13 January 2014 | kevinolzak
Seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1966
1940's "Island of Doomed Men" was among the 11 Columbia titles included in the SON OF SHOCK television package in the late 1950s, one of three to star Peter Lorre, followed by "The Face Behind the Mask" and "The Boogie Man Will Get You." The ill-fated actor Robert Wilcox ("The Man They Could Not Hang") is cast as Mark Sheldon, undercover agent from the Department of Justice, who certainly picks a roundabout way to conduct his investigation; convicted of a murder he didn't commit, orchestrated by the very man he's investigating, Lorre's Stephen Danel, winding up exactly where he intended to be all along after several uncertain months of good behavior. Dead Man's Isle is the place where Danel employs parolees as slave labor to mine diamonds when not being flogged for disobedience, with only three armed guards (Charles Middleton, Don Beddoe and Bruce Bennett) and an electrified fence to protect his home ("to keep out the animals and snakes!"). Also held captive is Danel's beautiful wife Lorraine (Rochelle Hudson), habitually clinging to Sheldon despite her husband's protests and seeking aid from houseboy Ziggy (George E. Stone), whose pet monkey throws a fit at the sight of the boss ("keep that monkey away from me!"). The script's characters are fairly one-dimensional, much like Warners' 1939 Karloff vehicle "Devil's Island," but Lorre's quiet, soft-spoken presence is more unnerving than any bombastic, overdone performance, making those moments when he does lose his cool quite chilling (what was it about that monkey anyway?). Every time he needs a light someone is there to fearfully do it with shaking hands, and the reactions of others matter more since Hollywood didn't dare show any depravity. The supporting cast is surprisingly strong but it's Lorre's show all the way, actually one of the few vehicles in which he's top billed as the main heavy (he and Rochelle Hudson had previously co-starred in "Mr. Moto Takes a Chance"). Despite its SHOCK! pedigree, "Island of Doomed Men" aired just once on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater on Oct 1 1966.