CC: Screamers/Island Of The Fishmen (1979)

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Friday, April 11, 2014

CC: Screamers/Island Of The Fishmen (1979)

The Deep Ones are creatures in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft.  The beings first appeared in Lovecraft's novella "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (1931), but were already hinted at in the early short story "Dagon".  The Deep Ones are a race of intelligent ocean-dwelling creatures, approximately human-shaped but with a fishy, froggy appearance.  They regularly mate with humans along the coast, creating societies of hybrids.

Numerous Mythos elements are associated with the Deep Ones, including the legendary town of Innsmouth, the undersea city of Y'ha-nthlei1, the Esoteric Order of Dagon2, and the beings known as Father Dagon and Mother Hydra3.  After their debut in Lovecraft's tale, the sea-dwelling creatures resurfaced in the works of other authors, especially August Derleth.

Lovecraft provides a description of the Deep One in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth":

I think their predominant color was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked ... They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design - living and horrible.

Lovecraft describes the Deep Ones as a race of undersea-dwelling humanoids whose preferred habitat is deep in the ocean (hence their name).  However, despite being primarily marine creatures, they can come to the surface and can survive on land for some time.  All Deep Ones are immortal; none die except by accident or violence.  They are said to serve the beings known as Father Dagon and Mother Hydra, as well as Great Cthulhu.  They are opposed by mysterious beings known as the Old Gods, whose powerful magic can keep them in check.  This detail is one of the vestigial hints that August Derleth developed as the mostly unnamed Elder Gods.

Sergio Martino (born 19 July 1938 in Rome, Italy) is an Italian film director and producer, notable for his contributions to the Giallo4 genre.  Martino is the brother of producer Luciano Martino.  They collaborated frequently in their respective professions.  Their grandfather was director Gennaro Righelli.  Martino worked for both the big screen as well as for Italian television where he does most of his current work.  He often worked with actress Edwige Fenech who in the 1970s was married to his brother Luciano.  He also worked with a lot of genre actors such as George Hilton, Ivan Rassimov and Claudio Cassinelli, as well as famed Italian screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi.  Martino's pseudonyms include: Julian Barry, Martin Dolman, Serge Martin, Christian Plummer, George Raminto.

Screamers (1979)

  • Original Title: L'isola degli uomini pesce
  • A.K.A.: Island of the Fishmen
  • A.K.A.: Something Waits In The Dark
  • Genre: Action – Horror
  • Directed: Sergio Martino
  • Produced:
    • Luciano Martino 
    • Roger Corman
  • Written:
    • H.P. Lovecraft  ("The Shadow Over Innsmouth")
    • Luciano Martino 
    • Sergio Donati 
    • Cesare Frugoni 
    • Sergio Martino
  • Starring: Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Richard Johnson, Beryl Cunningham, Joseph Cotton, Franco Iavarone, Roberto Posse, Giuseppe Castellano, Franco Mazzieri
  • Music: Luciano Michelini
  • Cinematography: Giancarlo Ferrando
  • Editing: Eugenio Alabiso
  • Studio:
    • Dania Film 
    • Medusa Distribuzione
  • Distributed:
    • Medusa Distribuzione  
    • New World Pictures  
    • Alan Young Pictures  
    • Embassy Home Entertainment 
    • Mya Communication 
    • Scorpion Releasing
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 18 January 1979 (Italy) 
    • June 1981 (US)
  • Running Time: 81 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language: Italian

It is the year 1891 and a military doctor, Lieutenant Claude de Ross a survivor of not one, but two shipwrecks, washes ashore on a mysterious, uncharted Caribbean island along with a handful of convicts.  When several of these convicts meet unfortunate ends at the hands of the titular fishmen, Claude and the other survivors flee into the jungle, only to encounter the sadistic Edmond Rackham and his beautiful captive Amanda Marvin.

Amanda's father, Professor Ernest Marvin, a once-famed biologist, has discovered a way to transform humans into amphibious creatures and controls their every move.  Rackham manipulates Marvin into performing the procedure upon both willing and unwilling participants by assuring him that his work is undertaken for purely scientific and humanitarian motives (Marvin hopes to reduce strain on the world food supply by creating a race of people who can live in the resource-untapped ocean).  Having discovered the lost city of Atlantis beneath the waters surrounding the island however, Rackham is in actuality using the half-human monsters to plunder the lost city of its treasures.

Shakira, a voodoo priestess in the employ of Rackham foretells death and destruction descending upon the island.  The priestess' prophecy is fulfilled as the film ends with Claude and Amanda attempting an escape from a gun-wielding Rackham, a crazed Shakira, uncontrolled fishmen and the very volcano that doomed Atlantis which awakens and threatens to send what unsubmerged landmass remains to oblivion.

After being acquired by American distributors New World Pictures and United Pictures Organization, Miller Drake was hired to pen and helm a new opening for the film.  This prologue featured Cameron Mitchell as a sea captain leading a gentleman who had squandered his family fortune in search of Atlantean treasure on the island.

