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Not Rated
Copyright 1948 Albert Jay Coren Productions Inc.
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 'a long time ago'

The Characters:  

  • John Fairbanks - Recovering alcoholic who once was stranded on the island full of dinosaurs. Looks goofy in that little sailor shirt and hat.
  • Carole Lane - Rich woman engaged to Ted when the movie begins, (Hint, hint.) she puts up all the funding for this expedition.
  • Ted Osborne - Silly little guy who fancies himself a scientist or photographer, it's hard to tell.
  • Captain Tarnowski - One of the toughest men ever to sail the high seas, in addition to an odd sense of humor he suffers from malaria and alcoholism. The human martini olive is eaten by a giant sloth.
  • First Mate Sanderson - Tarnowski's right hand man, dies from knife-in-back disease.
  • Crewmen - Fodder.
  • The Tyrannosaurus Rex - Actually we see several of them, one would think these guys to be the top of the food chain, one would be wrong.
  • The Giant Sloth - Far from being a moderately docile herbivore, this vaguely gorilla-like monster will eat anything and everything in sight.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

When two cultured Americans show up in a Shanghai waterfront dive there are only two possibilities, they're either trying to buy a baby or lease a ship to go dinosaur hunting. (Notice the title is "Unknown Island" instead of "Unknown Womb" - guess which it is.) Captain Tarnowski certainly is tough enough for the job, unfortunately he is also a lecherous bastard whose malaria causes mild insanity. Not that soaking up copious amounts of cheap whiskey helped, but thanks to his ruthless style they do survive a crew mutiny and find the island. Prehistoric beasts roam this uncharted land, though all of them are special-effects challenged. The fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex barely waddles after his prey as the undoubtedly sweating actor inside struggles not to fall over. One does, during a part when the characters are shooting at a trio of advancing beasts, I'm pretty sure the Director started screaming, "Yes! Go with it!" Two seconds later a serious editing foul has all three retreating, hmmm... ...three minus one equals three. Giant Sloths have evolved into gorilla-like carnivores, with long red fur to match the long canines one uses to kill a hapless Tyrannosaurus Rex. (Oh yes, you heard me, what appears to be a huge rodent kills a T-Rex.) Several unlucky breaks befall the explorers, with their camp destroyed by fire and the rowboat smashed to pieces on rocks things look bleak. Captain Tarnowski entirely loses it and kidnaps Carole, giving Osborne the patented merry chase before both men duke it out. Leaving the unconscious Captain to his fate the surviving members flee via a crude raft. Is it bad? Oh yes, absolutely dreadful, but there is something fun in watching dinosaurs make faces like a confused Muppet.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Waterfront bars are only mildly crowded and brightly lit.
  • Making an alcoholic overdose on liquor is a sure-fire cure.
  • Sailors all run around barechested and wearing bandannas.
  • Don't sneak up on some guy holding a .45 pistol.
  • Giant sloths are vicious carnivores.
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex could hardly walk, it sort of shuffled along.
  • Whiskey cures malaria.
  • If you ever find part of a ship it will be the section with the name painted on it.
  • Tropical islands have scatted patches of desert which look much like southern California.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 9 mins - That is a picture? Sure looks like somebody drew a dinosaur on some cheap postcard.
  • 21 mins - Great job of walking your post there mate.
  • 24 mins - Hehehe! Must be a baby one, those are shrubs around it.
  • 27 mins - Did the dinosaur only have one leg?
  • 45 mins - I thought the center dinosaur went down? Hey continuity guy?
  • 48 mins - Maybe something will hear him shooting the whiskey bottles and investigate. One less recovering alcoholic in the world...
  • 52 mins - Good job Tarnowski.
  • 60 mins - Nice edit, real nice.


  • Tarnowski: "We're going back to that island, Fairbanks. Back to find the beasts that chewed up your pals while they were still alive and kicking. You wanna come along?" (Starts laughing.)
  • Carol: "Ted we've got to get off this awful island now!"
    Ted: "We can't darling, not after coming this far."

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note unknownisle1.wav Ted: "I see you know something about your Paleontology."
Tarnowsky: "That means prehistoric animals."
Sanderson: "Thanks, I went to school too."
Green Music Note unknownisle2.wav Tarnowski: "Arrggghhhhh!"
Sanderson: "Try that again and I'll put a bullet in that thick skull of yours!"
Tarnowski: (Cracks up laughing.)
Green Music Note unknownisle3.wav Carol: "Well captain, what do we do now?"
Tarnowski: "I don't know what you're going to do, but I've got a bottle of whiskey around here somewhere, I'm going to find it!"
Green Music Note unknownisle4.wav The sound of a dinosaur fighting a giant sloth.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipunknownisle1.mpg - 2.6m
Oops, he fell over...

