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Fiend of Dope Island / Pagan Island
THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Something Weird Video has been compiling the obscure and bizarre corners of celluloid history for years now, always pouring love and affection into their releases. Their Tropical Double Feature Fiend of Dope Island / Pagan Island could easily have been just another cheap schlock fest if such care and consideration on the part of the distributor weren't so evident. The pairing of the films is perfect: Both are set on the kind of bland uncharted island where non-descript natives duke it out with conniving white men and girls at some point dance in their undies. The surprise here is that both films are extremely watchable.
The Fiend of Dope Island is the better of the two. It actually features some fine acting and cinematography although the material is ripe for MST3K. Charlie (Bruce Bennett) is a sadistic overlord on the tiny island, enslaving natives and Americans alike in some sort of vague dope smuggling ring. His barbarous cruelty features a good deal of whipping and punching. He hires dancer Glory (Tania Velia) to dance for him in his hut by pretending it will be a high-profile gig. Instead she finds herself in the same hopeless boat as everyone else. Davey (Robert Bray) may pretend to be Charlie's right-hand man but in reality he's hatching a scheme to bring the maniac down. The story is stupid but the leads are terrific. Bray, star of Lassie, has enough wit to be a convincing hero. Velia (credited as "The Yugoslavian Bombshell") is sexy and sly. The real star, however, is Bennett. A one-time Tarzan, Bennett clearly savors every evil moment as the no-good Charlie. His sinister performance is manic and wild. Watching him go nuts on the rest of the cast is a true pleasure.
Pagan Island doesn't boast any of the great acting of Dope Island but it is entertaining nonetheless. Clocking in at a spry 58 minutes, it tells the simple story of Stanton (Edward Drew) who gets lost at sea after his tanker blows up. He lands on an island inhabited only by semi-nude women. (which means that everyone runs around clutching their flower necklaces close to their chests) Supposedly the island continues it's survival thanks to an annual visit by the men of the tribe. While this seems like the set-up for the final showdown, nothing ever comes of this interesting tidbit. Instead, Stanton falls for Nani Maka (apparently played by Nani Maka). Unfortunately Maka is already promised to the sea god. The tragedy of the plot's outcome is revealed in the opening moments (the film plays in flashback) but getting there's all the fun, especially the weird broken English of the girls ("I no understand his words. He say I built like small brick house.") Delicious cheese, indeed.
The full-frame transfers are damn near stunning. Each film displays some dirt and a bit of occasional damage but the black and white images look vibrant and silky and the compression is clean and well done. It's hard to believe that some well-known films are virtually unwatchable on DVD and these look so good.
Both films are available in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. The tracks sound fine considering the limitations of the format.
Something Weird has included a nice selection of extras. Hysterical trailers for both films are included, as are eight nudie shorts on related subjects ("The Exotic Fire Dance," "Women of Bali") pulled from old coin-op film viewers. Also included is a gallery of drive-in exploitation art accompanied by radio ads for super-schlock movies.
Neither film is a masterpiece but they're both more entertaining than you might think. Something Weird's presentation is top-notch and this disc is perfect for cheese aficionadas.