This footage contained grisly special make-up effects of fishmen-inflicted wounds created by Chris Walas. Changes to the film itself included the addition of musical cues by Sandy Berman not present in the Italian cut, a new English dub track and a new title, “Something Waits in the Dark”.

After this 1980 release proved unsuccessful, Jim Wynorski spearheaded New World Pictures' re-release of the film. Wynorski retitled the film (again) and for this new version, entitled “Screamers”, a scene of a man being turned inside-out was filmed specifically for inclusion in a trailer designed to lure in audiences who failed to give Something Waits in the Dark much notice.

Upon its release in June 1981, Screamers performed well for its releasing company but when moviegoers complained that the gruesome "man turned inside-out" scene was not included in the actual release, prints were sent back to New World to have the demanded scene spliced in.  This sequence has never been seen on home video as it was not part of the original negative.

Both Something Waits in the Dark and Screamers run approximately 85 minutes in length.  Roughly half an hour of footage was excised from L'isola degli uomini pesce in order to make room for the above-mentioned stateside additions.  In 1995 Sergio Martino returned to direct a sequel titled The Fishmen and Their Queen.

Screamers/Island Of The Fishmen/Something Waits In The Dark/WHATEVER! (1979)

The Fishmen and Their Queen (1995)

  • Original Title: La regina degli uomini pesce
  • Genre: Adventure – Horror – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Sergio Martino
  • Produced: Marco Grillo Spina
  • Written:
    • Sergio Martino 
    • Sauro Scavolini
  • Starring: Giuliano Gensini, Michael Velez, Natascia Castrignano, Donald Hodson, Antonella Troise, Ramona Badescu, James Thuell, Anibelca Garcia, Roberto Ferrerasi, Ron Spyre, Hal Yamanouchi, Carolyn De Fonseca, Ted Rusoff, Frank von Kuegelgen
  • Music: Luigi Ceccarelli
  • Cinematography: Roberto Girometti
  • Editing: Alberto Moriani
  • Studio:
    • Dania Film 
    • Globe Films
  • Distributed:
    • Alternative Distribution Alliance
    • Astro Distribution  
    • Mya Communication
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 1 January 1995 (Italy)
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Country: Italy
  • Language:
    • English 
    • Italian 
    • German

To escape from a ruined city in the throes of a band of barbarians, two teenagers meet by chance Socrates, a man who leads them on a small tropical island seemingly immaculate and remained untouched by a 'nuclear holocaust.  The island, however, is dominated by an evil queen as beautiful as the queen uses a hybrid race of fish-men to terrorize the population and subject it to his will.  The two boys decide to collaborate with a heroic princess, who leads a revolutionary alliance to overthrow the wicked queen and rescue his sister kept in captivity.

The film remained unreleased to the general public until 2008.  In fact, only after 13 years of implementation, the television movie was aired for the first time on Iris, then on Italy 1.5



1.  "Cyclopean and many-columned Y'ha-nthlei" is the only Deep One city named by Lovecraft.  The name may have been inspired by the Lord Dunsany character "Yoharneth-Lahai", "the god of little dreams and fancies" who "sendeth little dreams out of PEGANA to please the people of Earth."  In "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", it is described as a great undersea metropolis below Devil's Reef just off the coast of Massachusetts, near the town of Innsmouth.  Its exact age is not known, but one resident is said to have lived there for 80,000 years.  In Lovecraft's story, the U.S. government torpedoed Devil's Reef in 1928 as part of a raid on the town of Innsmouth.

2.  Esoteric Order of Dagon was the primary religion in Innsmouth after Captain Obed Marsh returned from the South Seas with the dark religion circa 1838.  It quickly took root due to its promises of expensive gold artifacts and fish, which were desired by the primarily-fishing town.  The central beings worshipped by the Order were the Deep Ones, Father Dagon, Mother Hydra, and, to a lesser extent, Cthulhu.  The Deep Ones were seen largely as intermediaries between the various gods, rather than as gods themselves.  Even so, the cultists sacrificed various locals to the Deep Ones at specific times in exchange for a limitless supply of gold and fish.

3.  Mother Hydra and her consort, Father Dagon are both deep ones overgrown after millennia ruling over their lesser brethren.  Together with Cthulhu, they form the triad of gods worshiped by the Deep Ones (their names are inspired by Dagon, the Semitic fertility deity, and the Hydra of Greek mythology).

4.  Giallo is an Italian 20th-century genre of literature and film, which in Italian indicates crime fiction and mystery.  In English, it refers to a genre similar to the French fantastique genre and includes elements of horror fiction and eroticism.  The word "giallo" is Italian for "yellow" and comes from a series of cheap paperback mystery novels with trademark yellow covers.  Dario Argento would an example of a Giallo type movie.

5Iris is a free television channel Italian published by Mediaset, owned by Joseph Feyles and available on digital terrestrial and Italian satellite platform with TV Sat.  Italy 1 is a private Italian television channel published by Mediaset, the main Italian private television operator, and the second is to network for the Mediaset group.  It is common in Italy at a national level and is proposed as a channel generalist to target youth.

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