Isle of Forgotten Sins
|Isle of Forgotten Sins|
Original lobby card
|Directed by||Edgar G. Ulmer|
(in charge of production)
Peter R. Van Duinen
|Screenplay by||Raymond L. Schrock|
by Edgar G. Ulmer
|Cinematography||Ira Morgan, A.S.C.|
|Edited by||Charles Henkel, Jr.|
Atlantis Pictures Corporation
|82 min/74 min.|
Isle of Forgotten Sins is an American South Seas adventure film released on August 15, 1943 by PRC, with Leon Fromkess in charge of production, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer (also credited with original story) and featuring top-billed John Carradine and Gale Sondergaard whose performance in one of 1936's Academy Award for Best Picture nominees, Anthony Adverse, earned her the first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Isle of Forgotten Sins was subsequently reissued in a version cut from 82 to 74 minutes and retitled Monsoon. It proved to be the final film role for German-American actress Betty Amann as well as the last feature for producer Peter R. Van Duinen's Atlantis Pictures, a unit whose films had a higher budget then most of PRC's releases. Third-listed supporting actor Sidney Toler worked on this PRC title between the finish of his Charlie Chan films at 20th Century Fox and just before their resumption at Monogram Pictures. The film features several songs (with Carradine singing "Whiskey Johnny"), an underwater sequence using a marionette and a tropical monsoon climax. The pre-release working title was Island of Forgotten Sins.
At the "Isle of Forgotten Sins"
Somewhere on one of the English-speaking South Sea Islands, at an indefinite present time, with no mention of the fact that it is the middle of World War II, Marge (Gale Sondergaard) is the proprietress of a nightclub/restaurant/gambling hall/brothel called "Isle of Forgotten Sins". In the morning, she knocks on the doors of the individual rooms of her sleeping hostesses, Olga (Betty Amann), Bobbie (Patti McCarty), Mimi (Marian Colby) and Christine (Tala Birell) announcing, "get up, the Southern Queen is here". Riding in a launch from the ship is an inspector from the "Criminal Investigation Bureau" who compares a fingerprint card with a photograph of "Betty Nelson" to one with a photo of a somewhat older "Marge Williams", shows it to the commissioner (unbilled C. Montague Shaw) and tells him, "we'll go there tonight". Marge, surrounded by eight hostesses, is asked by one, "what can we do to please him?" and answers, "he doesn't want to be pleased, he's looking for an excuse to close us up". As the sarong-clad girls leave, one of them, Diane (Rita Quigley) tells Marge, "oh, I suppose it's silly of me but I feel so self-conscious in this costume" and Marge responds, "I know how it is when your modesty's taking a beating, don't let it get you down".
On Burke's boat
On a small boat moored in the harbor, its owner, deep sea diver Jack Burke (Frank Fenton), is shaving in preparation of visiting Marge's place, while his diving partner/friendly rival Mike Clancy (John Carradine) awakens from drunken sleep to find that Burke has tied him to the bunk bed. He offers to pay for drinks if Burke unties him, but Burke wants to see the cash first. Clancy tells him that it's in his pocket, so Burke reaches in, takes all of it, and leaves without untying him, as Clancy shouts angrily and struggles to loosen the bonds.
The Isle in turmoil
The inspector and the commissioner arrive at Marge's and, after having been seated at their table, the commissioner says, "don't look so disappointed, you'll see murder and mayhem any moment now" and the inspector answers, "I [it?] wouldn't surprise me any". Mimi comes out to sing "In Pango" [by Leo Erdody and Ann Levitt] ("I roamed all the world seeking gladness, but found in my heart only sadness") accompanied by two guitarists, a percussionist and a female accordionist. At another table, Krogan (Sidney Toler) is sitting with Johnny Pacific (Rick Vallin) and, when Diane serves them drinks, tries to grab her bare arm. As she pulls away, he laughs unpleasantly while, observing disapprovingly from his table, the inspector comments, "rather unusual there". When Burke enters, Krogan tells Johnny Pacific, "the other will be showing up any minute now, when Burke hits this port, Clancy's never far behind". Burke is waiting for Marge in her upstairs room, explaining that Clancy drowned and giving her the pocket watch she once gifted to Clancy.
