Another classic movie brought to my attention by a YouTube video. Isn’t the internet wonderful? Yes, today’s movie is one that I first came across in a clip from the YouTube video I found that focused on B movie monsters. To be honest, I find it a little surprising that I had not heard of this movie before that, as I love dinosaur movies and try to find and watch them whenever I hear about them. So to learn that there was a movie that came out in post-WWII that featured dinosuars was all I needed to know to go try and find a copy of it, and I eventually did. So let’s see if this movie was worth the effort as I watch today’s movie, Unknown Island.
The plot: In Singapore, Ted Osborne and his fiance Carole Lane head into a bar looking for Captain Tarnowski. Tarnowski and his first mate Sanderson notice them in the mirror above the bar and, as they watch Osborne and Carole get a table, Tarnowski becomes infatuated with Carole. Osborne approaches the two sailors and speaks with Tarnowski about chartering his boat. Tarnowski refuses at first, as Osborne doesn’t particularly want to give many details until they have a deal, but he agrees to go to their table to talk it over. Arriving at the table, Osborne introduces Tarnowski and Sanderson to Carole and Tarnowski suggests they get a private room, throwing out the people inside so they can speak privately. Tarnowski is curious as to why they want to charter his ship, as it is just a trap steamer used to transport wild animals. Osborne explains that when he was a pilot in WWII, he had flown over an island and spotted what appeared to be dinosaurs walking on the ground. He did not report it to his superiors, as the island had no military value and he didn’t want his superiors thinking he was suffering from battle fatigue, but managed to take a picture of one of the beasts from his plane. Tarnowski examines the picture and says it could be what he says, then tells Sanderson to go fetch Fairchild. When Osborne asks who that is, Tarnowski explains that Fairchild tells a story very similar to Osbornes, only that he and his friends had been shipwrecked on the island and he was the only survivor. Tarnowski and his crew had fished Fairbanks out of the sea on a life raft he had fashioned and Fairbanks had been trying to drink away the horrors he experienced ever since. Sanderson finds Fairbanks and brings him into the room but when Tarnowski says they are heading back to the island, Fairbanks gets a distressed look on his face and says he would rather kill himself than go back, then leaves the room. Tarnowski tells Osborne and Carole not to worry and accepts the charter, with Carole telling him they can meet at the bank for his payment in the morning. Sanderson is skeptical of the journey but Tarnowski says he would do anything to get a shot at Carole, then tells him to make sure Fairbanks is on board the ship when they leave. After they set sail, Osborne makes continuous adjustments to the course, which worries Sanderson but Tarnowski says it’s fine. Sanderson says he is worried about the crew, as they have been muttering to themselves ever since the veered off the trade route but Tarnowski doesn’t seem worried. That night, the crew talk among themselves and deduce that Tarnowski is heading towards an island that is forbidden among their people, and they decide to stage a mutiny and kill Tarnowski and the others to stop them from reaching it. The mutiny starts but Tarnowski, Sanderson, and his other loyal crew manage to stop it without to many lives lost. After a few more days, they reach the island and Tarnowski and Sanderson both see a brontosaurus moving on a ridge but it is gone when Osborne tries to see it. As they ready a boarding party, Fairbanks tries to talk Carole out of going onto the island, as he has become attracted to her and doesn’t want to see her hurt, but she insists on going. When she asks if he is going ashore, Fairbanks refuses at first but after hearing some of the weapons Tarnowski is bringing with them, he changes his mind. When they arrive on the island, they find some dinosaur tracks in the sand and Tarnowski orders his second mate, Edwards, to stand guard by the boat in order to keep anything, or anyone from destroying it. As they head further into the island, they see a pair of brontosaurus in a nearby swamp and some time later a couple of dimetrodons, and Osborne is excited about seeing the animals really have survived. Setting up a camp, Tarnowski has one of the crew go to fetch some water but they suddenly hear a scream and race off to find the crew member being attacked by a pair of ceratosaurus. Fairbanks, Tarnowski, and Sanderson attempt to ward off the dinosaurs but when they realize their bullets are ineffective, Tarnowski shoots the man so he won’t suffer, then they head back to camp. That night as they prepare to get some sleep, they hear some roaring close by and take cover as a giant sloth moves through the jungle close to the camp but it chooses to leave them when it sees a dimetrodon close by and goes after it. The next day, Tarnowski says he wants to try and capture one of the