AVAILABLE ON VIDEO ONLY, entitled P.O.W. PRISONERS OF WAR
RUNNING TIME: 84 min
REVIEWED: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Malaya, September 1944: Many British soldiers have been captured by the Japanese. Secret agent Elaine is headed for Kuala Lumpur on an important mission which could save hundreds of lives, but her plane is shot down near a prison camp. She is found by Sgt. John Crewe who takes her to the camp where he hides her, but, given that they are risking serious reprisals if she is caught, many of them are not too happy with the situation, especially when the Japanese are told by some nearby villagers that a British female spy has been seen in the area….
Thank God for VHS I say. For this series of reviews, I opted not to obtain, watch and review any Hammer film that wasn’t legally released on DVD, and The Secret Of Blood Island hasn’t had any official release on the format, but luckily it did come out on UK video under the title P.O.W. Prisoners Of War, and I still own a video player, so I was able to see this obscure film, which isn’t really related to The Camp On Blood Island at all and actually takes place a year before. The stark semi-documentary style of that film has been replaced by a more Boy’s Own feel [though for some reason US theatrical prints were in black and white] feel, and the brutality has been diminished too, a couple of lengthy but mostly off screen whippings and Elaine being tortured in some manner but also off screen notwithstanding. Hammer were obviously playing it safer with this one, though it’s not surprising considering that the BBFC were much tougher in 1964 then they were in 1958. Opening with Crewe and Elaine fleeing Japanese soldiers and then flashing back to show us how they got to this situation, it’s quite a lively and suspenseful piece with some extremely tense moments when you think the Japanese will find Elaine, and it even makes you think a bit as to whether the prisoners are doing the right thing in endangering their lives just to hide one person, even if Elaine’s mission turns out to be enormously important.
However, the fact that an English woman can be hidden in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for a considerable amount of time is pretty ludicrous meaning that it’s hard to believe in the story, and much hilarity of the unintentional sort can be had with the awful attempts at sounding Japanese from Patrick Wymark [who sounds Australian] and David Saire [who waits five seconds between each word]. Perhaps surprisingly, Michael Ripper does rather well and avoids sounding Cockney, though he’s helped by not having to say much. Jack Hedley fares much better here than he did in The Scarlet Blade and Barbara Shelley, made to look far less glamorous than normal, is excellent as always even if her character isn’t too believable. James Bernard’s score helps to crack up the tension and Cash On Demand director Quentin Lawrence keeps things moving along, while the jungle sets aren’t too shabby. Certainly worthy of a digital release if you consider the far weaker Hammer efforts that have come out, The Secret Of Blood Island entertains and even grips in places so long as you don’t think about it too much.