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Down-on-his-luck captain Bill Martin (Dick Foran) and his first mate
Stuff (Fuzzy Knight) are paid a visit by a one-legged sailor, Clump (Leo
Carrillo), who wants to persuade them to join him on a treasure hunt on
Martin's own island - the island and the creepy castle on it being pretty
much his only possession. There is a twist though: A black-hooded figure
called the Phantom (Foy Van Dolsen) is after Clump's treasure map.
and Clump bring the treasure map to a local professor (Hobart Cavanaugh),
who exposes it as a hoax though. Still, the whole affair gives Martin an
idea: Why not turn his island and the castle into a tourist attraction
offering fake treasure hunts.
Soon enough, Martin has a boat full of
tourists to take to the island, including the professor, inexplicably, a
woman who will eventually become his girlfriend (Peggy Moran), a gangster
(Ralf Harolde) and his moll (Iris Adrian), an inefficient lawman (Walter
Catlett) and the like. Stuff is also there to provide a few scares for the
guests ... but somehow the Phantom has also made it to the island and is
threatening some of them as well - and then the dying starts. People are
murdered one by one, and whoever did it is writing down the number of
those still alive on a panel in the living room in chalk. Of course,
everybody blames the Phantom, but then the Phantom dies in a death trap he
simply couldn't have set up himself.
During all of this, Clump continues
to look for his treasure, because he still believes his map is genuine,
but eventually he arrives at a dead end ... which is when the killer
reveals himself to be the professor, who told Clump and Martin the map was
a fake only to throw everybody off the scent - but now with the treasure
in arm's reach but unreachable without his assistance, he had to come out
into the open ... and soon walks into a trap that those who have hidden
the treasure in the first place have set up.
With the professor and
killer out of the way, Clump and Martin unearth the treasure - and find it
to be nothing but a coffin containing a skeleton. Rather a disappointment,
actually - but to end the film on a happy note, in the last scene,
Martin's island is bought by the ministry of defense to build a naval
base, and Martin's financial worries are over ...
The title of
this film might be slightly misleading, because instead of a maritime
horror film we get an old-dark-house-style murder mystery. Buit that said,
Horror Island is actually pretty entertaining, it's light-footed in
approach, finds the right balance between thriller and comedy, gets the
creepy atmosphere just right, and features a not great but well-enough
ensemble cast to carry the film. Sure, the whole thing is by no means a
genre classic, but it's entertaining nevertheless.