| Reliable actors try to overcome dirt cheap budget
"Listen, you poisoned a couple of wives and I cracked some Foreign Legion skulls, we belong here... or someplace like it." So says Devil's Island prisoner Rex Ingram to his buddy Lou Adler in a Cayenne saloon in "Hell on Devil's Island" This low budget effort has an interesting story about a crusading journalist (Helmut Dantine) who is trapped at the French penal colony and combines with an honest Governor (Robert Cornthwaite) to overcome a brutal forced labor racket. The heavies are led by a whip-wielding William Talman who snarls his way through his last feature appearance before making his mark as D.A. Hamilton Burger in the Perry Mason television show.
An ensemble of veteran performers tries hard and the script, despite a few off-center laughs, really isn't that bad. The picture is ultimately betrayed by a rock-bottom budget laden with cheap-looking television interiors and an excessive number of two-shot,close-ups of the actors. The exterior 'jungle' scenes strongly resemble the old Republic lot across the street from O'Brien's Bar and the 76 station on Ventura Blvd in Studio City or Topanga Canyon before the strip malls and tract houses completely took over. One sequence was filmed in the caves by Griffith Park.
Imagine a movie about Devil's Island that possesses the expansive cinematography of a Jack Webb helmed television episode and you have a pretty good overview of this picture.