero would continue to work together for many years, making several more films in the same vein.

Mad Doctor of Blood Island once again stars John Ashley, but this time as Dr. Foster, who arrives on yet another island to investigate a strange disease spreading amongst the natives. His entourage includes Sheila (Angelique Pettyjohn), who wishes to see her father for the first time in decades, and Carlos (Ronaldo Valdez), who has come to reunite with his loving mother (Tita Munoz). Once settled, the three begin hearing stories about a green-skinned, man-sized monster (Eddie Garcia) with chlorophyll for blood that’s been attacking the natives and ripping them apart. Their investigation leads them to the sinister Dr. Lorca (Ronald Remy) and his assistant Razak (Bruno Punzalan), who seem to have something do with the monster’s unholy creation.

The gore and nudity quotient has been raised considerably in Mad Doctor of Blood Island. As with Terror is a Man, it contains yet another gimmick where the camera zooms in and out frantically each time the monster is lurking about. While this can potentially make one dizzy while watching the film, it offers, at the very least, something unique among the other films.

The fourth and final film, Beast of Blood, is the only direct sequel in the series. Somehow surviving the volatile events of the previous film, Dr. Lorca (now played by Eddie Garcia) and his faithful henchman Razak are still alive and well. The beast winds up aboard the escaping ship of Dr. Foster and begins attacking everyone on board, which eventually leads to an explosion and the sinking of the ship. The monster stumbles back to its home in the laboratory where Dr. Lorca begins running tests on it. Dr. Foster, the sinking boat’s only survivor, also heads back to the island, but on another ship with investigative reporter Myra (Celeste Yarnall). Once again, Dr. Lorca and Dr. Foster have a confrontation, and the now-beheaded monster is somehow able to both talk and control its own body, seeking revenge against Dr. Lorca.

Unfortunately, Beast of Blood isn’t nearly as much fun as the previous two films, due to it being too reliant on dialogue instead of action. The drawback of the monster’s head basically just sitting on a table throughout the film is saved by the notion of it controlling its own body, which is pretty amusing. However, not enough is done with it to make it worth the effort.

Despite being beloved films by deep-seated horror film fans, Eddie Romero considers the Blood Island films to be the worst that he ever took part in. While you can certainly understand why he would feel that way, it’s easy to see the charm in these films. They’re not meant to be anything more than what they are: exploitative monster movies meant to entertain teenagers who would naturally be spending the majority of the running time doing other things. But even with their limitations, the fact that the Blood Island series is comprehensible at all is saying something.

Severin Films brings all of these films together on Blu-ray in their uncut forms for the first time for The Blood Island Collection.

Terror is a Man comes sourced from a “new 4K scan from a fine-grain print recently discovered at the UCLA Film Archive”. Presented full frame, it’s an excellent black and white presentation with good contrast and grayscale. There’s a fine layer of grain on display with some areas showing signs of mild wear, including some scratches, but otherwise, everything is stable, clean, and film-like throughout.

Brides of Blood contains a “new 4K scan from a recently discovered 35mm interpositive”. It too is a nice presentation with solid grain levels and lovely color reproduction. It’s also appropriately bright with good contrast and deep black levels. As far as leftover damage, there are a few occasional thin lines within the frame, but otherwise, clean and stable.

Mad Doctor of Blood Island has been newly “scanned in 4K from a recently discovered camera negative and presented totally uncut for the first time ever, including the legendary Oath of Green Blood prologue”. This presentation is on the same level as Brides, but with a couple of cracked frames that pop up during one scene, which likely couldn’t have been repaired easily.

Beast of Blood contains a new scan of the film in “2K from a 16mm CRI”. It’s actually the least transfer of the lot, containing lots of leftover damage, instability, and contrast issues. Blacks are practically non-existent and the color palette, though varied, lacks punch. It’s also fairly soft and lacking in fine detail.

For the audio, Terror is a Man features an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track. It’s full of crackle, dropouts, hiss, and other damage, but dialogue, score, and sound effects can all be heard clearly. Brides of Blood also features an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track, which is super narrow and distorted at times, but everything can be heard clearly. It’s also much cleaner without any obvious leftover damage. Mad Doctor of Blood Island features two audio tracks in English and French 2.0 mono DTS-HD. It too is narrow, but everything is discernable. Some mild hiss, crackle, and dropouts are noticeable. Last but not least is Beast of Blood, which features another English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track. There are warbling qualities towards the beginning, but they soon even out. Narrowness and hiss are both prevalent, but dialogue and score can heard plainly. All of these films also come with optional subtitles in English SDH.

TERROR IS A MAN (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B/B/C-
BRIDES OF LOOD (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B+/A-/C+
MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B-/A-/C+
BEAST OF BLOOD (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/D+/C

Each disc also features a decent set of extras. For Terror is a Man, there’s Man Becomes Creature, a 6-minute interview with Hemisphere marketing consultant Samuel M. Sherman; Dawn of Blood Island, a 5-minute interview with co-director Eddie Romero; Terror Creature, a 3-minute interview with author Pete Tombs; When the Bell Rings, a 2-minute interview with critic Mark Holcomb; the film’s trailer; and an animated poster and still gallery containing 36 images. For Brides of Blood, there’s another audio commentary with Samuel M. Sherman; Jungle Fury, a vintage 14-minute interview with co-director Eddie Romero; Here Comes the Bride, a 22-minute interview with Samuel M. Sherman; Beverly Hills on Blood Island, a 7-minute interview with actress Beverly Powers; an alternate The Brides of Blood Island title sequence and Jungle Fury title card; the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers; and an animated poster and still gallery containing 78 images.

For Mad Doctor of Blood Island, there’s an audio commentary with horror film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Howard S. Berger; another audio commentary with Samuel M. Sherman; Tombs of the Living Dead, a 9-minute interview with author Pete Tombs; A Taste of Blood, a 12-minute interview with critic Mark Holcomb; The Mad Director of Blood Island, a 7-minute interview with co-director Eddie Romero; the theatrical trailer; a trailer for the film under the heading Chiller Carnival of Blood, a double-feature release with The Blood Demon (aka The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism); an animated poster and still gallery containing 79 images; and a separate 34-track CD soundtrack for the film. For Beast of Blood, there’s another audio commentary with Samuel M. Sherman; Celeste and the Beast, a 13-minute interview with actress Celeste Yarnall; Dr. Lorca’s Blood Devils, a 3-minute interview with actor Eddie Garcia; a 16-minute Super 8 digest version of the film; the theatrical trailer; 2 radio spots; and an animated poster and still gallery with 61 images.

To say the least, The Blood Island Collection approximates one of Severin Films’ best boxed set offerings to date. Being able to see these films in high definition at all is miracle unto itself, but in such a high-class package with a nice amount of extras, it’s too good to be true for long-time fans. For them, this set comes highly recommended.

– David Steigman (with Tim Salmons)

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