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Screamers/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Screamers

What we have here is a textbook example of exploitation cinema. These movies usually are products on an outrageous idea or some sort of subversive perspective, but more often its the promotion style of these films that serve as the key ingredient of understanding how crazy the genre really is. Sometimes, and more interestingly enough, the promotion of a film might very well be complete fabrication. A prime example is this film - the Italian ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN directed by Sergio Martino which famed indie pro Roger Corman sold stateside as SOMETHING WAITS IN THE DARK and again as SCREAMERS. With the first attempt, Corman and company added a new opening scene (featuring Mel Ferrer), shot a few FX inserts, and changed the score in favor of a more contemporary slasher vibe. It didn't perform well enough so Corman was left to repackage it again. Perhaps contemporary audiences didn't warm up to the idea of a nineteenth century thriller featuring fish people. I myself expected the film to flash forward to modern times after the initial opener, but no. We're in the 1800s and we're here for the duration. Nevertheless, Corman and company (already frustrated with their efforts of repackaging) decided to create a whole new angle to sell the film - straight up lying.

SCREAMERS features an awesome modern horror poster which warns the audience: you will actually see a man turned inside-out! They even shot an FX sequence for the trailer of said gag, but failed to include it in their new cut of the film. So, what we have is an awesome horror ad for a completely different movie about fish people on an island. If this marketing angle worked I cannot say, but I do know that it is grossly misleading and audiences most likely were disappointed given the expectation. Which is a shame because Sergio Martino's film is actually good and even fun.

Claudio Cassinelli (a regular for the director until he was killed during the filming HANDS OF STEEL) stars as a shipwrecked Lieutenant with a handful of dangerous criminals washed ashore a mysterious island. The time period soon begins to make sense as we are introduced to a Doctor (Joseph Cotten from Welles' CITIZEN KANE and Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT) and his daughter (Barbara Bach - Ringo Starr's wife) living well in a mansion on the island - staffed by the indigenous people as servants. It is here, with classic eurocentrism, that the film clearly is influenced by H.G. Wells famed nineteenth century novel The Island of Doctor Moreau and I began to find the film a little boring - expecting a mere rehash of the acclaimed novel. Instead I grew surprisingly more interested as subplots began to blossom. The good doctor's work of creating amphibious man creatures isn't quite what it appears to be as voodoo, buried treasure, and even the mythical city of Atlantis come into play. The film soon becomes an exciting throwback adventure story - not so much an Italian horror picture - and all for the better. I was thrilled with the volcano/earthquake finale and happy ending freeze frame. The makeup effects are good enough and the fishmen suits are fairly poor, but the movie continues on determined to entertain us. There's also great locations including the gorgeous stalactite cave Neptune's Grotto in Sardinia, Italy which really aide the film. Overall Sergio Martino has delivered another great flick here, but it's probably best known as a disapointment given Roger Corman's tampering with the American release.

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Josh Stephenson was born in Florida, schooled in Chicago, and lives in New Orleans. His mother went into labor while his father and brother were attending a theatrical double feature of EXCALIBUR and BLOOD BEACH. A youth spent in the VHS rental heyday led to a lifelong addiction to movies. He holds a BS in Television Journalism from the University of Florida and a BA in Film Editing from Columbia College Chicago. He continues to work in the Louisiana film industry despite a government-issued tax cap.
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