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Image Entertainment presents

Fiend of Dope Island/Pagan Island (1961/1960)

"Nobody touches nothin' on this island less'n I say so."- Charlie Davis (Bruce Bennett)

Stars: Bruce Bennett,Robert Bray,Tania Velia,Eddie Dew,Nani Maka,Trine Hovelsrud
Other Stars: Ralph A. Rodriguez,Miguel Ángel Álvarez,Edmundo Rivera Álvarez,Ruth Fernández,Yda Alvarez, Barbara Bordeaux , Dolores Carlos, Allison Louise Downe, Dorothy Ford
Director: Nate Watt, Barry Mahon

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 02h:13m:31s
Release Date: 2002-05-21
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C+A-B+ B


DVD Review

Welcome to Fantasy Island. I am your host, Mr. Roarke, bringing you that rich Colombian flavor and aroma that's good to the last drop. Okay, so I'm not Ricardo Montalban, but Something Weird brings another double feature, this time with the tropical island theme, with a bit of fantasy, and a bit of Colombian.

David: See those leaves there? They're known as the assassin of youth.
Glory: Assassin of youth?
David: Marijuana.

First on the bill is The Fiend of Dope Island (1961). On a remote South Caribbean island, Charlie Davis (Bruce Bennett) takes charge of things with an iron fist—and a bull whip—and the natives do as he says or they get a lashing. Davis runs a marijuana growing operation, which makes him king of his tropical haven. Deciding to spice the place up, he imports a feisty dancer, Glory La Verne (Tania Velia), with designs on making the girl his recreational entertainment. Glory, a bright little cookie, has other ideas, and wises up to Charlie's personality and volcanic temper, playing him along while looking for a way out of the situation. David (Robert Bray), one of the hired hands, provides an opportunity, as the two devise a native uprising using the new munitions Charlie has begun importing. As expected, Charlie goes ballistic, and the island is embroiled in a war of nerves, with the winner claiming the spoils and the loser becoming shark bait.

Bruce Bennett began his acting career under his real name, Herman Brix. A star Olympic shot-putter, Brix was picked to play the role of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs for his 1935 serial, The New Adventures of Tarzan. After a number of unsuccessful films, Brix changed his name, dropping all associations with his former athletic and film careers, starting fresh by taking acting lessons and re-establishing himself. His career in the 1940s and 1950s included parts in films such as Mildred Pierce, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and Angels in the Outfield.

The Fiend of Dope Island, which he also cowrote, was his last starring role in a motion picture, and it's not hard to see why. The acting here is pretty marginal, though Tania Velia, introduced as a new Yugoslavian bombshell, does a decent job as the sly showgirl. Robert Bray—who would actually survive his role in this film to costar in the Lassie TV series—is notable as the bus driver in Marilyn Monroe's Bus Stop. The Fiend of Dope Island was also marketed as Whiplash, but by either title, this is one of those pictures that makes you wonder why anyone would bother to dig up. Perhaps this plays better on some of that South Seas wacky tobaccy.

The second feature is the 1960 Pagan Island, every sailor's fantasy adventure.

A young man and a barely covered dead woman are found floating adrift in the South Pacific. Lying in bed recuperating from his ordeal, sailor William Stanton (Eddie Dew) recounts his exploits after the tanker he was on sank when an explosion ripped through her hull. After nine days alone in a dingy, he washed up on the shore of an uncharted island. Desperate for food and water, he stumbles across a group of young, scantily-clad native women, and follows them to their camp. Here, he meets Queen Kealoha (Trine Hovelsrud), who informs him that his presence is not welcome. He also learns that there are no men in the village, so when they decide to let him stay and hold a feast in his honor, he is one happy sailor. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that the profuse alcoholic beverages they have been feeding him are meant to subdue him, so they can string him up and sacrifice him to their sea god the next day.

One of the girls, Princess Nani Maka, takes pity on him, setting him free when a band of men from another island arrives to pillage the village. Stanton guns them all down, and gains new favor with the queen, and is allowed to remain free, provided he keeps his paws off the princess, who is to be offered to the sea god as his bride in ritual sacrifice. Of course, even with an island full of half-naked women at his beck and call, Stanton can't resist the temptation, and decides to undermine the holy event.

"What a place to be shipwrecked." - William Stanton

Pagan Island is a classic example of the tropical exploitation picture, using the native garb as an excuse for a bit of nudity, which is still fairly concealed behind the leis the women wear. Director Barry Mahon's credits are littered with films containing "Nude" in their titles, and should be noted for his work on a pair of Fanny Hill movies, as well as a trio of Bunny Yeager films. Pagan Island's female cast pretty much made their only film presence here which, considering half of them look to be reading cue cards in their English half-speak, isn't wholely surprising—in fact the star used her screen name as her character name, I suppose to avoid being confused by the challenging native dialogue. This was also the last appearance for star Eddie Dew, whose IMDB credits include more uncredited roles than anything else. The centerpiece god statue was created by renowned San Francisco sculptor, Lewis Vand Dercar. The special effects department worked overtime on a menacing giant clam, who plays a really shocking role in the film's climax—no foreshadowing here. Me think Pagan Island pretty lame, me think big fun anyhow.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is much too good for films like this. Grayscale is balanced well with good contrast; even midtones and shadow detail. Both transfers are crisp, with only minor blemishes here and there. Fine grain looks natural. The odd shot looks a bit subpar, but on whole these look pristine.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is clear, with dialogue easily discernable. There is some scratching, a few pops here and there, and a bit of chopped dialogue, but nothing really untoward. The sound is a bit thin without being tinny.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Alternate credit sequence
  2. Goona-Goona short subjects
  3. Gallery of exploitation art
Extras Review: Like many of Something Weird's titles, it's the extras that count. First is an alternate title sequence for The Fiend of Dope Island under the name Whiplash, and trailers for both features.

The meat of the extras is a collection of short films. Three "Goona-Goona" short subjects include Women of Bali, Virgins of Bali, and Perilous Paradise. This is followed by a pretty explicit 1940s "Back Room Smoker" short, The Shipwrecked Sailor and the Hula Girl. A color South Sea Glamour Girl piece, The Exotic Fire Dance, and a coin drop five-parter, Pagan Love, come next. Be lulled into a South Sea sing-along with The Moon of Manakoora, then visit the home of Artist Lewis Vand Dercar, and pose for a nude sculpture. These range from a couple of minutes to over twenty each, and most are slugged with the SWV logo.

A ten-minute slideshow of exploitation poster art is set to a soundtrack compiled from "Trash-O-Rama" radio spots including Poor White Trash and Savages from Hell. I can't believe I missed some of these at the drive-in.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

Here's your chance to go native with a pair of forgettable tropical features from the folks at Something Wild. As usual, the extras redeem pretty low-rate films, but the quality of the main attractions is surprisingly good. If you are a fan of bad B, this is a must have collection. It doesn't get much worse than this, which is a recommendation, in case you missed it. Me no pagan.

Jeff Ulmer 2002-05-30