Meanwhile, Clancy enters and asks Christine, "where's Marge?", while in her upstairs office, Marge tells Burke that since Mike Clancy was the reason she stayed, she'll be leaving and Burke suggests, "that with Mike gone, you might marry me". Before she can answer, Clancy knocks on the door and, as the astonished and relieved Marge tells him what happened, asks her to step outside, and starts trading punches with Burke. The fistfight progresses from Marge's room to the downstairs dining area, as tables and chairs are broken and overturned. Clancy ultimately knocks out Burke and is proclaimed as "the winner" by Krogan, who tells everybody, "The drinks are on me", as all the disarranged diners smile and break into happy applause. Krogan continues, "I have another little treat for you", explaining that "a nameless young man whom I fished out of the sea so I called him Johnny Pacific" will entertain. Johnny Pacific goes to the piano and plays the second movement (Adagio cantabile) of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 (the Pathétique) and, while the familiar classical theme continues to be heard in the background, Clancy deals with Burke who regains consciousness and starts swinging fists, by telling him that he recognized Krogan and Johnny Pacific as the captain and purser of the steamship Tropic Star which, six months earlier, disappeared in the Coral Sea with three million dollars in gold, and that they must have hidden the loot, but "we can find it first". Burke agrees and Marge gives Clancy the money to finance the expedition, but just after he and Burke leave her place, a scream is heard from upstairs, then a shot, and a customer (unbilled I. Stanford Jolley) staggers out and falls from the upper landing. Olga, holding a gun, runs downstairs in front of everybody and then up another staircase. The dying man blurts out, "that girl, she took my money", to the inspector, who announces that "I am placing you all under technical arrest as material witnesses". As Krogan, Johnny Pacific and the diners rush for the exits, Marge tells the girls that "we're between the devil and the deep and that's no quotation", as they grab money from the cash register and head for Burke's boat.
Alone on the boat, as they prepare to leave port, Clancy tells Burke, "there'll be so much money for both of us, there'll be no reason for us to doublecross each other" and sings, "when whisky comes near my nose, Whisky Johnny". in the midst of their parting drink, Marge, Diane, Christine and Bobbie descend into the hold with Marge announcing that "Olga closed up for us — for keeps", as Christine adds, "sure, she's only murdered the guy". Burke refuses to get involved, but Clancy says that he'll cut them in if they help with getting the gold. Burke raises his fists for another brawl, but Marge breaks a bottle over his head, knocking him out. Clancy tells the three crewmen to cast off and goes back downstairs as Burke regains consciousness and quickly agrees to include the girls in the deal. The plan, as explained by Clancy, is to arrive at Marana island, where Krogan and Johnny Pacific are running a plantation, and take the gold for themselves, with the six of them sharing half a million each. Diane refuses to participate based on her moral principles, but Olga, who apparently followed them to the boat and hid until now, steps out and announces that "I'm cutting myself in for her share". Burke says "let's put her over the side", with Clancy adding "good idea", but Olga pulls out a gun, stating, "I've already shot one man tonight in self-defense, you better play nice with me if you want to get your hands on that gold" and, in another quick agreement, Clancy says, "all right, we'll cut you in for a share".
On Krogan's island
The boat comes close to Marana island and the arrival is noted through binoculars by Krogan who tells Johnny Pacific that "our little game of hide and seek is about to begin". They explain to native girl Luana (Veda Ann Borg), who lives with them, that "two very much bad men come in that boat, they try to find our gold, where we hide it", with Krogan adding, "lotta fun is when we take it away from them". Clancy, Burke and the five women arrive at Krogan's house, with Marge explaining to Krogan that "things got too hot for us at Pango Ango after what happened" and asking if he could "put us up for a few days until we can make other plans". Krogan replies that they've arranged "a little party of welcome for tonight".
As night comes and a full moon shines over the lagoon, Luana leans against a tree and sings, "Sleepy Island Moon" [by Leo Erdody and June L. Stillman] (accompanied by orchestral music and an unseen chorus of male and female voices) as a man and a woman are seen rhythmically swimming back and forth through the lagoon. At the end of Luana's song, Marge says that "this part is beginning to remind me of an old nursery rhyme: mother may I go out to swim? Yes, my darling daughter, hang your clothes on a hickory limb, but don't go near the water." As the girls, Krogan and Johnny Pacific go for a night swim, Clancy kicks Burke, who wanted to swim with Luana, and tells him that "now's our chance to frisk the house". In the meantime, Krogan and Johnny Pacific, while swimming with the girls, guide them to a view of a spectacular underwater cave, hidden just a few feet beneath the lagoon. Searching the house, Clancy points out to Burke the Tropic Star log, with a map, which indicates that the gold is still underwater on the ship, waiting to be salvaged. As Krogan and the girls come out of the water, Clancy and Burke are lounging on the shore, commenting that they'll be leaving in the morning. In the house, Krogan shows Johnny Pacific the place in log where Clancy tore out the map and says that "it didn't take him long to smell out the bait", while Johnny Pacific comments that "he must be awful dumb to fall for anything as phony as a treasure map".
The next morning, Marge and Diane visit Clancy and Burke on the boat, as they prepare to look for the gold and Burke tells Clancy that Luana "sort of grows on you". However, Krogan, Johnny Pacific and Luana are observing the situation from the island, with Krogan commenting that "a couple of expert divers like Burke and Clancy oughta do the job in half a dozen trips" and as soon as the gold is brought up, "five of my best boys will be on the job at dawn".
