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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Camp on Blood Island [DVD] [1958]
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
One of Hammer's biggest hits in the late 50s when the studio was reinventing itself as one of Britain's most successful independent producers, The Camp on Blood Island has become something of a rarity in the subsequent decades: too violent for TV in the 60s, too politically incorrect today (it's not been seen on UK TV since 1979) and too downmarket for revival houses, its UK DVD release is the first opportunity many will have had to see what all the fuss was about. Despite looking to all intents and purposes like a quickie low-budget Bridge on the River Kwai knockoff - it even stars Andre Morell from Lean's film to lend it some gravitas - Hammer had submitted the script to the censors a year before its bigger budgeted rival and got a surprisingly soft ride for a script about atrocities in a Japanese P.O.W. camp. This may have possibly been because of its roots in a true story about prisoners faced with a massacre by their captors trying to keep the news from them that the war is over, but it didn't stop the UK critics tearing it to shreds as tasteless and racist exploitation or audiences flocking to it en mass, making it a huge box-office success.

While the film certainly has its fill of sadism and casual killing, it's surprisingly tasteful, the black and white photography downplaying the blood and the beheadings kept off camera and director Val Guest and cinematographer Jack Asher doing a surprisingly good job of hiding his low budget and British locations. Unfortunately there's no hiding some dismal miscasting of the Japanese roles. While the extras were played by Chinese waiters, predominantly in long shot, the more substantial roles went to the likes of Marne Maitland, Ronald Radd, Lee Montague, St Bruno tobacco ad man Milton Reid and, looking more like a Moomin than a sentry in possibly the most ridiculous role of his career, Hammer favorite Michael Ripper ("Hey, Tommy, you likee cigarette?"): forget political incorrectness, it's the atrocious makeup and dismal accents that make them so hard to watch, consequently undermining much of the grim, fatalistic mood the first two thirds of the film manage to conjure up. Those cast as the prisoners fare much better, with strong turns from Morell and the magnificent Barbara Shelley and a more than respectable supporting cast including Carl Mohner (not really mastering the Dutch accent), Walter Fitzgerald, Michael Goodliffe, Michael Gwynn and Richard Wordsworth. At around 80 minutes the film holds up surprisingly well for the first two-thirds before the war movie heroics and plot contrivances take over as soon as a hidden crate of hand grenades make their appearance and payback is added to the menu.

It's not a film you can recommend unconditionally, but if you can make allowances for the miscasting and the ending it's a pretty decent effort even if it isn't one of Hammer's classics, and Sony's UK DVD offers a fine 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with an excellent booklet with very detailed background information by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2010
This is a gritty and sometimes harrowing POW drama that goes some way to depicting some of the atrocities suffered by British prisoners inside Japanese prison camps during World War II. This film was made in 1958 by Hammer Studios and filmed in black and white in a ratio known as Megascope. The film was considered quite shocking when it was first released and certain scenes still have a strong impact when viewed today.

Set in the Malay Peninsula in 1945, the story centres on a group of British prisoners who discover that the war is over and that the Allied Forces have been victorious. The problem is that they must keep this news from reaching the camp's sadistic commandant, Colonel Yamamitsu, who has vowed to execute all the prisoners if Japan surrenders.

There are some very tense moments in this film and the levels of violence and brutality are quite high at times for a film made in the 1950s. It is not a Hammer horror film as such but certain scenes do have the power to shock just like some horror movies.

The excellent cast includes Hammer regulars such as André Morell, Barbara Shelley, Michael Ripper and Richard Wordsworth and it was directed by Val Guest, who directed many other important films for Hammer. It is hard to believe that the same director went on to make saucy comedies like Confessions Of A Window Cleaner and Au Pair Girls in the 1970s!

This DVD presents the film in its original Megascope ratio of 2.35:1 and includes an interesting collectors booklet so this is pretty much an essential purchase for fans of Hammer films and fans of classic British cinema.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2012
This is a lost Hammer Classic.
Not shown on TV since 1979 because of politically correct views changing in the world, it is a gritty and well crafted film showing how nasty the Japanese were to British prisoners of war.

I know nowadays people don't like to see a nation being given bad press, and "Not everyone is the same" attitude, but this film honestly depicts what happened all those years ago, and what is the problem with showing that? There are plenty of other war films around showing how nasty the SS and the German army were, so this is no different. But I suspect at the time, becuase it was linked with the name Hammer, it immediately got an undesireable link with horror, and exploitation, which is a shame because it is a very fine film indeed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 December 2010
After the attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, the Japanese occupied Hong Kong, Malaya, Siam, Singapore, Burma and many islands in the Pacific Ocean. The peoples in the occupied countries in South East Asia suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese occupiers and thousands of allied prisoners of war were kept in camps in horrifying conditions because Japanese philosophy regarded surrendering as an act of shame and betrayal and that people who did this should be harshly treated. Consequently prisoners of war was routinely executed, tortured and worked to death on construction projects including the infamous Burma railway where one allied prisoner of war died for every railway sleeper that was laid.