creatures, and they head back out towards the valley. They spot several ceratosaurus in some sort of animal graveyard. The crew all want to go back to the ship, and Sanderson agrees with them but Tarnowski refuses and ends up struggling with Sanderson. One of the crew throws a knife at Tarnowski and accidentally kills Sanderson, then Tarnowski shoots him as the rest of the crew flee back to the camp. Tarnowski and Fairbanks then use grenades on the approaching ceratosaurus, killing one of them and frightening off the others. When they return to camp, Tarnowski has the crew making a barrier of dried wood, which he plans to light on fire to keep the dinosaurs, and the giant sloth, at bay. Meanwhile, Carole grows upset with Osborne, as he is more concerned about the pictures and video he took of the dinosaurs than anything else, including her, and she ends up getting closer to Fairbanks. When they hear some disturbance in the brush, Tarnowski, Fairbanks, and Osborne quickly grab some rifles when they hear a shot ring out on the beach. They head there to find that the crew had snuck off and attacked Edwards, then stolen the boat to try and escape but end up getting smashed on the reefs surrounding the island. As they check on Edwards, Fairbanks notices some smoke coming from their camp and they head back to find it is destroyed in a blaze, as one of Tarnowski’s cigarettes accidentally set his barrier on fire. Trying to salvage what they can, Fairbanks suggests they build a raft, as he had built one last time to get away, and he, Edwards, Osborne, and Carole start working but Tarnowski, having become deranged from jungle fever, goes wandering off. On another section of beach, Tarnowski finds a boat from Fairbanks’ old ship that had washed ashore and he quickly hides it so the others don’t see it. When Carole heads back to the camp for some tools, Tarnowski follows after her and attempts to lead her away when they are attacked by a ceratosaurus. Tarnowski uses the last of his grenades to kill it, then carries Carole, who had fainted, away while Fairbansk, Edwards, and Osborne show up and realize that they are gone. Fairbanks and Osborne start to argue about Carole when Edwards says they don’t have time for this and they go looking for her. Meanwhile, Tarnowski tells Carole about his ship and plans on leaving with her and Carole agrees to go, hoping to buy some time until the others could find her. The next morning, Carole wakes up and finds Tarnowski still asleep and quietly steals his revolver. As she is about to escape, a dimetrodon appears and she quickly shoots it but the shots wake up Tarnowski. He grabs her and realizing she had saved his life, goes to kiss her only to receive a slap. As Carole struggles with Tarnowski, she sees Fairbanks, who had gone off in the night to find her while the others slept, and he begins fighting with Tarnowski. Fairbanks eventually beats him and then grabs Carole so they can escape as the giant sloth appears and kills Tarnowski. As they head to the beach, they are confronted by a ceratosaurus and, seeing the giant sloth coming up behind them, they hide behind a rock as the two creatures fight. The ceratosaurus is knocked off the cliff to the rocks below and the giant sloth, injured in the fight, heads back into the forest just as Osborne and Edwards show up. After explaining what happened, they head back to finish the raft and make their way back to the ship. On board, Edwards tells them they are almost ready to sail and Osborne starts to say something to Carole but she interrupts him and says they will have a lot to discuss when they get back. Realizing that Carole has fallen in love with Fairbanks, Osborne agrees with her and walks off, leaving the new couple to smile at each other before turning to look back at the island.
This is pretty much every stereotype of early cinema you could ever hope to find wrapped up into one movie. This is cheesy, corny goodness that you cant help but laugh at as you enjoy watching it. The acting was ok, with Virginia Grey (Carole), Richard Denning (Fairbanks), and Phillip Reed (Osborne) doing good jobs in their roles but Barton MacLane honestly stole the show with his portrayal of Tarnowski. The story honestly felt like it was mixture of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” and King Kong, which did not give it much in the way of originality. The special effects were laughably bad when it comes to the animals. I don’t know what the budget was but they obviously couldn’t afford to use stop motion animation, which is why we got people in suits to play most of the monsters, primarily the ceratosaurus and the giant sloth. That is where things get funny as the ceratosaurus suits were so big, that the heads kind of flopped around as the people moved while the giant sloth looked absolutely ridiculous, and I think the suit would end up used in some other B movies in later years. This is not a ground breaking movie by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it even really a good movie, but it is entertaining in a bad way, which makes it fun to watch.
Rating: 2 out of 5