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|Directed by||George Waggner|
|Produced by||Jack Bernhard|
Foy Van Dolsen
Horror Island is a 1941 black and white horror film made by Universal Studios based on an original story by Alex Gottlieb. It was directed by George Waggner and the screenplay was written by Maurice Tombragel and Victor McLeod. It stars Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Leo Carrillo, Eddie Parker, Dale Van Sickle, John Eldredge, Lewis Howard, Hobart Cavanaugh, Iris Adrian and Fuzzy Knight. Foy Van Dolsen plays the monstrous villain "Panama Pete", alias "The Phantom". Directed by George Waggner, the movie runs 61 minutes. It was released on March 28, 1941. The plot has assorted colorful characters going to a mysterious island to seek a pirate's hidden fortune.
The film cost $93,000 and was made between March 3, 1941 -March 15, 1941.
The movie is on the "Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive" DVD box set, released in 2009.
Bill Martin, graduate from Princeton university, is the proud owner of a small boulder of an island off the coast of Florida called "Morgan's Island". It is a deserted useless rock to Bill, but by pure chance he stumbles across a treasure map pointing to his island. The map is presented to him by a peg-legged old sailor, Tobias Clump, after Bill and his friend "Stuff" Oliver saves the man from drowning. Clump was pushed into the water by a "phantom", who also tore the treasure map in half and got away with one part. Clump tells them that the map shows the way to infamous buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan's twenty million dollar treasure.
Soon after this Bill's cousin George offers to buy the whole island for the amount of $20,000, but Bill isn't willing to sell. Instead he brings the map to a reputed cartographer who claims that the map is fake - it's a very well made forgery. Letting go of the thought of the legendary treasure, Bill instead thinks of making some money by starting a "treasure hunt" cruise to his island, for fifty dollars a piece. He involves Stuff in the plans and together they start out for the island to plant a fake treasure for the tourists to find. On their way they are involved in a traffic accident, and by "accident" meet the posh Wendy Creighton and her toy boy, Thurman Coldwater. Since Bill is a little short of money he persuades Wendy and Co to take his treasure cruise.
When the ship is ready to leave on the cruise, Bill, Stuff, Wendy and Thurman are accompanied by cousin George, a man named Jasper, a small time gansgter by the name of Rod Grady, his wife Arleen and a private investigator, McGoon - who has tried to find evidence that the cruise is a fake and uses false advertising.
Before the ship even leaves the harbor a bomb planted on board explodes. Fortunately someone accidentally dropped the bomb over board just before it exploded. The ship sails and is soon lost at sea, until Bill discovers that a magnet has been placed on the compass to deliberately put them off track. It becomes obvious that someone is trying to sabotage the trip to the island. Once the ship is on the right course again it takes only six hours to cover the distance to Morgan's Island. It doesn't take long before bad things start to happen to the group. In the old abandoned castle a cross-bow almost kills Clump and a suit of armor nearly crushes Wendy. Bill mistakes the accidents for Stuff's planned surprises, part of the "haunting" experience included in the treasure hunt.
The phantom that stole part of the treasure map from Clump reappears and warns Wendy and tells her that she will die if she stays on. She doesn't take this seriously, but the phantom appears once more, this time in her bedroom at night, and warns her again. Everyone believes that someone is pretending to be the ghost in an effort to scare them all off. Bill starts looking for the joker, and encounters Jasper as he is sleepwalking in the castle corridors at night. Tobias goes missing and when Rod and Arleen try to escape the castle and leave the island they discover that the boat is gone. A man in a cape kills Rod in front of Arleen, but when she gets back to the rest of the group the private investigator McGoon suspects her of being the killer. Bill suspects Tobias, who is still missing, and a "footprint" from a peg-leg is found near Rod's body. it turns out there is big reward set for the dead gangster, "dead or alive".
Tobias reunites with the group and tells of a key he has found. It is supposed to unlock a torture chamber in the castle, where Sir Henry Morgan's treasure is hidden. The group enters the chamber but finds only a single gold coin. As they return to the castle's main hall there is a note on the table saying "nine left". the cross-bow fires again, but misses Clump by an inch, killing the phantom instead. it turns out the phantom was no other than an old shipmate of Clump's. On the phantom's body they find the rest of the treasure map and a fake peg-leg.
Bill, Stuff and Clump go to find the treasure, leaving George and Wendy to themselves in the castle. they find a new note saying "eight left" and when George tries to find the anonymous killer, Wendy is abducted by an unknown person. When the rest of the group is back at the castle they find George murdered inside one of the armor suits. Bill realises that Jasper must be the killer, but when Bill confronts him with Rod's gun in his hand, it turns out the gun is unloaded and Jasper gets the advantage. Bill, Stuff and Wendy escape, but only to find themselves trapped in a secret passage inside the castle walls. As they get rescued by Clump, it turns out the passage leads directly to Sir Henry Morgan's treasure. Jasper follows and finds them, forcing them on to the treasure chamber. as they open the final passage door an axe falls down to kill Jasper. The rest of the group enter the treasure chamber and opens the chest, only to find the skeleton of Sir Henry Morgan himself.
Disappointed the group members make their way back to the surface, where they meet an government agent, who offers to buy the whole island from Bill in order to build a naval base. After all the mysteries are solved, Bill and Wendy become a pair, making Bill worth $7,000,000.
- Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p250
- Universal Horror
- Universal Studio Monsters (page 188)