February has faded away into the rear view mirror, and with March so newly upon us, it’s time for your favorite Catgirl Princess to swing by France for a look at the recent fantasy adventure “L’Île : Les Naufragés de la Terre Perdue” aka “The Isle : Castaways of the Lost Land”.
Our synopsis: “The Atlantic Ocean 1942: After the crash landing of their plane which was to take them to South America and to save them from the German occupation in France,Franck, Albert and Pierre land on a mysterious island. Exhausted, they end up making camp on the beach, but at dawn, Pierre is awakened by an appalling cry which seems to emanate from somewhere at the heart of the island. With a feeling of impending dread gripping them, they decide to venture inland… Will they be ready to face the fabulous and terrible hidden secret of the Isle?”
I nearly missed this particular lil’ film… but luckily stumbled across the Trailer during one of my afternoon Internet surfing expeditions. It wasn’t hard to pick up on the feeling that it has a whole “Mysterious Island” meets “Lost” vibe about it. Oooohh…. and 1942… you just gotta know that means Nazis!! Neko just loves evil Nazi villains in her movies… soooo darn over-the-top and nasty. A wee bit of work located yours truly her own copy, thanks to a bit of shopping at Amazon France…. so let’s all get right to it and see how it played out.
Yes, yes… it’s time to “Read On”…. 😉
Our movie gets going as we are introduced to our three main characters, Franck (played by Kaddour Dorgham), Albert (played by Michel Béatrix) and Pierre (played by Jérémy Duplot Jr.). As things get underway, it’s 1942 and they get stranded mid-Atlantic by the crash of their plane in a terrible tropical storm. After floating around for days in a life raft, they finally find themselves off the coast of one of those deserted tropical islands that sort of looks like “Monster Island” from all those old “Godzilla” movies. That right there should have been sufficient warning that things will not go well from this point on….. 😉
So what has brought our heroes to this scary looking island? Well…. it’s WW2 and those naughty Nazis have overrun France with their blitzkrieg and are in the process of doing whatever it is oppressive occupying forces do once they’ve invaded. As members of the Resistance, it seems our boys managed to get into serious enough trouble that it was prudent to escape by plane to South America till the heat was off. There’s a problem there though…. the youngest member of our little group, Pierre, was forced to leave his beloved older sister Francine (played by Cyrielle Debreuil) behind in the haste to make their spur of the moment getaway. He’ll spend the bulk of our story miserably pining for her, unaware that Franck, her lover, already knows that those nasty Nazis have caught and killed her. He knows that Pierre is just too sensitive to deal with that news…. and he feels more than a little guilty about leaving her behind to suffer that fate alone. It’s the character of Francine…. or rather, her ghost, and her memory… that haunts our two leads more than any of the mysterious things they encounter on the island itself.
About now… it becomes fairly evident that the story presented in “L’Ile” is somewhat hampered by the small budget under which it was made. Your Favorite Catgirl had kind of hoped for a few more…. well…. Nazis… in her WW2 thriller than our movie manages to provide. Instead we have a very small cast on hand, reducing our evil Nazi menace to just two guys…. an officer and his driver… who appear only in a flashback sequence explaining why our heroes had to make a run for it after killing the two during their attempt to rape Francine along a road one dark and lonely evening.
So…. that means no crazy Nazi mastermind in search of lost scientific secrets with a U-boat full of SS commandos to chase our boys around the island in a mad race for the secrets it holds. Darn it!!….. Now that’s the movie I wanted to see. 😦
Instead… “L’Ile” settles for a much less ambitious plot. After a little bit of sightseeing, our heroes start hearing this super creepy “roaring” noise out in the jungle….. Cool!! Big giant man eating prehistoric beastie… right? Ummmm? Nope. What the heck is it then? Hang on…. we’ll get to that.
In another oddly chosen potential plot idea that could have been very dramatic and interesting, Franck discovers that their companion Albert is in reality a fugitive SS deserter. Ok… now that certainly sounds promising, right? It is…. until they kill him off a few moments later…. completely by accident before he can even explain his backstory when they all fall down a trap into a big ol’ giant hole. Argghh!! 😦
The next thing we know, our heroes spend a goodly amount of screen time fighting between themselves before figuring a way to escape from the hole before dying of hunger or thirst. Franck eventually spills the beans about Francine…. which makes Pierre crazy with remorse. Does that mean they get all stupid and beat each other up? Yes…. of course it does.
I imagine they would have killed one another if they hadn’t found the secret door to the maze of hidden tunnels honeycombing the island. Oooohhh!! Does that mean we’re going to get the ol’ “Hidden lair and evil scientist doing experiments into things Man was never meant to know” plot…. that sounds like a winning idea.
Sigh…. Nope. Not enough money in the budget for mutant giant spider/human hybrids to be used to win WW2…. instead we get a deserted 1920’s laboratory and the body of a long dead scientist’s daughter frozen in a crazy steampunk style cryogenic-coffin. Ahhhh…. and naturally the girl, Ariane, is just the spitting image of dead Francine (not surprisingly also played by Cyrielle Debreuil). The noise in the jungle? Just an automated defense thingee to scare away curious interlopers on the island, “Scoopy-Doo” style…..
Franck goes all insane…. becoming obsessed with the idea of somehow awakening Ariane from her frosty sleep and saving her from the death by poison that the cryogenic sleep has been holding at bay all these decades. Pierre on the other hand, knows such notions are just plain crazy, since her father had found the antidote for her poison years before his own demise, only to be ultimately unable to release and successfully revive her.
They fight some more…. Pierre wanting to leave the island, return to France and kick Nazi butt to avenge his dead sister, and Franck willing to sacrifice everything for his new-found obsession… even Pierre… to revive Ariane. So how the heck does it end? Not happily I can tell you.
There’s a lot about “L’Ile” that is so darn promising…. I suppose ultimately that why I came away from it so disappointed in the end. It wants to be a bigger picture than it’s allowed to be…. and in the end, it’s that missed potential that takes it from being a real winning film to a merely interesting “near-miss”. Our acting is good… the cinematography excellent…. even using the poor digital effects on display to their best, but the story is perhaps too ambitious for the budget available. Also…. unfortunately there are far too many plot questions left unanswered to be satisfying. What the heck was Albert’s story? What ultimately happened to our mysterious Austrian Professor that he should leave his daughter stranded in perpetual suspension….. and most importantly…. who the bloody hell is the person (or freaky mutant thing) that keeps sneaking around watching our heroes now and again giving us blurry POV shots of them as they go throughout the tale? We never learn any of these things…. and it made this lil’ Catgirl more than a lil’ annoyed when things were all over and done.
Given this…. I can really only give “L’Ile” 3 “Meows” out of 5, and barely that. It’s presented on a fine Region 2 PAL formatted disc (or Blu-ray), with good excellent English subtitles but the price seems a bit steep given the overall mediocre story experience Carolyn and I both had watching it. For those of you Gentle Visitors out there still maybe wanting to give it a try, I’d definitely wait for it to show up in your own neck of the woods on a hopefully more cost conscious version rather than hunt it down all the way from France like I did.
There’s a Trailer of course Gentle Visitors, fresh from the Trailer Park and here it is again for your viewing pleasure!!