The 1979 film, Screamers was released to the home viewing market a few months ago with little fanfare. Here's our review.
|"Dude. This place is boring."|
|"So, what did you say about that Creature from the|
Black Lagoon lawsuit?"
Film purists may understandably find it dubious, if not artistically reprehensible, that Corman so freely chopped up a director's work and cobbled it back together with someone else's footage, but a strong case can be made that Screamers is in some ways an improvement over Island of the Fishmen. The plot and character development (such as there is) seems fully intact, so all the scenes that were cut from Fishmen were likely less than necessary. Given that camp appeal is pretty much what the movie has going for it, speeding up the pace certainly doesn't hurt things, and just makes for a more fun experience as the crazy moments come fast and furious. Given that the film feels an awful lot like a Fulci flick in terms of style and tone, it also isn't a bad thing that Corman's crew added more gore; it feels right at home, as the one missing ingredient in Fishmen's eurotrash recipe. There still isn't too much – certainly not a Fulci-level amount, so don't go in expecting it – but it spices things up a little, and feels totally appropriate for the drive-ins, grindhouses, and 1980s mom and pop video stores for which the film was destined. It also helps a lot that Miller Drake and Joe Dante's added effects are really cool, whereas Fishmen's creatures are not much more than 1960s Ultraman quality. Sure, the creatures veering from well-done to Halloween-costume may be jarring, but that's just part of the charm; this is a Roger Corman production we're talking about, so clearly he didn't intend for it to be taken too seriously.
|"This hat is certainly villainous."|
With such an odd, dubious history that could never happen today, Screamers is very much a relic of the age of drive-ins, grindhouses, and mom and pop video stores, and most people probably suspected that it would fade into the past with that era. It had been out of print since the demise of Embassy Home Entertainment, and in a way that seemed like an appropriate fate. So I was totally shocked when a couple weeks ago I stumbled upon Scorpion Releasing's brand-new blu-ray of the film at Barnes and Noble, with that same old cover promising “men turned inside out! And worse... they're still alive!” The disc had actually come out a few months ago, but I'm sure I can't be the only one for whom this will still be news. Against all odds, here we have the Corman-ized Screamers in HD, with a shockingly high-quality remaster, in its original aspect ratio for the first time. The remastering makes the Corman-produced creature inserts even more obviously different from the Island of the Fishmen footage, but again, that's all part of the movie's weird, campy charm. Personally, this is the sort of film that I find more fun – and much more authentic to its roots – when viewed on that scratchy, faded Embassy Entertainment VHS, but I'm nonetheless glad that it's now available on modern formats, and I really appreciate how much love Scorpion has shown for this formerly-forgotten film.
Perhaps even cooler are the disc's special features: a series of interviews with the people from New World Pictures who turned Island of the Fishmen into Screamers, including Joe Dante, Jim Wynorski, Miller Drake, and even good old Roger Corman himself. Scorpion has done a very impressive job lately of bringing long-out-of-print, obscure 1970s and 80s horror films to DVD, and they seem like a company to watch closely if you're a fan of that era in that genre. Who knows- maybe they could grow into the same league as companies like Blue Underground and Scream Factory. Their disc of Screamers is certainly worth picking up if you're a fan of Fulci-style Italian cult flicks, Roger Corman productions, or delightfully cheesy old-school monster movies. It's an odd time-capsule, and I'm glad that chopping up films, inserting new footage, and turning them into totally different movies is no longer an acceptable practice, but if you bring your sense of humor there's still a lot of fun to be had with Screamers.
-Christopher S. Jordan