The Camp on Blood Island

The Camp on Blood Island is a 1958 British World War II film, directed by Val Guest for Hammer Film Productions and starring André Morell, Carl Möhner, Edward Underdown and Walter Fitzgerald.

The Camp on Blood Island
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byVal Guest
Produced byAnthony Hinds
Written byJon Manchip White
StarringAndré Morrell
Carl Möhner
Edward Underdown
Walter Fitzgerald
Music byGerard Schurmann
CinematographyJack Asher
Edited byBill Lenny
Production
company
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 15 April 1958 (1958-04-15) (UK)
  • 11 June 1958 (1958-06-11) (USA)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Box office$3,500,000 (worldwide rentals)[1]

The film is set in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Japanese-occupied British Malaya and deals with the brutal, sadistic treatment of Allied prisoners by their captors. On its release, the film was promoted with the tag line "Jap War Crimes Exposed!", alongside a quote from Lord Russell of Liverpool, "We may forgive, but we must never forget", and an image of a Japanese soldier wielding a samurai sword.

From its powerful opening sequence of a man being forced to dig his own grave before being shot dead, an intertitle follows, stating "this is not just a story - it is based on brutal truth", The Camp on Blood Island is noted for a depiction of human cruelty and brutality which was unusually graphic for a film of its time. It received some contemporary allegations of going beyond the bounds of the acceptable and necessary into gratuitous sensationalism.

A prequel, The Secret of Blood Island, was released in 1964.

Plot

As the Pacific War draws to an end, the commandant of the Blood Island prisoner-of-war camp has let it be known that should Japan surrender, he will order the massacre of the entire captive population. When the prisoners hear through underground sources that Japan has indeed surrendered, they mobilise themselves to try to prevent the news from reaching the commandant. Colonel Lambert (Morell), the authoritarian leader of the prisoners, deems that they must sabotage communications between the camp and the outside world and arm themselves in however makeshift a way in readiness for a final showdown.

Lambert's unilateral assumption of military authority is not universally welcomed, as other prisoners, including Dutch soldier Piet van Elst (Möhner), former governor Cyril Beattie (Fitzgerald) and priest Paul Anjou (Michael Goodliffe), chafe against his quasi-dictatorial personality, obstinacy and refusal to listen to any views other than his own. Lambert is forced continually to justify his at times apparently illogical and counter-productive decisions. Matters are not helped by the growing suspicion that the camp harbours a collaborator in its midst.

Van Elst is given the task of chief saboteur, while Anjou passes messages and instructions to the captives via coded sermons. When the endgame becomes inevitable, the prisoners rise up against their captors in a bloody insurrection, feeling that they have nothing left to lose and the survival of a few is better than the alternative. When Allied relief planes finally arrive they find a mere handful of survivors on either side.

Cast

Production

The film was allegedly based on a true story which Hammer executive Anthony Nelson Keys heard from a friend who had been a prisoner of the Japanese. Keys in turn told the story to colleague Michael Carreras who commissioned John Manchip White to write a script. Finance was provided as part of a co-production deal with Columbia Pictures and shooting began at Bray Studios on 14 July 1957.[2]

Reception

The film was very successful at the box office, being one of the most popular British movies of the year, despite sometimes hostile reviews[2] and earned rentals of $3.5 million worldwide.[1]

The novelisation of the script sold over two million copies and has been described as "arguably the most successful piece of merchandise ever licensed by Hammer."[3]

The chairman of the Motion Pictures Producers' Association of Japan, Shiro Kido, who was also the president of Japanese film studio Shochiku, wrote to Columbia Pictures who were distributing the film worldwide to request that the film be banned in the United States as it hurt US-Japanese relationships stating that "It is most unfortunate that a certain country still maintains a hostile feeling toward Japan and cannot forget the nightmare of the Japanese army." and bemoaning the film's advertising.[4]

References

  1. "Hammer: Five-a-Year for Columbia". Variety. 18 March 1959. p. 19. Retrieved 23 June 2019 via Archive.org.
  2. Marcus Hearn, "The Camp of Blood Island" Viewing Notes, Camp of Blood Island DVD, 2009
  3. Marcus Hearn, The Hammer Vault, Titan Books, 2011 p19
  4. "British 'Camp on Blood Island' May Hurt Japanese in U.S. - Kido Fears". Variety. 4 November 1958. p. 11. Retrieved 7 July 2019 via Archive.org.
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