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"Battle of Blood Island (1960)" Topic


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410 hits since 16 Jan 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian16 Jan 2019 8:05 p.m. PST

I recently watched this Roger Corman WWII film, and thought I'd tell you about it.

This is one of a trio of movies that Corman made in Puerto Rico for tax purposes. Joel Rapp and his friends put up some of the financing, and he was the director; he had acquired the rights to a short story, Expect the Vandals, by not-yet-famous Philip Roth.

I have the Roger Corman Puerto Rico Trilogy DVD set, and it includes a commentary track with director Joel Rapp (with Fred Olen Ray). It's fun to listen to, though he doesn't spend much time discussing the movie we're watching! grin (Years ago, Fred Olen Ray wanted to see this film, and ended up buying a theater copy that he had to put on a projector! This DVD uses the print that Fred Olen Ray saved.)

Roger made low-budget movies, and the important thing about the screenplay is that it primarily involved two U.S. soldiers on a Japanese-held island that could be filmed inexpensively!

Joel was serious about this movie, however, and hoped it could be marketed through the "art house" theaters eventually.

The star is Richard Devon, who had previously appeared in several Corman films, including as the star of War of the Satellites. He plays soldier Moe.

Ron Kennedy (AKA Ron Gans) is his co-star; he was a friend of the director, and helped finance the picture in order to get the role of soldier Ken. (He's better remembered today for his voice work.)

There's some uncertainty about how the movie got its final 'introduction' scenes. When the completed movie was shown to the critics, it was not received well enough to justify a release to the art houses. Corman therefore needed to make some changes to make the film viable for the drive-in theater market. Then, a few years later, television came along, and scenes needed to be added to make the film into a standard length for television. So, additional material was filmed in California. The director was not happy with the changes.

So the film became 'Battle for Blood Island' to help it sell at the drive-ins (it was on a double-bill with Ski Troop Attack). And since there was no 'battle' in the original movie, new scenes were added depicting the attempted U.S. landing on the Japanese-held island. The idea is that the American invaders are fouled up by an unknown reef, allowing the Japanese defenders (played by Puerto Rican actors) to kill most of them.

The two survivors are Moe (an older, Jewish soldier) and Ken (a young man paralyzed by a wound). Moe saves Ken and, undetected, they make their home in a cave on the island. Ken is entirely dependent on Moe, who scouts the island to find out where the Japanese camp is.

The movie is essentially a story about how Moe and Ken struggle to survive, how Ken deals with depression, and how they almost go crazy.

There's an odd twist about halfway through the movie, when you think the story is going one direction, and then it veers off into something else, and you're not sure if it's going to be sci-fi, fantasy, mental illness, or what.

Roger and Joel both make brief appearances as U.S. soldiers.

The acting is adequate. Richard Devon has an acting style which some like and some hate. Ron Kennedy handles his role well.

The movie is slow-paced, and the last half of the movie dragged for me.

It's not bad, though. More of a psychological movie than a war movie.

About an hour long. Black-and-white.

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0168492

If you're looking for scenario ideas, the premise of two soldiers stranded on a Japanese-held island could certainly make an interesting skirmish campaign.

Dennis16 Jan 2019 10:17 p.m. PST

You noted Richard Devon's acting style as possibly off-putting. Is this something you have noticed specific to this movie or his Corman films?

He was all over TV in the 50s and 60s-including a recurring role on Yancy Derringer as Jodie and in lots of westerns and cop shows-and I don't recall anything unusual. I always thought of him as a typical character actor, kind of like Harry Lauter or Myron Healey.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian17 Jan 2019 11:51 a.m. PST

You noted Richard Devon's acting style as possibly off-putting. Is this something you have noticed specific to this movie or his Corman films?

Yes. I haven't seen his other work (well, I must have seen him in Magnun Force, but didn't notice it was him).

In his early work, he seems to me to be just on the edge of over-acting, of looking self-conscious, of having an acting 'style' rather than being natural.

Dennis17 Jan 2019 1:12 p.m. PST

Depending on your age and TV viewing habits, you've probably seen him but just didn't realize who he was. Among other things he tended to play a lot of cowboy bad guy parts in old TV westerns. I asked about his over-acting because my memory of him is that of a typical character actor-the kind of guy who just blends in and so doesn't get noticed-like Whit Bissell, or King Donovan or Bing Russell.

On the other hand, a bit of over-acting in just the right degree could make the actor stand out and lead to more work; Neville Brand, Lee van Cleef and Jack Elam come to mind as that sort. So in his Corman work Devon might not have yet worked out the right balance-or maybe Corman just encouraged that sort of performance.

BTW, if you're a Corman fan you might check out the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed about Filipino genre films:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1623757

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