Island of the Burning Dead, Aka. Night of the Big Heat, Terence Fisher, 1967, UK.

Island of the Burning Dead, Aka. Night of the Big Heat, Terence Fisher, 1967, UK.
This is a Hammer film. I have spoken of this studio before and that I am a fan. Not only that, but it also features Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing together, both being among my all time favorites. So we are looking at a sure winner right? Well… The cinematography is classical Hammer, good sets, well lit, well framed. The special effects are a bit hokey, but it is a sign of the time it was made. It is a linear storyline, with nothing sidetracking the storyline too much. It may have been nearly slow at some points but it wasn’t off putting. The tone remained steadfast, as an adult science fiction story. The main actors did a believable enough job, with a few laughable lines here and there, but that was more to do with the screenplay then the acting. We were allowed to exercise our suspension of disbelief for the most part, as it established the sci/fi elements early on, yet there were moments of difficulty. When someone says “We don’t want to panic the villagers… “ I am thinking “what villagers? The number of actors and extras seemed a bit sparse, but maybe that is being picky? After all it is meant to be a B grade sci/fi horror… Yet the film waits until the final moments to throw something inexplicable at us.
Have you ever heard of a “shaggy dog joke?” They are supposed jokes that one sets up by spinning a yarn for quite a while, until right around when there should be a punchline, and then… nothing. Just a rather ordinary end to a fairly uninteresting lead in. There you have the shaggy dog. So all the while this story is a bit hokey and somewhat silly, we still find ourselves invested in the mystery, only to find a shaggy dog waiting at the end! I found myself saying “Thats how it ends?” Where is the rest of the movie? If I combine this lack of (at least extras to play) villagers, and this seeming sudden ending, I must conclude a budget crisis of some sort (or a serious scheduling issue)). Have no fear, it doesn’t end without resolution, it just ends kind of like…? It just ends. This film starts off around average, gets a bit interesting for a while, then sort of finds its way back to average fare, then finishes with a loud fart. While I would love to give this film at least two stars for average, I can’t really help but to sense it falls short, and thus I likely overrate it slightly at 1 ½ stars.
Sometimes the truth will set you free, but for the prudent, we keep many things to ourselves. This film was released in 1967. It is not any stretch of the imagination to note the difference in sexual morality from then until now. The seductive scenes, while mediocre by todays standards still work because of one of those things that people keep to themselves. Here, it is that there will always be a hottest/ best looking/ cutest/sexiest… pick a word, woman in the room. It is a socially created reality that has always existed and seems to never quite go away. (Consider that it is well illustrated here and this film is nearly 50 years old (at this review date)).
The actress, Jane Merrow, is “that” girl and is essentially the perfect seductress and remains so even by todays more jaded standards. So the next time you are hovering around the water cooler and question your moral scruples because you get that thought, that “Damn that new HR girl is good looking!” Realize that pretty much everyone else is thinking the same thing and have been for a couple thousand years now. Anyhow, there isn’t anything specifically “kinky” in this film, but the “adulteress” is easy on the eyes, uses her considerable charms aggressively so it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine our hero getting into trouble over her. Here, the filmmakers knew what they were doing by keeping this film within the confines of good taste for the era, yet pushing the sexual boundaries at the same time. I keep qualifying the sexual parts as “for the time, for the era, etc. “ yet wonder if maybe we are just going backwards, as major studio films (that are not stories directly involving sexual politics, etc. ) seem to have a fear of human sexuality and often have no sexual scenes whatsoever, as if political correctness is no longer a buzzword but has entered into the collective consciousness? I, for one, hope not! I give this film 2 on the kink scale due to its sexual frankness.


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