Monday, August 05, 2019

Vamp or Not? Island of the Burning Damned

So, this is a 1967 British sci-fi/horror that was directed by Terence Fisher, starring Christopher Lee and guests starring Peter Cushing. I was contacted by Clark, who asked whether I had seen the film (under its title Night of the Big Heat) and looked at it as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ Given the director and stars I have mentioned it should be great, thought I, but Clark cautioned, “It's dreadful, you'll love it”, and he was right.

It starts with a meteorological station, on the island of Fara, and a car with its soft top down drives past. The driver, Angela (Jane Merrow), is clearly feeling the heat. Meanwhile a man, Godfrey Hanson (Christopher Lee), is checking a camera. It is melted. He sets up a new one but is observed by a tramp (Sydney Bromley, the Fearless Vampire Killers). The tramp has a gander at the equipment once Hanson has left and then heads to the cave where he lives. There is a high pitch sound and he looks fearful as he dies…

Jane Merrow as Angela
Angela has broken down as the car is overheating and a van, driven by Tinker (Kenneth Cope), stops. Angela can’t understand, she had the water checked on the mainland and he asks if she has put anti-freeze in it. She has and that’s the problem – as it is causing the overheat – but, she insists, you need anti-freeze in winter. As we discover it is winter throughout the UK but Fara is having an unseasonal and localised heatwave. He puts water in her car and tells her to let it cool down. By the time she reaches local inn the Swan he is sat outside enjoying a pint.

Cushing and Lee
The Swan is run by Frankie (Sarah Lawson) and the only customer indoors is Dr Stone (Peter Cushing). Angela introduces herself, she is looking for Jeff (Patrick Allen), Frankie’s husband and novelist, and she is his new secretary. Jeff has popped over to the mainland and Hanson comes in asking if Jeff has returned with his parcel. He is due any time. As it stands, unknown to Frankie, Angela and Jeff had a fling and she has followed him to the island to continue it (it sounds as though he moved there with Frankie to get away from her). The heat is rising (literally), folk start acting odd and only Hanson suspects the truth.

Hanson is a scientist and he believes that the island is being invaded by an advance force of aliens. They are increasing the heat to make the island hospitable. They start attacking energy sources, including animals and humans. I’ll let Hanson explain, “we’ve been sending out high frequency impulses to explore space… …to these beings, they represent a life force… …these beings are composed of high frequency impulses in heat form. They transfer like any form of high frequency…” so they came through the station’s scanners and then materialised, physically, in the atmosphere. At one point Hanson suggests they are from another planet, at another from “where the cosmic gases ferment”. There is so much scientific techno-babble it is untrue. The aliens, they discover, are attracted by light (another energy form) but why ‘Vamp or Not?’

a creature
Essentially, each attack sees them drain the energy (from a car battery, for example) but also from the animals they attack (be it sheep or humans). They do this by causing the animals to burn, through the sound one assumes, and extracting the energy from the combustion – Hanson suggests they are looking for an energy source to keep them alive. So, essentially, they are eaters of energy. They look like blobs that glow and the men try to use explosives to destroy them (of course, that is another energy form). How can they be killed, let us just say that we have a methodology akin to War of the Worlds – not a virus but the Earth has a method of combating the invading force.

winter heatwave
So, Vamp? Well they do consume energy – any energy (there is a logical flaw with them wasting energy by heating the planet up – assuming they somehow generate the heat) and so it depends how generous you want to be about their vampiric nature (my inner jury are still out). However, if you are happy to go down that route I can tell you that Clark was absolute right, this is dreadful but I did love it. The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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