Monday, May 25, 2020

Scream For the Invasion of the Fishmen!

It's been quite some time since I sat down and watched a Sergio Martino horror flick. Perhaps part of the reason stamps from that film being Slave of the Cannibal God, a movie I despised. Still, the guy has a beloved reputation, went on to make the glorious Hands of Steel, and with Screamers streaming on Amazon Prime and nobody getting to the beach anytime soon, why not take a swim?

Quick Plot: In 1891, a small group attempts to recover a buried treasure on a remote island only to be devoured by a gaggle of Black Lagoon-ish fish creatures. Later (or rather, earlier, since the aforementioned prologue was added by producer Roger Corman two years after Sergio Martino finished his cut), a prison ship washes ashore, along with a few convicts and their strict doctor, Claude de Ross.

It takes the fishmen all of five minutes to cut the group down to just Claude and two criminals. The trio is reluctantly taken to the estate of Edmond Rackham, a monstrous aristocrat who is using genius scientist Dr. Marvin to control the aquatic population so they can eventually recover the treasures of Atlantis, buried deep below their island.

So, yeah. There's a lot going on in Screamers. We're also dealing with attempted rape from multiple directions for poor beautiful Barbara Bach and some squirmy racial politics involving the local islanders. 

THOSE THINGS aside, Screamers is otherwise pretty fun and certainly different. I don't usually expect my exploitation films to include subplots involving Atlantis and human evolution. There's also plenty of creative horrors to be found in the actual fishmen, and their webbed attacks are colorful and gross. 

How much of the final product should be attributed to Martino is apparently arguable, as Corman had that cut chopped up and freshened with additional footage shot by Miller Drake and possibly, a very young Joe Dante. Despite his recent past as a director unafraid of guts and gore, Martino apparently wanted his film to be more adventure and less Zombie (a clear influence). Oddly enough, it's the gooey gore that keeps things most interesting.

High Points
Fishmen! We just don't get enough fishmen in the world of horror!

Low Points
Unfortunately, there's so much front-loaded fishmen action (even if you disregard the non-Martino intro) that Screamers' center drags hard

Lessons Learned
Animals don't build traps

When roaming a deserted island, always be on the lookout for spear-floored pits

I have seen the future, and future is fishmen

Screamers is pretty messy (even by the standards of a '70s Italian horror picture) but it's also genuinely different from most genre fare. If you're looking for an Island of Dr. Moreau-ish tale, you're not going to find much more. Let your prison ship wash ashore on Amazon Prime and enjoy.


  1. Oh hey! Thanks for pointing this one out!
    I'd seen it around but always assumed it was that Peter Weller scifi movie of the same name.
    I've got a special fondness for the subgenre of mad doctors, especially if they're on tropical islands.

    1. This one is VERY mad doctor! Hope you enjoy!