Directors: Harry Kerwin, Wayne Crawford and Henri Charr
Dark Sky Films/MPI

Dark Sky Film’s latest installment of their “Drive-In Double Feature” series embodies two oddball homegrown exploitation titles, only one of which likely ever played at a drive-in theater. The first film, as advertised, is something of a JAWS clone shot in Florida, and the second is a hard to describe tale of adventure and savagery shot in California.

In the small seaside town of Palm Cove, frustrated young teacher/marine biologist Mike Canfield (Wayne Crawford) is checking the ocean for contamination. Trespassing in the waters near the town power plant, its main source of employment, Mike is charged by the plant’s agitated owner (Herb Freed, WILD IN THE STREETS) and tossed into the country jail. It’s there that he finds a kindly sheriff (William Kerwin, BLOOD FEAST) who he teams up with after a number of victims have been found dead near the ocean's shore. Its seems that the chemical plant has dumped waste into the sea, turning the sharp-toothed barracudas into man-eating machines, and the same substance is leaked into the drinking water, making people aggressive by messing with their blood sugar levels.

Okay, if BARRACUDA did play at drive-ins (it’s almost a certainty that it did), it must have caused patrons to spend more time making out in their foggy cars or making frequent visits to the snack bar. It may have its fans, but it’s hard film to like and will have you screaming for Joe Dante’s PIRANHA. It’s not much of a JAWS imitation in that the barracuda attacks (scenes of trophy fish chomping on various extremities while a red Cool-Aid substance infiltrates the surrounding water) are limited, as is the underwater photography. The restrained, PG-rated effort’s most horrifying sequence has a young woman’s dog fetching a severed head, still dressed in scuba gear to save on make-up expenses. Most of the procedings are centered around a government conspiracy theory and the mystery involving who's doing what to who and why. By the second half, the killer-fish aspect is pretty much an afterthought.

Star Wayne Crawford also produced, co-wrote (with William Kerwin’s brother Harry, who also has a small part and directed the film!) and he helmed the underwater sequences. He was obviously trying to make more than just an exploitation film, maybe something with a message, but his efforts result in a talky mix of “movie of the week” intrigue and a dull Sunn Classics docudrama appearance. If William Kerwin wasn’t enough to remind you that this is a very low rent B movie, Jason Evers (THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE) is the local doctor, playing it with a painfully straight face until he’s prompted to weep like a baby, bringing on more audience laughs than sympathy. Bob J. Shields plays a nosy reporter (typically dressed like Carl Kolchak) and rotund character actor Cliff Emmich (INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS) is the sheriff’s always-hungry sidekick. Best known for her brief role (and brief nude scene) as Bill Murray’s girlfriend in STRIPES, Roberta Leighton plays the hero’s perky love interest, who also happens to be the sheriff’s daughter.

ISLAND FURY tells of two self-assured young women, brilliantly named Sugar (Elizabeth Monet) and Bobbylee (Tanya Louise). Sugar wears a gold coin around her neck, and since it apparently can lead to the whereabouts of some hidden treasure. The girls are persecuted in an exotic town by some greasy thugs (one of them is named “Repo”) and after running past the same area three times and steamrolling into a number of hapless shoppers, they are caught and given the expected threats. The thugs force the girls to a nearby island and make them recall the story of how they found the gold piece. This results in a flashback story which has them together at age ten, hanging out with two teen girls in bikinis and two teen guys in speedos, and how they played “cat and mouse” with a family of backwoods psychotics living reclusively on the island.

For some reason, the IMDB gives a 1983 date for ISLAND FURY, claiming that it wasn’t released until 1989. But it’s quite obvious that this was the product of the late 1980s, as evidenced by the “21 Jump Street” hairstyles and chintzy synth score. It’s also listed under the IMDB as “Please Don’t Eat the Babies” which is a memorable title indeed, but there are no babies here, nor is there any cannibalism, and apparently ISLAND FURY went straight to video (with obvious video-generated titles). The film was executive produced by Mardi Rustam (who had a hand in DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN and EATEN ALIVE, among others) and its R-rating is justified by some glances at bare breasts and sporadic gore, including a simpleton getting a meat cleaver to his cranium and a bunch of teens found hung in a shed (reminiscent of THREE ON A MEATHOOK). It’s not good, just bizarre and all over the place, not knowing whether it wants to be a violent action flick or a TEXAS CHAINSAW imitation. Among its mostly young cast of actors who didn’t do much else is veteran western star Hank Worden, here playing the annoyingly deranged Gramps.

Dark Sky Films has presented both BARRACUDA and ISLAND FURY in full screen transfers, rather than anamorphic widescreen. BARRACUDA was obviously shot for 1.85:1 matting, and could’ve used the anamorphic treatment, but it still looks good here. The colors are strong and the image has crisp detail, with only hints of grain here and there, as well as some minor print blemishes. The mono audio is also very clear. ISLAND FURY looks fine as well, though its cheap production values reveal a bit of grain now and again. The full frame ratio looks more appropriate, most likely since this was meant for home video and cable TV viewings rather than theatrical showings. The mono audio is rendered clearly as well, and both films have optional English subtitles.

Since this is a “Drive-In Double Feature” presentation, the disc is enclosed with the always fun vintage concession stand films as well as various date and announcement slugs between the trailers. You can watch the whole program as one double feature, or just watch the films on their own without the bells and whistles. There are some great trailers here, and a sign of good things to come from Dark Sky: BONNIE’S KIDS, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS, PART TIME WIFE (aka A WOMAN FOR ALL MEN), THE PSYCHIC KILLER and the already-released EATEN ALIVE. (George R. Reis)