"The camp on Blood Island" is set in such a camp and when the prisoners get to hear about the Japanese surrender through listening to a radio they secretly built they realised that they had heard this news before their captors and when the Japanese got the news they would likely murder everyone in the camp. The prisoners knew they had nothing to lose by trying to liberate themselves so they set about planning to attack their guards with the makeshift weapons they put together. The film which was directed by Val Guest is harrowing even today, it does not pull any punches and it does not make comforting viewing but it is extremely well made and impressive and a tribute to the brave and resilient allied prisoners of war who had to endure four years of dreadful captivity before liberation finally came to them in August 1945.
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on 22 August 2014
Very good image quality of monochrome, solid contrast in widescreen, that was originally shot in Megascope. The dvd from sony has a 24 page booklet, as ever, by Marcus Hearn that is vivid and interesting. In short, what the film deserves at the very least, given that it did sterling business when released. What we have been denied on tv or otherwise since those heady days of x certificates, is now here as intended. Admittedly there is the alternate dubbed word of 'tramp' rather than 'whore' but this is hardly enough to undermine such a solid, brutal piece of cinema that can be an important comment on sadism, as much as it is upon the dubious ethics wavering within war. The censors may well have seen it's 'based on truth' and real testimony as sufficient to merit the film being relatively unhampered. Accordingly, director Val Guest made a film in 1959, Yesterday's Enemy, that revealed an example of a British Captain's inhumane behaviour, specific to one man, in some ways balancing the account regarding who is blameless in war.

The film bears witness to japanese atrocities, but more particularly one infamous camp sadist & a scenario of desperate final days of war under threat of someone who has nothing to lose. This makes for a pacey, direct, crisply directed piece of almost documentary feel where suspense comes naturally when everyone involved is in peril perpetually. Any attempt to bring to mind It Ain't Half Hot Mum will however be scuppered very, and i mean very, readily. This is serious, even with it's occasional flaws. Not to be criticised generally is the acting from all concerned. Morrell, Shelley, Wordsworth..the list goes on throughout. This is solid film making, even on a tight budget, despite the brevity of film length.

However, the lack of a great many available true japanese actors leads to unfortunate moments. Micheal Ripper for one, who is as ever amusing & vibrant, is for no one that may be blessed with sight or even those not, anything approaching japanese. At one point i detected a hint of welsh beneath the rather camp dialect within the slightly questionable choice of pseudo-asian. And this applies to a few other hurried accents.

Besides a stutter in the suspension of disbelief that such random acting demands may have made, the film stands as valuable, despite critics opinions of the time, perhaps even now. The brutality is rife, the film engages with war from the perspective of desperation. Though the plot may have to be taken with a pinch of salt as regards dramatic flow, as the events all unfold so rapidly in succession, this is one of the more satisfying war-related films, all the more immediate with the fine black and white camera-work & the intensity of the dramas depiction of horror. Which this certainly is. Probably not a film to appeal to everyone, certainly not the gung-ho war praisers, but of cinema and of Hammer, this is one of their keepers. Satisfying, british & yet surprisingly timeless despite the limitations of the cinematic period.
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on 4 May 2014
Great DVD version , please release the following unreleased hammer films Ten seconds To Hell , Break in The Circle , Steel Bayonet , and the sequel to the camp on blood island which is Secret of Blood Island
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2010
I saw this film when it first came out. At that time the censors in the UK had given it an X rating. The film was made on a fairly low budget, as were most Hammer films, but the director is one of the best at that time. It rates along with the best of the war films ever made and being in B&W gives it more effect like The Train for example. The film has had cult status for many years now. Highly recommended.
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on 3 February 2014
Read the book,years ago - amazing. But this film is no comparison. I was really looking forward to this - it was quite a let down.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2012
What a shame! Hammer showed with the remarkable "Steel Bayonet" (still to be released via official channels) that it could produce remarkable war movies, intense, dramatic and quite heroic. Here, the studio has produced a film that has indeed shocked me, even 53 years later. The film is profoundly sadistic and one feels that the horrors of wars have been used as a pretext for multiplying sadism, torure, whipping, summary executions, decapitations and humiliation just for their own sake and for their entertainment value. No-one can be redemeed here: not the allied soldiers, waiting for their execution for 70mns like lambs to the slaughter, nor the Japanese jailors, pictured as a bunch of sadistic criminals. By the way, they must have loved this one in Tokyo...
Val Guest, a fantastic director, is much less at ease with the story than he was with the pacey Quatermass movies or "The Abonimable Snowman". His static camera is just a catalogue of atrocities and this is it. Even if Guest endorsed the movie until the end of his life, his very impersonal direction would tend to show the opposite. The performances are overall good, with kudos to André Morell as the commander of the prisonners. Marcus Hearn's booklet is very well-informed and tells you why this film damaged Hammer's reputation so much. So this film is really no more than a curiosity, and a blur of very bad taste in Hammer's generally clean copy book. For completists only.
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on 16 October 2014
very pleased with purchase, would use seller again
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