Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 26th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1979
Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Sergio Donati, Cesare Frugoni, Luciano Martino, Sergio Martino
Cast: Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Richard Johnson, Beryl Cunningham, Joseph Cotten, Franco Iavarone, Roberto Posse, Giuseppe Castellano, Franco Mazzieri
DVD released: September 29th, 2009
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Mya Communication
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Island of the Fishmen was co-written and directed by Sergio Martino a versatile Italian filmmaker who has worked in very major film genre throughout his career. Besides Island of the Fishmen some other action / adventure themed films that Sergio Martino has directed include Mountain of the Cannibal God and Big Alligator River. The screenplay for Island of the Fishman was co-written by Cesare Frugoni, whose notable credits include Rabid Dogs, The Virgin, the Bull and the Capricorn, The New Gladiators and Cut and Run. The other two screenwriters for Island of the Fishmen include Sergio Martino’s brother Luciano who also produced the film and Sergio Donati, whose notable credits as a screenwriter include The Big Gundown, Face to Face, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Weekend Murders and A Fistful of Dynamite. His novel “Il sepolcro di carta” was made into the Tinto Brass film Deadly Sweet. The Cinematographer on Island of the Fishmen Giancarlo Ferrando frequently worked with director Sergio Martino. Some of their notable collaborations include All the Colors of the Dark, Your vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, Torso, Violent Professionals, The Suspicious Death of a Minor and Scorpion with Two Tails. Another one of Sergio Martino’s frequent collaborator’s editor Eugenio Alabiso who also worked on Island of the Fishmen.
When Island of the Fishmen was released theatrically in the U.S. under the title “Something Waits in the Dark” and it performed poorly at the box office. The film was subsequently re-titled “Screamers”, new scenes were shot and the film was re-edited. Also additional cast members like Mel Ferrer and Cameron Mitchell where cast for these additional scenes. Another area where Island of the Fishmen differs from Screamers is that they feature different scores. The score for the version known as Screamers is credited to Sandy Berman, while all other versions list Luciano Michelini also the composer of the film’s score. Some of Luciano Michelini’s other notable scores include Secrets of a Call Girl, Gambling City and The Suspicious Death of a Minor. Also it should be noted that this DVD release from Mya Communication is the director’s original cut of the film and it does not include any of scenes which were later added for the U.S. version known as Screamers.
The plot for Island of the Fishmen is a cross between H.G. Wells Island of Dr. Moreau and the amphibious creatures from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu universe. Just like Sergio Martino’s other similar film’s made around the same time as Island of the Fishmen. This film also has a tremendous amount of visual style as it takes full advantage of its locations. One area where the film is flawed is its half man / half fish creatures which at times really show off how poorly constructed they were. The film is evenly paced with enough twists, carnage and building tension. The film’s three main characters Amanda Marvin, Lt. Claude de Ross and Edmond Rackham, are perfectly cast and portrayed by Barbara Bach (The Black Belly of the Tarantula), Claudio Cassinelli (Murder Rock) and Richard Johnson (Zombie), respectively. Another performance of note is Joseph Cotton in the role of Professor Ernest Marvin. The most entertaining part of this film is watching Richard Johnson’s character Edmond Rackham go off the deep end. Ultimately while not one of Sergio Martino’s best films, Island of the Fishmen is still an entertaining film that holds up well with repeat viewings.
Island of the Fishmen is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback. The DVD case lists how this transfer was sourced from original negative elements and the end result is one of the better looking transfers from Mya Communication. The source used is in excellent shape with vibrant colors, natural looking flesh tones, black levels fare well and details look generally sharp throughout. To date this is the third DVD release of Island of the Fishmen that I have come across with the previous two being a German DVD release from Marketing Film and an Italian DVD release from No Shame. The German DVD release which has English language opening credits is the weakest release of the three (it is also interlaced) and the Italian DVD release which has Italian language opening credits appears to have used the same source that is used for this DVD from Mya Communication.
This release comes with two audio options a Dolby Digital mono mix in English and a Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian (there are no English subtitles included with this release). The English audio mix is the stronger of the two as there are no problems with background noise or any other audio defects. Also dialog is crystal clear and everything sounds balanced throughout. There is some mild background noise present on the Italian audio mix.
Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer for the film (3 minutes 47 seconds – in Italian, no English subtitles) and a photo gallery with 27 images (stills / posters). Overall Island of the Fishmen gets a strong audio / video presentation from Mya Communication.