Biff Bam Pop! Presents Prime in the Dustbin: ‘Island Fury’ (1983)

In a popular culture that lionizes bad films, it is amazing we aren’t having midnight showings of Island Fury at film festivals and conventions. Where are the t-shirts, the “making of” documentaries, the long-winded critical breakdowns of the film outlining the brilliant political insights and social commentary embedded within this peat bog of a movie? For Island Fury is a special kind of augmented awful and must be seen, or at least gawked at, to be appreciated.

The film has the distinct vibe of a straight-to-video VCA Studios adult film, faking high class on a low budget. We follow two young women, Sugar (Monet Elizabeth) and Bobbylee (Tanya Louise), as they roam the streets of Chinatown, shoplifting and giggling. Soon, they realize they are being followed by two thugs. Although the women are staring directly at their stalkers, Bobbylee says, “I can’t tell what they look like!” A foot chase ensues, and as the girls run down an alley, one of them says, “I knew we should not have gone down this alley!

This happens within the first ten minutes, and there’s nowhere to go from here but downward, screaming into the abyss.

This pursuit, which goes on far too long, ends after the girls disrupt a public performance of Aztec dancing, which is not the thing one expects to see in Chinatown. Perhaps they were actually in some off-kilter beta version of Delos. The script does nothing to clarify the location.

The bad guys have been chasing the girls in order to find out where Sugar got her distinctive pendant which is, in reality, a Spanish doubloon. There must be more loot where that came from, reason the villains, and they want the girls to tell them where the treasure lies.

The answer comes in the form of extended flashback sequences. We meet Bobbylee and Sugar as ten year olds, vacationing on a boat with Sugar’s older sister (appropriately named Candy) and her friends. The younger girls are obnoxious and precocious, given to mischief and making sure everyone knows they’re going through puberty. When Bobbylee falls into the water, Sugar yells, “Hope you had your pad on! There’s sharks out there!”

Um… they’re on a lake.
I don’t think Sugar knows how a shark, or Shark Week, works.

The older kids want to go diving, so they take the boat to a nearby island to get their air tanks refilled. This task is accomplished by a young boy named Jimmer (Stanley Wells), who manages to fill three air tanks in about 45 seconds. The kids offer to give Jimmer a ride home so he doesn’t have to walk all the way across the island. Jimmer accepts, and invites everyone up to his grandfather’s house. Jimmer has let it slip that Gramps knows where the doubloons are, and the kids want to take a few home with them. Gramps Jebediah (Hank Worden) and Granny (Mitzi Stollery) seem like nice enough folks. Granny even offers the visitors some fresh herbal tea, which is actually a fast acting tranquilizer, and everyone who partakes pass out. Of course, Jebediah and Granny are psycho killers. Couldn’t you tell by their Southern accents?

Yes, this movie is a veritable tilt-a-whirl of insanity and implausibility. While the viewer may be tempted to shout incredulous profanities at the screen, please keep your expectations of logic and coherence inside the car until the film has come to a complete stop.

We haven’t even talked about the earthquake that occurs. Actors hurl themselves across the frame like unnamed helmsmen on the bridge of the Enterprise during a Romulan attack. Nor have we brought up the boat explosion, about which Jebediah says, “I always said that gas is a mighty dangerous thing!” We have not discussed the naked woman who appears to murder one of the teenagers then promptly disappears for the rest of the film. And it is preferable not to bring up the framing device, which sees the adult Bobbylynn and Sugar return to the island with their kidnappers, Sid, Willie, and Repo. They meet a character best described as Jorts Tarzan.

Did you ever go to a self-serve soda fountain and hit every single dispenser with your cup? A little cola, some orange soda, a splash of root beer, a dash of lemon-lime? Around these parts, we call that kind of experimental refreshment a “suicide.” It is a terrible decision, and it may taste utterly foul, but you paid for it so you’ll finish it even if it kills you.

Island Fury (also known as Please Don’t Eat the Babies, an epicurean act that is never threatened or implied one single time in the film) is a cinematic suicide, an unbalanced mixture of so many genres that it’s nigh on impossible to categorize or digest.

Let the real critics find the allegory and subtext. Let them conduct panels about how Island Fury obviously influenced the creation of such classic films as The Goonies and the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For now, simply understand that this movie is an unintentionally hilarious textbook case of Murphy’s Law. It is a mind-boggling mess, as entertaining to watch as a cat licking itself, yet you may never stop talking about it.

Island Fury is available to endure on Prime Video, because of course it is.

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