Directed By: George Waggner
Starring: Dick Foran, Leo Carrillo, Peggy Moran
Line from the movie: "Don't be frightened, folks. It's just Morgan's ghost. He resents our coming here"
Trivia: Universal released this film on March 28, 1941, only 25 days after shooting began (on March 3rd)
On the run from his creditors, ship’s captain Bill Martin (Dick Foran) is desperately searching for a get-rich-quick scheme to solve his financial woes. Enter Tobias Clump (Leo Carrillo), a peg-legged sailor who’s found a treasure map, one suggesting there’s buried treasure on Morgan’s Island, a small parcel of land Martin owns. With his faithful sidekick, Stuff Oliver (Fuzzy Knight), in tow, Martin drags Tobias to the office of Professor Quinley (Hubart Cavanaugh), an expert at topography, to determine if the map is genuine. Alas, the Professor tells the trio the map is a forgery, but that doesn’t prevent Martin from trying to cash in by launching his very own “Treasure Hunt” business, charging people $50 to search for riches on Morgan’s Island while, at the same time, giving them a tour of what he claims is an authentic haunted mansion. Several people sign up for the adventure, including socialite Wendy Creighton (Peggy Moran); Martin’s cousin George (John Eldredge); and a variety of others, all hoping to find a treasure that will make them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. But to the group’s dismay, a mysterious cloaked figure, known only as “The Phantom” (Foy Van Dolsen), has also come to Morgan’s Island, and is willing to do whatever it takes to frighten them away.
Despite the fact it has the word “horror” in its title, and features a house that’s supposedly haunted, Horror Island is a much better mystery than it is a fright flick. The first night Martin and the others are on the island, one of the guests, a gangster named Rod (Ralf Harolde), is gunned down, presumably by the Phantom. But then, several scenes later, something happens that causes you to wonder if it really was the Phantom who committed this heinous crime, or someone else entirety. Horror Island even tosses a few plot twists into the mix, just to keep you on your toes (the final reveal took me completely by surprise).
So even if it isn't a very good horror film, Horror Island is nonetheless a fun mystery / thriller that will have you guessing to the end.