One Night Cruise

Horror Island’s origins drift back to King Kong. Chased down by debt collectors, Bill Martin (Dick Foran) gathers a group, shoves them onto a boat, and sends them toward an island with the promise of riches. In this case, there’s no giant ape, rather a man-sized killer.

Universal shot, edited, and released the thin comedy Horror Island less than a month after production started – and that includes delays for unexpected weather. Like these characters, Universal was out for a quick buck. Unlike these people, Universal made it out of this deal alive.

A weird hodgepodge, genres blend together once on the island (that takes time, even for a 60-minute B). There’s the murder mystery, haunted house story, comedy, and even a pirate adventure. It’s an odd little thing, but exuberant and chipper. Ironically, Horror Island doesn’t concern itself with horror. Every hand is shown early to reduce the frights, and the confident leads turn this into a farce.

Horror Island uses that moral middle ground to bring a wartime touch into the fold

The scheme – where Martin poses the possibility of $20 million in buried treasure for those buying a $50 ticket – brings some cynics. By 1941, Universal churned out enough genre flicks that including the tired, disinterested George (John Eldredge) became a necessity to represent the audience in some way. He ends up sleeping through the whole thing, gunshots and all.

There is a killer here, a caped man determined to preserve this castle from outsiders. Martin is the hero, but certainly a swindler; Horror Island uses that moral middle ground to bring a wartime touch into the fold. While Nazis destroyed culture overseas, the antagonist here will do anything to save this place from ruinous, careless mainlanders. In the end, there’s still yet a greater cause when the US military commandeers the island for a base. Tearing down small historical slices to maintain the rest was worth it in 1941.

Barely in Universal’s horror canon, Horror Island ends up in this spot by default. There is fog, deaths, an olden castle, and a killer. That’s to formula, although “The Phantom” killer is given no real development as an antagonist; no one is licensing him for action fictures. The Frankenstein monster hardly said a word yet carries more personality than this goon. Other than a few blips from the bit players, most of them fall into the same forgettable category too. Horror Island lightheartedly exists as a chintzy time waster, and for that, it works out okay.

Video

While Scream Factory doesn’t note any particular technical details in terms of this master, it’s great. Seemingly recent and totally natural, the film stock suffers only minimal dings on its way to Blu-ray. Resolved grain is handled by the encode without issue, preserving the steamy cinematography

This means excellent overall fidelity, brought forward by precise resolution. Some facial definition shows, while the menial sets offer enough in fabrics and concrete to add texture.

Fantastic gray scale works to imbue Horror Island with depth. A push toward true black is frequent. Outstanding highlights arguably bring too much light considering the candle-lit interiors, but look superb regardless.

Audio

Thin static runs through this DTS-HD mix, suggesting age without even knowing the production year. This does allow for pleasing vintage, analog sound however. The castle carries voices, with this track handling any complications.

Pulled from Universal’s library (including one track that draws comparison to Danny Elfman’s Batman theme), music hits highs with only mildly faded treble. Lows fare better, smooth in the transition.

Extras

Historian Ted Newsom heads into the booth for commentary work, with an image gallery and trailers following.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Horror Island
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Movie

A minor blip in Universal’s catalog, Horror Island makes for fast, light viewing that’s ultimately too inoffensive to write off.

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