Before the studio began making their legendary Technicolor Gothic horror films (many of which co-starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee), Great Britain's famed Hammer Studios produced a lot of other films in a variety of genres including film noir, adventure and war. One of these productions was THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND (1958), which I watched the other day.
Shot in black-and-white and filmed in England (there are a few palm trees strategically placed here and there to give the impression of being set on a Pacific island), CAMP is a taut, well-written and well-directed (by Val Guest), war film.
British prisoners-of-war suffer daily brutalities at the hands of their sadistic Japanese captors. The commander of the camp has a history of other crimes committed throughout the war and he has declared that in the event of a loss of the war by the Japanese, he intends to murder every man in the camp (along with the female prisoners in a nearby women's p.o.w. camp).
The trouble is, the war has just ended but only the Brits have knowledge of the surrender of Imperial Japan. They struggle to keep this information from reaching the commander while plotting a way out of the camp.
A wrench is thrown into the works when an American Navy pilot makes a crash landing on the island. He of course knows the war is over but he's persuaded to keep quiet about this turn of events.
Eventually the American pilot escapes and he, along with a woman escapee from the other camp, make their way to a radio outpost controlled by freedom fighters. From there, he can signal the U.S. 7th fleet to send in paratroopers to liberate the camps.
While this is going on, the men in the camp mount a final, desperate attack against the Japanese. A sacrifice by one of the prisoners launches the battle and one Brit is the victim of friendly fire. But the war is finally over for the remaining prisoners and so is the movie.
THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND is a small gem of a film. I confess that I had never heard of it but when I saw it listed on the TCM lineup the other day I decided to record it and give it a look. I'm glad I did. Given the somewhat lurid title, I was expecting some exploitation grind house fare that would be long on action and short on plot. Instead I found a well-crafted, thought-provoking and sober look at the horrors of WWII and the ultimate price paid by many to end that conflict. Highly recommended.