Wednesday, April 23, 2014

1980 Week: The Island

Despite the massive success of two films based on his books, Jaws (1975) and The Deep (1977), all it took to derail the building of Peter Benchley into a Hollywood brand name was the colossal failure of The Island. In fact, The Island did horrible things to the careers of nearly everyone involved, including star Michael Caine and director Michael Ritchie. Even though it was made on a significant budget of $22 million, the silly, turgid, and violent movie is little more than a second-rate exploitation flick, and the plot is so far-fetched as to border on camp. The “hero” of the piece is a prickly UK-born journalist named Blair Maynard (Caine), who travels to the Caribbean in order to solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. Inexplicably, given the possible dangers of the mission, Maynard brings along his estranged young son, Justin (Jeffrey Frank), hoping for some family bonding. The intrepid reporter soon learns that an island in the middle of the Triangle is home to an ancient band of French pirates, who have been attacking ships for centuries, building an insular society from plundered goods and perpetuating their line by inbreeding with a handful of females. The leader of the gang is a ruthless criminal named Nau (David Warner), who kidnaps Blair’s son and brainwashes the boy into becoming some sort of heir apparent. None of this makes much sense. Yet the ludicrous nature of The Island’s plot wouldn’t matter all that much if the movie provided thrills. Unfortunately, Ritchie was asleep at the wheel, filming events in the flat visual style of a ’70s TV show and letting performers veer into cartoony excess. Caine, for instance, delivers one of his patented “when all else fails, scream” performances. The film’s costumes and sets look cheap and random, with no overriding design aesthetic connecting the elements, and the story’s decent into Straw Dogs-style malarkey about a civilized man turning savage feels trite and unsavory. Worst of all, the movie’s dialogue is often alarmingly stupid. (There’s a reason Benchley’s original scripts for Jaws and The Deep were rewritten by professional screenwriters, but at least he shouldered the blame for this one alone.) Ultimately, the best thing about The Island may be the film’s slam-bang poster, which promises supernatural excitement that is not present in the movie itself.

The Island: LAME


AndyHunt said...

ohhh 'The island'

I really want to love this movie. It could have been so much better. The problem for me is that it doesn't know what it wants to be. One moment its a thriller, the next a fantasy, or horror, or action spectacular. the whole thing looks like its filmed by a number of different directors and cobbled together in the editing. The movie changes back and forth like a schizophrenic Dino de Laurentiis doing a Roger Corman cut and paste job from his back catalogue.

To my great shame, I still watch this whenever it pops up on TV, but then, I will watch anything with either Caine or Warner in it.
I'm left thrilled, infuriated, and slightly guilty (a dirty kind of guilt)somewhat similar to metting an illicit old flame!

Will Errickson said...

I dig how all of Benchley's paperbacks featured JAWS-inspired covers:

Schmo said...

Enjoyable trash with a wonderful Peckinpah style finale.

Guy Callaway said...

I understand Morricone scored this without seeing the film.