Horror Island (1941)

35mm film, black and white, 1.37:1
mono (Western Electric Mirrorphonic), English

An American comedy horror film directed by George Waggner.

Plot Summary

Bill Martin, a Princeton graduate, is a wannabe entrepreneur whose string of ventures have so far ended in failure. He currently owns a small island called Morgan's Island, little more than a rock with a spooky old house perched on, off the coast of Florida and he has no idea what to with it. Until, that is, he and his friend Stuff Oliver rescue aged peg-legged sailor Tobias Clump after he's pitched over the side of the dock by a mysterious, shadowy figure. This “phantom” makes off with half a map that supposedly reveals the location of the stash buried by infamous buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan's and Clump gives Martin the other half. He's told that the map is a forgery – it isn't – so decides to abandon any idea of searching for the treasure and instead opens the island to holiday makers looking for a “treasure hunt” cruise. On their first day they meet the wealthy Wendy Creighton and her partner Thurman Coldwater and persuades them to join the cruise. Also along for the ride are Martin's cousin George, cartographer Professor Jasper Quinley, small-time gangster Rod Grady, his wife Arleen and private investigator McGoon who is trying to expose Martin's operation as a fraud. Once on the island, the group is being menaced by the “phantom,” who uses a PA system to implore them to “leave the castle” and soon turns to murder.


Directed by: George Waggner
Copyright MCMXLI [1941] by Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Universal presents
A Ben Pivar production
Associate Producer: Jack Bernhard
Screenplay: Maurice Tombragel, Victor McLeod
Original Story [Terror of the South Seas]: Alex Gottlieb
Director of Photography: Elwood Bredell
Film Editor: Otto Ludwig
Musical Director: H.J. Salter
Sound Supervisor: Bernard B. Brown
Gowns: Vera West
Art Director: Jack Otterson

Dick Foran (Bill [Martin])
Leo Carrillo (Tobias [Clump])
Peggy Moran (Wendy [Creighton])
Fuzzy Knight (Stuff [Oliver])
John Eldredge (George)
Lewis Howard (Thurman [Coldwater])
Hobart Cavanaugh (Jasper [Quinley])
Walter Catlett (McGoon)
Ralf Harolde (Rod [Grady])
Iris Adrian (Arleen [Grady])
Foy Van Dolsen (The Phantom)
Emmett Vogan (the stranger)

Alternative Titles

El fantasma del castillo – Mexican title
A Ilha do Horror – Portuguese title
Ilha dos Horrores – Brazilian title
I nisos tis frikis – Greek title
Остров ужасов – Russian title


The Hollywood Reporter vol.62 no.22 (27 March 1941) p.4
This picture is just what you would expect of a show titled Horror Island. […] Waggner gets all the action possible from the script in hand. He never stops to look around. nor do the characters as they blithely step over dead bodies. Wagner's direction is first-rate throughout, as is photography by Elwood Bredll in capturing eerie atmosphere provided by art directors Jack Otterson and Ralph DeLacy. Dick Form takes care of the leading role in likable manner, and Peggy Moran is a pretty heroine. – from an uncredited review

Variety vol.142 no.4 (2 April 1941) p.16 – credits, review
Horror Island‘ is a fourth-rate, low-budget mystery-and-adventure flapdoodle, poorly written, sloppily produced and directed. Supervisor Ben Pivar apparently scoured around the U lot and elsewhere to pick up people who included Dick Foran, alumnus of westerns; Fuzzy Knight, from sagebrushers; Leo Carrillo, who figures where accents are wanted; Walter Catlett, a two-reeler comedian mostly, and various and sundry others, including Hobart Cavanaugh, the milktoast type, and Iris Adrian, toughie. The Alex Gottlieb story is a ridiculous olla-podrida of hoke, romance and claptrap built around the efforts of a small group to lay their hands on buried treasure on an obscure, deserted island, where a supposedly haunted castle exists. There is no concern for the plausible nor the consistent. […] About the only virtue of ‘Horror Island' is that its short, 61 minutes. – from a review by Char

Kinematograph Weekly vol.295 no.1795 (11 September 1941) p.32
“Spot the murderer” comedy-melodrama, telling of homicidal monkey business on a treasure island. The story and its treatment are a little too much in the old-time stage tradition to make the top grade, but the popularity and versatilitu of the cast should, nevertheless, assure some measure of success with the not too sophisticated. It has only a few thrills, but an adequate consignment of laughs. Average title and cast thriller for the ninepennies. […] Foran makes a clean-cut Bill, and Leo Carillo. Peggy Moran, John Eldredge, Hobart Cavanagh, Walter Catlett and Ralf Harolde represent versatile types as the principal suspects. […] The story is somewhat extravagant, but the most persistent fault is the casual way in which many of the characters react to homicide. There are many laughs in the right place, but also a number in the wrong. Realistic thrills are comparatively rare. Title and star values and convenient footage are the main booking angles.


Extracts included in
100 Years of Horror: Scream Queens (1996)


Castle of Frankenstein no.10 p.42
Classic Images no.376 (October 2006) pp.67-74 – illustrated article (Pentagram Reviews: Horror Island (1941) by Blackie Seymour)
Classic Images no.140 (February 1987) pp.C28-C30
The Hollywood Reporter vol.62 no.22 (27 March 1941) p.4 – credits, review (author not credited)
Kinematograph Weekly vol.295 no.1795 (11 September 1941) p.32
Motion Picture Herald vol.142 no.12 (22 March 1941) p.87
Today's Cinema vol.57 no.4617 (5 September 1941) p.11
Variety vol.142 no.4 (2 April 1941) p.16 – credits, review (by Char)

Ghosts and Angels in Hollywood Films by James Robert Parish pp.192-193 – credits, synopsis, review
Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.200 – credits