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  • The links with "Bridge on the River Kwai" go further than just the Japanese prison-camp setting and the presence of Andre Morell; there is the same theme of the commanding officer whose behaviour seems increasingly unreasonable in the face of the prisoners' privations, the lone American contrasted with the starved Commonwealth soldiers, and a morally ambiguous ending. In some ways this Hammer production suffers less from political compromise, not being required to introduce an American leading actor for the benefit of the US box office, but it has to be said that whatever flaws may exist in David Lean's film, "The Camp on Blood Island" is ultimately no competition. It's a decent and sometimes brave picture (even the women are shown hounding the suspected collaborator in their midst) but it doesn't hold the same seeds of greatness.

    There is some fine acting on display, both from the actors playing the Japanese, who convey a sense of alien culture without becoming ridiculous, and those portraying the physically drained and starving prisoners: the opening shots of the young man struggling to dig his own grave are actively disturbing, both for his apparent emaciation and for his dragging movements of utter collapse. Andre Morell, of course, dominates the film as the obstinate and authoritarian Colonel Lambert, and in a sense the plot structure consists of gradually justifying his seemingly unreasonable behaviour -- but it is not that simplistic, and the revelation of the final consequences of his decisions (was it, ultimately, all unnecessary?) leaves a note of deliberate ambiguity.

    The prisoners in the women's camp are, perhaps inevitably, shown as rather more glamorous than their male counterparts, with their fetching dishevelment a token gesture towards the starvation and illness stated in the script. Barbara Shelley, playing Kate, does appear rather too healthy in her close-ups for the degree of weakness and collapse she is supposed to portray during her escape. But unsurprisingly this is a male-dominated film, and all the really intriguing characters are male. Lambert himself, and the fretful diplomat Beattie, chafing under what he sees as the military mishandling of their situation. Father Paul, jeopardising his life and his cloth to pass messages via the medium of the funeral Mass. The former planter Van Elst, driven to repeated risky sabotage.

    For a film that was condemned on release for its 'orgy of atrocities', "The Camp on Blood Island" is actually quite restrained in what is implied, let alone shown on screen: the horrors and Japanese 'bestiality' are as much psychological, based on petty humiliation and anticipation, as anything else. This is not torture porn -- the worst that we see is machine-gunning, plus one clean beheading. ("Bridge on the River Kwai" actually goes further in this respect.) But there is never any doubt that the prisoners' situation is horrific, and that ultimately they are prepared to throw lives away in a desperate attempt at group survival.
  • Excellent war movie.Is this film available on video/DVD? Again it is one of those films that appears to have disappeared Into cinema history. Being made in black and white seems to give the film more authenticity. Carl Mohner is excellent as the leader of the prisoners.It is difficult to say anything negative about this movie. The plot is straightforward,but riveting.The Japanese do not know the war is over.The prisoners have found out and are fearful of what will happen to them once the sadistic camp commander acquires this knowledge. The allies are getting closer and the tension mounts.Don't miss this one if it comes to the small screen.Althougth perhaps not in the same league has "the Bridge over the River Kawi" or "The Great Escape" it is still nevertheless an excellent P.O.W. movie in its own right.So why isn't it on DVD?
  • nedwood-213 January 2007
    I saw this movie when I was fairly young and the scenes never left my memory. I could not get over the way the actors looked as if they had just been rescued from real Japanese POW camps. How could they get actors so skinny to play the parts? I thought they were real prisoners.

    Although shot in black and white the realism is terrifying and not for the faint hearted.

    It was so intense it's no wonder the politically correct brigade buried it but it was a true story and true to life in it's portrayal.

    I doubt it could be remade as good but it would be good if they could. One of the most moving movies I have ever seen. Can anyone get me a copy?
  • Watching this now it is difficult to believe that it was given an X certificate.The violence is mainly kept on screen.The main plot point being whether Andre Morell as chief camp officer should tell the sadistic Japanese camp commandant that the war had ended,since the commandant had said that in such eventuality he would kill all the prisoners.Everyone is sweating buckets despite the fact that it was probably filmed in the local woods.Obviously Japanese actors were a bit thin on the ground so they roped in Michael Ripper,obviously not being chased by a Hammer monster on the day. Nevert he less not a bad effort even if it is no classic.
  • While not as good as the one poster comments, it is by no means as bad as the other reviewer says. Yes, there is some shoddy make-up of the Japanese guards, but if you can ignore that you will find the story itself is good enough to carry the film. A group of Allied p.o.w.s are in a camp controlled by a less than friendly commander. He shoots prisoners for sport and works the rest to death in a local mine. He has also let it be known that if Japan loses the war he will kill all the prisoners. The p.o.w.s find out the war has ended and stage a revolt with homemade weapons and some grenades they had hidden at the bottom of a latrine. Not a world winner but an OK time-waster.

    G.G.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of only four Hammer war films, this is an extremely effective and often harrowing prisoner of war drama. It has a very strong script by John Manchip White and Val Guest while the latter's direction is excellent as he is able to maintain a very high level of tension for much of the film. The film takes place on a small island - which is being used as a prison camp by the occupying Japanese forces - off the coast of Malaya, as it then was, in August 1945. Brutal and unrelenting by the standards of the time, it does not pull any punches in its depiction of Japanese atrocities against their prisoners and, as such, it was criticised for being gratuitously violent when it was released. The film was allegedly based on a real incident. It is not on the same level as Hammer's later war film "Yesterday's Enemy", which was likewise directed by Guest, but it is nevertheless an excellent film.

