Unknown Island (1948) – Jack Bernhard

Long before Dr. Grant found himself on Isla Nublar, former Navy pilot, Ted Osborne (Phillip Reed) and his wealthy fiancee, Carol Lane (Virginia Grey) set sail from Singapore to investigate a long lost island to see whether Ted’s belief that he saw dinosaurs on the outcropping of land when he flew over it is true.

They set out for Unknown Island, the next title in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies in the Dragons & Dinosaurs chapter.

Ted and Carol will have their hands full not only with the stop-motion dinosaurs, but man-in-a-suit monsters (posing as T-Rexs, and weird ape-like creatures and then projected in rearscreen) as well as the ragtag crew that is willing to turn against its captain, Tarnowski (Barton MacLane) at a moment’s notice.

They’ll also have to contend with every man’s eyes and intentions leaning towards Carol, who also seems to be fairly unhappy with her future husband’s growing obsession with getting photos of the dinosaurs.

And there are a lot of them in this film, though none of them are particularly convincing.

Through the film, which barely runs longer than an hour, Tarnowski is set on drinking and scoring with Carol, and someone who claimed to be on the island, John Fairbanks (Richard Denning) seems to be a better fit for Carol than Ted.

UNKNOWN-ISLAND

Things go from bad to worse when their ship sinks, their supplies burn up, and the dinosaurs seem to be everywhere. It really does feel like an early expedition to Jurassic Park, but without the elaborate special effects.

The back and forth with the characters is a little stiff, but I think if the film had been a little longer, and the characters had been built up a little more, there would be some really solid character drama in this film.

Poor Carol is going to think twice before she leaves her penthouse apartment again though.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on this one, looking back from the 21st century at this seventy year old film. You have to give the creative team credit for using models, men in suits, and even lizards in makeup, all to convey the reality of their dinosaurs.

All of it pales in front of the human drama that plays out, as it comes down to my three suitors, with Carol, supposedly, as the prize. But she’s her own woman, and that’s a good thing in this kind of film, and especially at that time.

There are still more giant beasts to come as I explore the dark corners of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies. Pick up a copy for yourself, and find something monstrous to watch tonight! You don’t know, you could have a really good time with some of these old cheesy classics!

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