(1968, Horror, color)
This just in: Tree climbs boy.
In a Nutshell:
Radioactive were-mutants terrorize a South Pacific tribe.
Our heroes’ destination is actually “Blood Island,” no doubt named by way of Filipino truth-in-advertising laws. Elderly biologist Paul, his improbably horny wife Carla and the noble young Jim arrive by boat to research the mutagenic effects of nearby nuclear testing, seduce every reasonably attractive man between the ages of twenty and thirty within a ten mile radius, and teach the underprivileged natives to dig irrigation ditches, respectively.
Paul and Carla take shelter with the local eccentric millionaire, who identifies himself alternately as Esteban, Stebin, Uhstiban, and so on. Inconsistently Named Man lives on a vast estate staffed by the brutish, genie-esque Goro and his much-abused cadre of pygmy body builders.
Back in the village Jim falls for lovely native girl Alma, but trouble looms. Every so often radiation causes the trees to sprout tentacles and the moths to grow fangs while a monster that Joel describes as “a post-fire Michelin Man” emerges to devour the villagers’ latest virgin sacrifice. This seems to happen two to three times a day, so the natives are burning right through their virgins. Soon Alma gets chosen. Jim escapes his restraints to rescue Alma and drive the monster off with a flare gun. No longer welcome in the village, they seek shelter at the estate.
A short time later, Carla notices Esteban stumbling out the gates of his estate in a daze. She follows, hoping to seduce him, but to no one’s surprise (except perhaps Esteban’s) he turns into the monster and rips her limb from limb. Paul, Jim and Alma give chase, but Paul runs afoul of the massive Goro, who cuts him down with his own machete to protect his mutated master. Jim and Alma flee back to the estate, where they meet the newly restored Esteban. Esteban finally realizes that he’s been the monster all along. Desperate to keep his secret, he sends Jim and Alma to hunt Goro on their own. Despite his best efforts, Esteban re-enmonsters and tromps into the night after them. Monster Esteban finds and kills Goro, then chases Jim and Alma back to the village. Jim rallies the villagers to trap their attacker in a burning building. The monster turns back into Esteban and burns to death. Dancing and make-outs ensue.
I originally saw Danger on Tiki Island live in San Francisco, and wrote a description of that event here. In my write-up I complained that it was often difficult to hear the riffers over the movie and vice versa. At the time I suggested this might be the fault of the venue, but now it looks like I owe the Castro Theater an apology. Similar problems plague the DVD version; my inexpert ear now places the blame on the original film’s soundtrack, which is loud and distorted. Anyone trying to make comments over the top of it sounds muddy by association.
Thankfully, a nice pair of headphones and a bit of concentration will mostly get you around that problem. A few other caveats: Danger on Tiki Island has a few scattered seconds of carefully masked female nudity, several dismemberments and at least half-a-dozen muscle-bound dwarves in loincloths. If you’re okay with all of the above, then feel free to sit back and enjoy some early Filipino horror at its goofiest, with prehensile banana trees, a normal-sized moth that can kick a grown man’s ass, and a cut-rate Swamp Thing with Angelina Jolie lips.
Also: where did the villagers get all those beautiful virgins? At the rate they were going (two per sacrifice, two to three sacrifices per day) they should have run out months, if not years ago, but there were still more than enough to go round at the post-monster beach party. Do they order them online? Have they been stockpiling them for just such an occasion? Do the radioactive storms make them spring, fully grown, from the jungle?
This is the third live DVD they’ve issued, and except for the sound problems noted above, the format still works pretty well. A few favorite comments: As the pygmies watch our normal-sized heroes pass, Joel speaks for them, “How do they reach things on the ground? It’s weird,” while Frank notes that the pygmies “must be from Micronesia.” As Esteban-Monster bears down on another hapless sacrifice, J. Elvis says, “Monsters come running for the rich taste of girl.” When Jim empties his revolver at the monster and then keeps shooting anyway, Mary Jo wants to know, “Is it a sixteen-shooter?” As we head into the ridiculous happy ending, Trace says, “This is the strangest romantic comedy I’ve ever seen.” The riffing’s decently funny, the movie’s decently goofy and the sound distortion is only mildly distracting, but the net result of all these is a DVD that’s only halfway decent.
(1968, Horror, color)