Unknown Island (1948) poster

Unknown Island (1948)


USA. 1948.


Director – Jack Bernhard, Screenplay – Jack Harvey & Robert T. Shannon, Story – Robert T. Shannon, Producer – Albert J. Cohen, Photography – Fred Jackman Jr, Music – Ralph Stanley, Music Supervisor – Harry Ross, Photographic Effects – Howard A. Anderson & Ellis Burman, Art Direction – Jerome Pycha Jr. Production Company – Albert Jay Cohen Productions.


Virginia Grey (Carol Reed), Philip Reed (Ted Osbourne), Richard Denning (John Fairbanks), Barton MacLane (Captain Tarnowski), Dick Wessel (Sanderson)


In Singapore, Ted Osbourne, with the financial backing of his fiancée Carol Reed, charters a pig freighter under Captain Tarnowski. They set forth to investigate an island that Ted flew over as a pilot during WWII and saw inhabited by dinosaurs. They successfully locate the island. However, once there, they have to deal with a mutinous Lascar crew, Tarnowski’s treachery, natural disaster and the dinosaurs themselves.

Unknown Island was one of several B-budget lost world films made during the 1940s and 50s. The template for this genre was King Kong (1933) and before that the silent The Lost World (1925). These films established the formula wherein explorers would find an island, a lost valley or plateau where prehistoric life teemed. Most of these films have not dated well today with the effects in particular being shown up as jerky stop motion animation, shoddy puppets or men in tatty monster suits – the sole exception must be King Kong itself. (For a more detailed overview of the genre see Lost Worlds).

Unknown Island is a routine entry in this lost world cycle. The dinosaurs are cheap and shabby – a combination of men in dinosaur suits, immobile figures being pulled along on wires and optically enlarged komodo dragons. The effects are never seen in closeup or in combination with the humans, meaning that the dinosaurs only ever exist as an off-screen threat.

Island of dinosaurs in Unknown Island (1948)
Island of dinosaurs

The rest of the film centres around the human conflicts of personality where the dialogue gets fairly purple at times. The film is at least in colour, which most of the other lost world films from the era were not, although today the colour looks as though it is colorized.

Full film available here

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