director Sergio Martino
How many gillmen does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Well, I don’t know how you get them into a lightbulb but if I do, I’ll get back to you.
While I can’t answer a question like that, I can tell you that I am finding a true appreciation for the vague gillman subgenre. Children of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), variant as they are.
Island of the Fishmen is probably best seen for what it mostly is, not nearly such a horror film, not gritty or grimy, but rather a sort of adventure film set in the 19th century involving a wrecked prison ship dumping a guard and some of his prisoners on an uncharted island. What could have been a zombie film with just a few tweaks, instead winds up a variant of The Island of Dr. Mureau. That is because villainous Richard Johnson is forcing an aged and ailing Joseph Cotten to do bad things like turning the natives and others into fishpeople to dive below the island for the hidden treasures of lost Atlantis!
This is the kind of adventure you might expect from H. Rider Haggard or Edward Rice Burroughs. And it’s hard to imagine how Roger Corman saw this and thought to market it differently, but then I haven’t seen Screamers so I’ll just assume it is a mess.
This comes from Sergio Martino (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) The Great Alligator River (1979), 2019, After the Fall of New York (1983), and even a 1995 sequel to this film).
You know, if you go in knowing what to expect you might actually enjoy it.
Final thought: Richard Johnson sports the kind of English accent that comedians are always trying to imitate for arch villains, just such strange and zinging flourish.