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Wellspring presents
Terror Is a Man (1959)

"What were you doing out? It has escaped again, hasn't it?"
- Frances Girard (Greta Thyssen)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 22, 2004

Stars: Francis Lederer, Greta Thyssen, Richard Derr
Other Stars: Oscar Keesee Jr., Lilia Duran, Peyton Keesee
Director: Gerry De Leon

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, surgery footage)
Run Time: 01h:29m:42s
Release Date: September 09, 2003
UPC: 720917538921
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- CCD C-

DVD Review

Some of the most fondly remembered pieces of drive-in schlock from the late 1960s are the "Blood Island" films produced in the Philippines and distributed in the USA by Sam Sherman's Independent-International outfit. Gory and colorful, they made a huge impression and were highly popular. Less well known is that the Blood Island story began nearly ten years earlier, with this black-and-white 1959 offering from producer Eddie Romero and director Gerry De Leon.

William Fitzgerald (Richard Derr), the sole survivor of a shipwreck on Isla de Sangre, is rescued by Dr. Charles Girard (Francis Lederer), a New York surgeon. Girard, with the aid of his assistant Walter (Oscar Keesee Jr.) is in pursuit of an escaped panther that is being used in the doctor's surgical research. But the research hides a sinister secret....

As can probably be gleaned from the synopsis, an uncredited H.G. Wells is looted for his Island of Dr. Moreau, though there are certainly Frankensteinian elements present in the story as well. Although Blood Island figures in the story, the connection to the later stories is rather tenuous; there is no John Ashley nor any green blood being spewed about here. But thematically there is some connection, most notably in the concept of a mad American hiding out on the island and terrifying the panicked natives.

The cast is the weakest part of the picture. Derr is stiff and seems barely interested in anything other than Girard's sex-starved blonde bombshell wife Frances (Greta Thyssen, Miss Denmark 1952). Lederer is decent and credibly obsessive, but Keesee turns in the best performance with his alternately furious and terrified pursuit of the creature. The monster story has the underlying racial currents that haunt many such pictures, with the dark-skinned creature pursuing the blonde female in typical King Kong manner.

Although the first hour gets a bit draggy, since there's little of interest going on besides the sexual tension, the last half hour is surprisingly effective. The last segments are both edgy and disturbing. The viewer never quite gets a good enough look at the monster to give it a big scoff, which is a valuable filmmaking lesson. For what it is, the picture is better than most, though it does feature the ridiculous gimmick slapped on by Sam Sherman (who apparently wanted to be a low-rent William Castle, if there could be such a thing). An ominous warning at the beginning tells the squeamish to close their eyes when a bell rings, but it sounds like a telephone and it's only a rather bloodless bit of surgery at that. But late 1950s hype is entertaining in its own right, so no points marked off for that.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original aspect ratio appears to be 1.33:1, and there's no evidence of cropping that I saw. Black levels are somewhat weak and shadow detail is only mediocre. There is some speckling but it only becomes significantly distracting near the reel changes. On the other hand, there is some fairly good detail and texture present, and the greyscale is acceptable. A nasty tear and shake in the soundtrack is present at 21m:05s and there's a less severe rip near the end at 01h:27m:21s; since these appeared on Image's now-out-of-print disc issued in 1999, this appears to be derived from the same source print, if it's not the same video transfer. The bit rate's not bad, hovering around 5 Mbps, so this is probably as good as this is likely to look short of a different print or a major restoration effort.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono soundtrack is pretty poor, even for a low-budget import of this type. Hiss and noise are present as expected, with a fair number of clicks and pops. The audio track is quite noisy, but thin and watery in regards to the dialogue and music that should be there. It's hard at times to understand Lederer (and there are no subtitles to help out), and sometimes the noise overwhelms the dialogue generally.

Audio Transfer Grade: D

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring In Search of Dracula, Raiders of Leyte Gulf
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The principal extra is a 2001 interview with producer Eddie Romero, who worked with De Leon frequently. He really doesn't touch on the Blood Island films much at all, however, but talks more about making Raiders of Leyte Gulf and his efforts at neorealism than anything else. It's rather disappointing for someone wanting to find out more about this picture and its brethren, though if you're primarily interested in Romero's non-horror career there's plenty of information. A three-page set of production notes in the accompanying booklet help remedy some of the omission, however. An American period trailer is accompanied by trailers for two other pictures with only tenuous connections. Chaptering is a shade thin but acceptable.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Despite a slow beginning, the last third makes it worth the viewer's while, despite a fairly silly script and some lackluster performances. The extras aren't closely tied to the feature but are nonetheless of some interest. The transfer isn't bad but the source print has some serious issues, especially on the audio track.

 


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