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Comments:Write CommentPages: [1] 2
Unknown Island
Reply #1. Posted on March 21, 2000, 08:34:50 AM by Chris K.
To the reviewer Squishy who had just commented this fick, I think Stephen Speilberg is a HACK myself. Computer animation is so fake and shows that the new special effects artists do not try hard. Ony stop motion animation and men in convincing monster suits are the best. In this case UNKNOWN ISLAND is a GOOD film with good acting, soilid continuity, better-than-average special effects, neat settings, and impressive camerawork. Gets an A+++ on my list. Oh by the way Squishy, I diged THE GIANT CLAW (1957) myself. It was a good film!
Unknown Island
Reply #2. Posted on March 10, 2005, 11:58:32 AM by David McRobie
i like the story- the characters are all interesting and it movies along like an old pulp thriller.  if you get caught up in the dinosaurs and sloth you are missing the point.
Unknown Island
Reply #3. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Georgiann
Sorry, but the original 1950's Godzilla is an example of a man in a convincing monster suit.  This T-rex was dreadful, and the way it moved was an incredibly slow, stiff, clumsy waddle.  If this is how a "real" dinosaur is supposed to look I'll take stop-motion or CGI any day.  
Unknown Island
Reply #4. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Mario G.
This actually is a pretty good movie. Although its not up there with The Land That Time Forgot. It's interesting to watch Fairbanks and Tarnowski trade places: at the beggining Fairbanks is crazy, and Tarnowski is normal, then at the end Tarnowski goes nuts and Fairbanks is normal.
On the other hand, some of this doesn't make sense. The Ceratosaurs are men in suits that mostly just shuffle around the set, which looks like the desert out here in southern california. This scene is particularly weird, because the lush jungle just cuts into desert, like someone just drew a line dividing the two.
The special effects are a bit hokey but do the job well. The hairy monster looks like a Sloth-Gorilla-Rodent, and doesn't do much but snarl and hop around. The Dimetrodon just slithers around the sets, not doing much except hissing. The Ceratosaur/Hairy Monster fight is hokey; all that happens is the hairy monster hugs and knaws on the Ceratosaur, who just swings his neck and roars until it is backed off a cliff.
Overall, an entertaining movie. I stayed up till 6:00 A.M. on July 5 to watch this on AMC.

- Mario.
( Review date: July 5th, 2001. )
Unknown Island
Reply #5. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Doug
Was my FIRST Monster Movie..saw it when I was 6 yrs old in Times Square 1948...been a Sloth buff ever since.

At LEAST they tried SOMETHING rather than stick a couple of poor starved lizards on a table top set.
The little Human Legs on the T-Rex's were hilarious...especially when one turns around to go the other way.
As a small child, the scene of the seaman being 'fought' over by the two Therapods was very effective.
Barton Mcclain was favorite all time bad guy and this part was realistic and well written for his style.
Hey was 1948 and this WAS one of the original Dino-Jurassic Park movies...consider the plot elements..and some of the dialog even.."stay out of the tall Grass!..."...reluctant guy being dragged on the trip (ie: JP3)...first Dino being a 'sauropod' (I could just hear that John Williams music swelling in the background!)
This was just on AMC in gorgeous's a friggin' OLD Monster movie...what more could you ask for!
Now here is how effective this movie was...I had not seen it since mid-50's t.v....yet during the other night's viewing I remembered not only most all the scenes and action but even much of the dialog! It's a cool BAD movie.
Unknown Island
Reply #6. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Green Hornet
Saw this movie back when REAL dinos roamed the earth. To my young mind, seeing the heros shooting ANTI-TANK grenades at the T-Rexs made them seem more terrifying. Anything that needs a bomb to do it in (And these bad boys {Or were they "Girlasaurs"} were NOT stopped) HAD to be tough!

But look at the begining of the film clip: you can see where the head is attached! Also, it looks FUNNY to see the dinos turn around slowly and shuffle away at the end. It's like they are saying "Aw, this sucks, guys! They didn't tell us they were going to use high explosives!".
Unknown Island
Reply #7. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by George Kalishevich
This is a typically cheap movie of the late 40's-early 50's. The story, the plot, and the characters are nonsensical to the point of being utterly ridiculous but it is a good picture to enjoy sitting in fromt of the TV when there is nothing else to do. I last saw it back in the mid 60's and never knew that it ws in color----we only had a black & white TV. The "dinosaurs" are especially funny because it is obvious that they are guys in dinosaur suits------not quite as well-made as Godzilla of the Japanese "dinosaur" genre.
Unknown Island
Reply #8. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Mark Radburn
Unknown Island is the Best 40's Dinosaur film ever and with the most exciting scenes ever. The Tyrannosaurus Rex suit looks real but there's one thing that bothers me it moves really slow but still looks real and the Giant Sloth sucked. The story is good, the music is good and I think the characters and the dinosaurs in this film ought to give themselfs a pat on the back because this movie rocks.
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