    The film stars André Morell, the studio's best leading man after Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, in an excellent performance as the senior officer Colonel Lambert. He is a strong disciplinarian who does not suffer fools gladly and refuses to allow standards to slip in spite of the fact that he and his men have been imprisoned for more than three years. While he is not the "father to his men" type of commanding officer, he is deeply concerned about the well- being of his fellow prisoners. The reason that Lambert is so keen to maintain discipline is that he believes that it gives the men a structure in their lives which helps them to survive and I think that he has a point there. Lambert is obstinate and authoritarian but these are character traits that serve him well under the circumstances and, ultimately, serve the other prisoners well. Having ordered a campaign of sabotage against the Japanese equipment, their captors' radios are not working. Consequently, they are unaware that the Japanese surrender was announced several days earlier, something which is helped by their isolation from the mainland. However, Lambert and Piet van Elst were able to hear a report on the surrender before they knocked out all of the radios. As the sadistic Commander Yamamitsu has pledged to execute every man, woman and child in the two prison camps on the island when Japan loses the war, Lambert is understandably desperate to keep the news from him.

    The film benefits from having Hammer's very best leading lady Barbara Shelley in the cast as Kate Keiller, the doctor in the women and children's camp who must deal with dreadful sanitary conditions and a cholera outbreak. She is a resourceful woman with a great deal of inner strength to draw upon but she has been pushed to the limit of her endurance after three years of captivity, as have many other male and female prisoners. After her recaptured husband Robert is killed in front of her, Kate tells a Japanese officer exactly what she thinks of him and the way in which the prisoners are treated, which makes for a great scene. Walter Fitzgerald is very good as the former British Commissioner Cyril Beattie, who naively believes that Yamamitsu can be reasoned with if the situation is explained to him. It is only after the death of his beloved wife Helen that he realises his mistake.

    One thing that is very distracting about the film is that, extras aside, none of the Japanese characters are played by actors who look even remotely Japanese. Hammer veteran Marne Maitland, who was born in India, is the least convincing as the camp's second-in-command Captain Sakamura and the only other Japanese character to receive a name. He puts on a silly voice that is very distracting and very disappointing since he is excellent in many of his other films. Ronald Radd does not have any dialogue in English but he is suitably intimidating as Yamamitsu. However, Hammer's most prolific actor Michael Ripper has a bizarre cameo as a jovial Japanese driver who is delighted that the war is over. He is the closest thing that the film has to a sympathetic Japanese character. The film features nice performances from some of the studio's other stalwarts such as Michael Goodliffe, Michael Gwynn, Wolfe Morris, Edwin Richfield and Richard Wordsworth as well as Phil Brown as the US Navy pilot Lt. Commander Peter Bellamy who almost reveals that the war is over.

    Overall, this is an extremely enjoyable film which pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in British cinema in the late 1950s with its depiction of violence.
  • Thrilling and stirring film about the prisoners of a Japanese Concentration Camp in which they are submitted to severe tortures , punishments and grisly executions by beheading. It is set in August 1945 , taking place at a concentration camp located in Blood Island. The war has ended.. now the slaughter begins !

    A strong film about the prolific sub-genre of Concentration Camps with usual ingredients as sadistic commandant , ominous wardens , heinous soldiers carrying out barbaric orders and inmates suffering savage punishments . A cruel film dealing with the ruthless , brutal truth about the most barbaric prison camp in the annals of warfare . Being allegedly based on facts , authenticated by the very few who survived the massacre in this terrible camp .Although in the opening credits explains : all characters and the names used are fictitious . The film boasts of a good plethora of Britsh actors , Hammer's regular , giving decent acting as Andrew Keir as Colonel Lambert who commands the group of prisoners , Michael Goodliffe as the Camp's Chaplain , Michael Gwynn as Shields, Carl Mohner as Dutchman Van Elst , Philip Brown as pilot Bellamy and a known Hammer Screen Girl : Barbara Shelley .

    The motion picture was well directed by Val Guest . He was a prolific and uneven craftsman , and outstanding in Science Fiction and Fanfasy films as The Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass II, The Abominable Snowman , The Day the Earth Caught Fire and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth , Hammer's failure follow up to One Million Years B. C. Rating : 6.5/10 acceptable and passable .
  • In austere black & white 'scope Hammer Films demonstrated how much nastier than the most lurid horror film in colour a realistic war film could be. Despite the presence of familiar faces like Marne Maitland, Ronald Radd & Lee Montague under heavy 'Japanese' makeup that renders it slightly comical sixty years later, it neverthleless still packs a punch wholly lacking in 'The Bridge on the River Kwai'. (The plot device that the news of Japan's surrender has to be kept from the commandant or he will kill all the prisoners is an ingenious one; although one would have thought that channels existed through which the news would have reached him other than just one defective radio receiver.)

    In place of Sessue Hayakawa's noble commandant in Lean's film, the Japanese are here portrayed as utter, brutalised sadists (with their own men as well as the prisoners), which caused controversy when this film originally came out but didn't hurt it at the box office.
  • b_moviebuff7 December 2006
    Having waited years to see this film I was astounded just how bad it is, a Hammer production that has pure cockneys playing Japanese guards!, the acting verges on the utterly bad to utterly impossible!,take for instance long time Hammer fave Michael Ripper who as a Japanese guard bursts out laughing every time he is in a scene, the head guard who is clearly of Indian origin is another badly cast member, the commander of the camp is also another British actor hamming it up, I thought they had wandered off set from an Alladin pantomime!, the premise for all the controversy that it was brutal beyond belief had me scratching my head, i've seen worse in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.