On the boat, Clancy again sings "Whisky Johnny" ("now I got a gal, her name is Lize, for she put whisky in her pies"), as they examine their air hoses and prepare to take turns in putting on the diving suits and going down with the help of their three crewmen. As Burke descends, accompanied by the sound of Wagnerian choirs, Clancy says, "give my regards to Mrs. Jones". Burke finds the Tropic Star and, back on the boat, Clancy tell him that "the barometer's been dropping steadily all the time you were down, looks like we're in for a blow". Meanwhile, on the island, Luana jealously accuses Johnny Pacific of infidelity and their loud quarrel brings Krogan, who calms the situation, but then a native runs in with some disturbing news. The girls grow uneasy and Christine says, "yeah, there's something in the air that makes you feel that something's going to happen". A native chief (William Edmonds) arrives at the house and tells Krogan, "much bad magic now in sky and sea", explaining that "big wave ready to walk some more" and pointing at Rorschach test-like formations of threatening black skies, advises everyone to leave the island. After he departs, Krogan and Johnny Pacific take guns and go off, telling the girls to be careful about tigers which are still occasionally spotted since "these islands at one time were a part of Asia".
Gold, greed and monsoon
During his underwater descent, in a diving suit, Clancy's voice is heard on the boat, "the agitation of the water will be due to my hearty laughter". More loud choral singing ("the diver diving down below"), accompanied by music, is heard as Clancy walks on the sea bottom . He finds the gold, while, on the island, Krogan and Johnny Pacific are watching through binoculars. Clancy pretends to be in distress so that Burke would bring him up before the gold and, as the trunk full of bullion is aboard and below the deck, Burke gives a few gold bars to the crewmen and tells them to divide it among themselves and then announces to Clancy that he is claiming 60 percent of the loot because he provided the boat and the crew. Clancy protests and they start a violent struggle during which Krogan, Johnny Pacific and their men board the boat, with Krogan pointing his gun and ordering them to "stick 'em up" and continuing, "you guys tried to steal our gold, you're not gonna get away with it". Locking them in the boat's back room, Johnny Pacific nails the door shut and tells them "I'm building a nice coffin for you guys" and adds, "so long boys, hope you enjoy your nice dive to Davy Jones' Locker". As they board their small launch, Krogan and Johnny Pacific light a fuse to explosives which they attached to Burke's boat. Seconds before the boat explodes, Clancy and Burke manage to kick the door open and jump off into the water. Ominous choirs are heard intoning as the black skies give way to high winds and tall waves.
Krogan, Johnny Pacific and the five natives return to the island and walk through the ever-increasing storm, reaching the house as the waves are lapping at its edges. Krogan says, "well, any of you gals ever see what three million dollars looks like". Olga and Luana excitedly approach the trunk, while Marge, Diane, Christine and Bobbie warily stand back. Krogan continues, "there, take a look, isn't that beautiful, three million dollars in gold, think of all the luxuries that'll buy". Marge asks what happened to Clancy and Krogan answers that "you want to see them, you've got to get yourself a diving suit, because they're down at the bottom of the lagoon, along with the Tropic Star". Johnny Pacific tells the four women that "you gambled on the wrong team so you get nothing". Olga protests that "I was playing on your team", but he replies that "you didn't tell us a thing we didn't know" and Krogan adds, "we figured Burke and Clancy had enough larceny in their hearts not to put the finger on us" and tells Olga, "I'll pay your fare to the mainland, if you keep out of my sight, that's more than you deserve". Olga then reaches in the back of her sarong, points a gun at Krogan and orders him to "start dishing out my share of those sacks", but he calmly says, "go on and shoot" and, as she pulls the trigger, the gun only clicks. Krogan lets out his familiar laugh and tells her, "you see, I remembered your fine habit about shooting people, so I had Luana take all the cartridges out of your gun" and hits her across the face, making her fall, and then continues, "you're all a lot of dirty double-crossing rats, all of you, except Diane, she's the only decent one among you". Turning to Johnny Pacific and Luana, he says, "and that goes for you too", accusing them of planning to double-cross him. Johnny Pacific pulls out his gun and they shoot simultaneously, killing each other. Just then, Clancy enters with Burke, commenting, "nice shootin', boys, now that's what I call being pals". Luana points a gun at them, but Burke takes it away from her and pulls her towards him, "take it easy babe". As Clancy proclaims, "Marge we're rich", the winds hit the thatched house which is then washed away by the surging waves. Clancy and Marge are in the sea as he tries to keep her afloat, but both are swamped by a new surge.
