“Now we know where the original islanders disappeared to.”
In 1891 a prison ship sinks and a few convicts, along with a military doctor, Lieutenant Claude de Ross (Claudio Cassinelli) wash up on an uncharted island. The convicts start disappearing. A group of monstrous fishmen begins killing the stranded men. Claude and the remaining men flee into the jungle. There they encounter Edmond Rackham (Richard Johnson) and Amanda Marvin (Barbara Bach.)
Professor Ernest Marvin (Joseph Cotten) is Amanda’s father. He was once a famous biologist. He has developed a way to transform people into fishmen. Rackham tells Marvin that his work is important for mankind. Marvin believes his race of fishmen will be able to live in the ocean and feed off the ocean’s bounty. In reality Rackham is using the fishmen to plunder treasures from the underwater city of Atlantis.
“Screamers” AKA “Island of the Fishmen” AKA “Something Waits in the Dark” was originally released in Italy 1979 and was directed by Sergio Martino. It is an Italian horror movie. In 1980 twenty or thirty minutes of the original movie was cut and new footage was added. The movie was then renamed “Screamers” and released in the US.
The beginning new footage includes Cameron Mitchell, and Mel Ferrer. The prologue features Mitchell as a sea captain who brings Ferrer to the island looking for treasure. Ferrer has squandered away his family money and is in need of funds. On the island they are attacked by an impressive bunch of slimy creatures and killed. The make-up was done by Chris Walas. The name of the movie was changed to “Something Waits in the Dark”. Some other little bits and pieces were also inserted in the scenes in the professor’s lab.
Movie goers were not impressed so a new trailer was made containing, among other things, a promise of seeing a man being turned inside out. The movie was again re-titled as “Screamers” and released in 1981. The original movie was around 100 minutes. The US version of “Screamers” ended up around 81-85 minutes. The trailer may have promised a man turned inside out, but the movie did not oblige. Movie goers were pissed. Riots ensued. And who is responsible for this reiteration of an Italian horror movie and its trailer of deception? Why our old friend Roger Corman.
Actually Roger’s stuff was good. The new prologue was creepy and the creatures were quite good. It just had nothing to do with the movie. It didn’t take anything away from it and it did add an additional creep factor and some added gore which was nice. The creatures weren’t all fishmen either. There was a slimy skeleton type thing that was cool. There was one additional fishman but it was quick shot and dark so you really couldn’t compare it to the regular movie fishmen. I would say that Roger managed to not screw up the original movie. Just the trailer. None of the original movie is in it. The quick cuts are all from either the new prologue or, believe it or not, “Humanoids from the Deep”, which Roger was working on at the same time, as the ill fated first try “Something Waits in the Dark”.
The movie has been compared to “The Island of Dr. Moreau. I can see why. The core of the plots are similar but there are enough differences to give the movie its own flavor. Outside of the fishguys themselves the best part of the original movie is Richard Johnson’s performance as the sinister Edmond Rackham.