THE FILM: 3/5
One fine day over lunch Roger Corman, actor John Ashley (star of numerous 60’s beach party movies, whose claim to fame would be as a successful television producer of hit shows such as the A-Team), and close associate producer Lawrence Woolner (Terminal Island, Raw Force) played with the idea of creating a modern day telling of the H.G. Wells classic Island of Dr. Moreau. Originally planned for Corman’s New World Pictures, but when Woolner split and founded Dimension Pictures he took Twilight People with him.
Helmed by Filipino director Eddie Romero (Black Mama, White Mama), 1972’s Twilight people (aka Island of the Twilight People / aka Beasts) was filmed on a modest budget of $150,000. The film opens with our hero Matt Farrell, played by John Ashley, who is on an innocent scuba diving excursion when he is kidnapped by some rough and tumble divers. He is taken upon a boat where he finds his captor, the film’s eye candy, Neva Gordon, played by the beautiful Pat Woodell (The Big Doll House , The Roommates) and her rogue thug Steinman played by Jan Merlin (The ST. Valentine’s Day Massacre) , who’s plan is to bring him to a secret island where her father played by Charles Macaulay (Blacula, Splash), is performing inhumane experiments, mixing humans with animals, in a quest to find the perfect human. And Matt Farrell is the perfect specimen. Inevitably, love blooms between Matt and the mad doctor’s daughter and the two plan to free Dr. Grodon’s twisted monsters and flee the island with the evil doctor and his henchman in pursuit.
Filipino make up artist Tony Arteida did a surprisingly good job creating the island’s hybrid experiments. The true draw here is a young Pam Grier, still early in her career but building a solid exploitation reputation with Black Mama, White Mama, Coffy, Scream Blacula Scream, and a trio of Roger Corman women in prison movies under her belt. Pam pulls off a sexy, yet ferocious jaguar woman, and her performance is worth the admission alone. I also particular enjoyed Tony Gosakvez’s role as Darmo the bat man, whose moments of flying in the film work way better than they should.
Twilight People is presented in a new 2K master from the original 35mm negative. Originally played with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, VCI’s is slightly cropped to 1.77:1. The picture quality here unfortunately stays consistent to VCI’s low standards. Grain is present and noticeable especially in bright scenes, but DNR is moderately applied and easy to spot in closeups on the actors. Detail fluctuates throughout the film, with good detail in some scenes, while many shots seem abnormally soft and fuzzy. This may be inherent to the film but I have no reference to confirm that. Some film damage is present, mostly a number of scratches that pop up here and there, but it wasn’t frequent enough to really be a detriment. The biggest problem with the transfer is the lack of color correction. Color fluctuates wildly throughout the film, often in the same scenes, with skin tones looking normal one second and orange tinted in the next. Some color correction would have been a big influence on my grading of the VQ.
Twilight People contains a 2ch pcm mix that I had no complaints about. Sound was clear and consistent, dialogue was easy to hear. No pops or hisses were noticeable.
Twilight people has a small selection of extras, including trailers. For the hardcore fans there is a full commentary with film historian Toby Roan. Also included is an expansive hour long interview with director Eddie Romero which looks like it was filmed on an enormous VHS camcorder. (do not adjust your tracking)
VCI’s Twilight People is a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately they continue to release products that are adequate at best. But as a release of Twilight People by any other company seems unlikely, I have to give a recommendation to grab this BD/DVD combo. Even if it’s only to see Pam Grier purr like a kitten and Darmo the bat man soar through the air.