Monday, February 1, 2010

'Fog Island' isn't worth the trip

Fog Island (1945)
Starring: George Zucco, Lionel Atwill and Sarah Douglas
Director: Terry O. Morse
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Leo Grainger (Zucco), a ex-convict and failed businessman, lures the people he holds responsible for framing him and for killing his wife to his mansion on on Fog Island. Dangling a promise of hidden wealth in front of them, he triggers a scavenger hunt of doom within the home's secret passages.

"Fog Island" is a confused and murky picture, and not just because almost every scene appears to be severely underlit. Story-wise, there seems to be big chunks of the plot missing, and we never do find out what Grainger's backup plan might have been if the targets of his revenge has chosen to not play the game, or what some of the clues he gave meant. It also remains unclear why he seems bent on drawing his step-daughter (Douglas) into his web of revenge. (The story actually falls apart even before it starts, because you'd have to be an idiot to accept an invitation from someone you framed and set to jail for five years when said letter declares that "justice will be done." The script does have a couple of Leo's guests discuss that going may not be too smart... but they go anyway!)

Acting-wise, the cast does a pretty good job, but the unintentional comedy is what makes this movie watchable moreso than the attempts at building suspense. The way virtually every single line that Zucco utters is dripping with ominous double-meanings, and the way the villainous supporting cast are creeping around after each other in the darkened hallways are the source of many giggles. (The intentional humor in the film is also pretty good, such as when one character suggests to another that "Crime and Punishment" would make for good bedtime reading, or when Grainger tells a guest his house was built by pirates so the guest "should have no problem finding your way around.")

As a suspense film, "Fog Island" is a failure. It's fun to watch for Zucco's over-the-top performance, though.

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