Monday, June 19, 2017


"Hell on Frisco Bay" director Frank Tuttle's final film "Island of Lost Women" (** OUT OF ****) was co-produced by actor Alan Ladd's Jaguar company and written by "Teenage Monster" scenarist Ray Buffum from a story by Prescott Chaplin. Chaplin is best known for writing the W.C. Fields comedy "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break." "Island of Lost Women" appears to be inspired in part by William Shakespeare's "The Tempest." American radio commentator Mark Bradley (Jeff Richards of "Born Reckless") is being flown to a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, when one propeller of their twin-engined plane, piloted by Joe Walker (John Smith later of the television western "Laramie"), malfunctions, and Walker makes an emergency landing on an uncharted island in the Pacific. These guys have been working together for five years and what they are about to encounter is the most bizarre experience of their association. Moments before they land, our heroes hear a warning broadcast to them over a loudspeaker to dissuade them from landing. Left with no alternative but to land, Walker manages adroitly to put the plane down on the beach without it cracking up. A distinguished gentleman in casual apparel, Dr. Paul Lujan (towering Alan Napier of the television series "Batman"), approaches them and brusquely inquires how quickly they can repair their aircraft and leave him in peace.

Watching nearby from the foliage are Lujan's lovely daughters: Venus (Venetia Stevenson of "Darby's Rangers"), Mercuria (June Blair of "Hell Bound"), and sixteen-year-old Urana (Diane Jergens of "Teenage Rebel"), who have never seen any men other than their father. Later, we learn that Paul's wife died after they had moved to the island. Walker discovers their host's identity when he is gathering eggs for their supper. The pilot finds Lujan's name stenciled on a slat from a packing crate: Dr. Paul Lujan, California Institute. A cynical and disillusioned atomic scientist who is "one of the leading authorities on nuclear fission in the world," Lujan explains to Mark that his wife and he forsook civilization fifteen years ago and sought the haven of an island with their three small children after the attack on Hiroshima. Lujan never believed the Allies would have deployed the bomb. He thought it would be used only as a threat. Bradley takes a walk with Venus and they talk about his work. Urana shows up to bring Venus home and asks her has Bradley kissed her yet. Dr. Lujan furnishes our heroes with pillows and bedding to sleep on the beach. While Walker had tried to extend their stay with additional repairs, Bradley wants him now to speed up things because he senses a scoop in their serendipitous encounter on the island. The following morning, our heroes confront Dr. Lujan with his identity, and he allows them the chance to leave, but Bradley is determined to exploit the opportunity. Now, in a drastic change from his earlier graciousness, Lujan promises them that they shall never leave the island if they don't agree to never mention its location. Again, Bradley refuses to accept Lujan's ultimatum. The scientist brandishes a flame-throwing automatic pistol and destroys their plane.

This doesn't keep Bradley and Walker from commencing work on a raft with Venus and Mercuria providing them with tools. Before long, Urana creates trouble of her own when she becomes infatuated with Bradley. Our heroes have built a raft, but Bradley refuses to take Venus with her. Urana eavesdrops on their conversation and informs on them to her father. Eventually, Lujan takes Walker prisoner in his storage shed. Urana finds her father's flame-throwing pistol and they struggled over it. Accidentally, they fire it and a blaze erupts in Lujan's laboratory. Trying to release Walker from confinement, Lujan is thwarted when a shelf above the door collapses and knocks him semi-conscious. Bradley rushes it as the daughters carry their father to safety and rescue his pardner. Earlier, Lujan had shown Mark his process for forging a special isotope from uranium in his small laboratory reactor. The heat from the blaze triggers a reaction. Our heroes, the girls, and Dr. Lujan survive an atomic blast. At fadeout, an air/send rescue plane is flying all six of them back to civilization.

Director Frank Tuttle doesn't have much to work with, but he keeps the action moving briskly in this tame, black and white, 71-minute opus. Alan Napier is ideally cast as the mad scientist who believes that civilization is like a snowball that grows bigger as it rolls along toward extinction. Jeff Richards and John Smith are feisty young bulls. One scene shows them in their swim trunks about a dip in the ocean. Later, Bradley saves Venus from a shark. The shark that Richards kills is hilariously limp. Of course, the girls are all gorgeous. Production values seem above-average as this is a Warner Brothers' release. The uncharted island with atomic energy must have been a stretch in those days. "Island of Lost Women" was obviously used to pack theaters. Routine and competent best describes it.

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