An overhead sign marks the entrance to "The Bird Cage Cafe". Inside, as dance music plays, Marge is seated at the side bar cash register, with what appears to be a large framed photograph of Diane and Burke as a happy couple, propped up against it, while Clancy, wearing a captain's cap and jacket, surveys the place, then sits by her and says, "I'll have to put the bite on you for about fifty dollars", explaining that he'll tell her more later, adding, "you haven't forgotten about that bundle on the Riviera, have you?" She gives him the money and rings up "NO SALE".
P. R. C. Presents
Ulmer's contract with PRC made him the only producer to be able to commission music rather than use stock cues. Composer Leo Erdody, a long time friend of Ulmer included several Wagnerian themes and songs.
The film was shot at Corriganville movie ranch in six days at a cost of $23,000. Ulmer, who was a production assistant on F. W. Murnau's Tabu: A Story of the South Seas found 200 miniature trees from John Ford's 1937 film The Hurricane and wrote a South Seas story based on ideas he had while filming Tabu. Ulmer, "The Frank Capra of PRC". also reused footage from PRC's Jungle Siren. The Production Code Administration insisted that the nightclub hostesses of the film in no way could resemble prostitutes. The original ending depicting the self-sacrificing watery suicide of Clancy and Marge to save Diane was ordered changed.
Evaluation in film guides
Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (2001 edition) gives Isle of Forgotten Sins 2 stars (out of 4) calling it a "standard programmer", but concludes that "as usual, Ulmer's direction is much better than the material".
Also assigning 2 stars (out of 5), The Motion Picture Guide (1987 edition) describes it as "a jumpy and only partly engaging picture that seems to have been rearranged thanks to the Hays Code, this film had one of the best casts ever put together by poverty-row PRC", and the specialized 1996 compendium, Michael J. Weldon's Psychotronic Video Guide, has a brief two-sentence write-up which mentions the plot and cast, along with notation that "Carradine starred in Ulmer's better-known Bluebeard, also from PRC".
Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever (2011 edition) agrees with the other guides in its 2 bones (out of 4) rating, deciding that it has "good cast and direction but unremarkable material", while among the British volumes, Halliwell's Film, Video & DVD Guide (2007 edition) provides no star rating (Halliwell's highest rating is 4 stars), describing it as a "patchy tropical melodrama with a cast more interesting than the script".
- p.10 Bock, Hans-Michael & Bergfelder, Tim. The Concise Cinegraph: Encyclopaedia of German Cinema Berghahn Books, 30/12/2009
- p.10 Rhodes, Gary. Edgar G. Ulmer: Detour on Poverty Row. Rowman & Littlefield, 30/12/2009
- p.238. Weaver, Tom. Shirley Ulmer Interview in I Was a Monster Movie Maker: conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers McFarland, 2001
- p.146 Belton, John Cinema Stylists Scarecrow Press, 1983
- p. 4. Sterritt, David & Anderson, John. National Society of Film Critics The B List: The National Society of Film Critics on the Low-Budget Beauties, Genre-Bending Mavericks, and Cult Classics We Love Da Capo Press, 07/10/2008
- Turner Classic Movies notes regarding production of Isle of Forgotten Sins
- Isle of Forgotten Sins at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Isle of Forgotten Sins at the Internet Movie Database
- Isle of Forgotten Sins at AllMovie
- Isle of Forgotten Sins at the TCM Movie Database
- Monsoon (Isle of Forgotten Sins) at Eventful
- Isle of Forgotten Sins at Weird Wild Realm
- Isle of Forgotten Sins at TV Guide (1987 write-up was originally published in The Motion Picture Guide)
- Croce, Fernando F. Isle of Forgotten Sins review at Cinepassion
- Anderson, Jeffrey M. Isle of Forgotten Sins review (April 19, 2005; rating: 2½ stars out of 4) at Combustible Celluloid
- Schwartz, Dennis. Monsoon (Isle of Forgotten Sins) review (April 26, 2007; grade: C+) at Ozus' World Movie Reviews
- Murray, Stephen O. Reviews of Isle of Forgotten Sins along with the biographical documentary Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen (October 3, 2008, 3 stars out of 5) at Epinions
- Grost, Michael E. The Films of Edgar G. Ulmer: examining Isle of Forgotten Sins for traits which are frequently perceived within the films directed by Ulmer, with comparisons found in The Man from Planet X (1951), Detour and Strange Illusion (both 1945), The Amazing Transparent Man (1960), Tomorrow We Live (1942), as well as My Son, the Hero and Jive Junction (both 1943); sections focusing on themes in Isle of Forgotten Sins common to Ulmer's work are highlighted by sub-headers "Technical, Constructivist Worlds", "Telling the Story with Light", "Weather", "The Night Club", "Modular Architecture", "Figurines", "Tilted Camera Angle", "Characters", "The Finale" and "Uniforms"
- Monsoon is available for free download at the Internet Archive