The Camp on Blood Island (1958)


British men and women are held captive in segregated prison camps under the rule of a sadistic Japanese commander who vows to kill them all if Japan loses World War II. When the Brits secretly learn of the war’s end, they have to keep their Japanese torturers from finding out. They sabotage radio equipment and attempt to delay the mail. But when an American pilot (Phil Brown) is taken prisoner, he and the British colonel (Andre Morell) launch dual escape plans, prepared to battle to the death if help doesn’t arrive in time.

Despite its title and marketing campaign, The Camp on Blood Island isn’t really an exploitation movie. The film opens with a man digging his own grave and features almost daily death scenes on its way to a showdown where many characters are killed in battle. But the gore and violence are largely kept off-screen, with the focus spent more on character and suspense. It’s a bit of a departure for Britain’s Hammer Studios, more famous for their gothic horror films. While the film is very plot-driven, many of the actors have a moment or two to shine. One standout is Michael Goodliffe as the British priest who passes messages from the men’s camp to the women’s through Latin passages in his burial sermons. Walter Fitzgerald is also memorable as a once-compliant prisoner who turns defiant when the Japanese take away from him the only thing that matters.

The blight on this otherwise fairly engaging little thriller is the Japanese character casting. None of them are played by Japanese actors — they’re all British people in varying degrees of makeup. There’s no complexity to the villains, either. They’re all stock stereotypes who even laugh as they kill and torture. It’s the only exploitive element in a movie that otherwise wants to be — and should be — taken seriously.

Directed by Val Guest (The Abominable Snowman); with Carl Möhner, Edward Underdown, Barbara Shelley, and Michael Gwynn.

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