Plot: William Fitzgerald (Richard Derr) has been shipwrecked, but the island he washes up on is at least inhabited, or it was. He finds numerous signs that the natives have fled the area, a mystery that is soon explained once he meets Dr. Charles Girard (Francis Lederer), who calls the island home. He runs various scientific experiments in his lab and the superstitious locals feared his work, which is the reason the natives have left the tropical paradise. So now Dr. Girard and a small group of people, including his assistant and family, remain on the island to pursue his work, which he seems to want to keep rather hushed. What is the true nature of Dr. Girard’s work and is his story about the locals the truth, or does this island hold some dark secrets?
Entertainment Value: This original trek to Blood Island is a low rent, sometimes hokey movie, but Terror is a Man is also an atmospheric, effective chiller that has real flashes of classic horror vibes. No one will mistake this for a Universal horror classic, but I think the movie just works so well at times. I love the overall mood and atmosphere in this one, bolstered by the black & white visuals that really shine. The narrative is fine and channels H.G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau, narrowing the focus to one specific experiment and that allows for a different texture. I’d call it a mix of Dr. Moreau and Frankenstein, since the obsession with the experiment is a prime focus of Terror is a Man, just within the basic Dr. Moreau framework. The b movie elements are here as well, but they’re not as pronounced or frequent as some might expect. The warning bell has that William Castle style feel, but I think the overall movie here is quite good and again, captures some genuine atmosphere and chills. The one knock is that the pace is on the slow side at times, but the slow burn is part of the mood and tone here, an ingredient that pays off later in the picture. I’d rate Terror is a Man as a capable, well made horror flick that is far better than its reputation suggests.
The cast in this one is fine, perhaps not remarkable, but not wooden or awkward, like some of the film’s peers. The real star is of course Dr. Girard’s beast, which has an odd look, kind of a mummy with a cat’s head. That sounds silly and it comes off as such in some moments, such as the finale where the creature is given center stage to go full on beast mode. But I also think it is a unique and memorable monster, not to mention fun to watch in action. Francis Lederer is competent as our mad doctor, though he doesn’t go off the deep as far as some in similar roles. There is an eeriness about him however, especially when he describes his work and ambitions, so he does pull in some of those mad scientist vibes. Greta Thyssen has a prominent role as well and while she looks gorgeous, she’s also a passable performer. Not given a lot to do here, but she does what she can with what she is handed. The cast also includes Richard Derr, while Gerry de Leon and Eddie Romero worked behind the camera.