Cast & Crew
Johnny Wade, a decorated American soldier serving in Italy in 1943, suffers from shell shock. His sergeant, Rance, jealous of Wade's medal, thinks he is faking, but Gil Evans, an old friend of Johnny's from his youth in an orphanage, persuades an officer to send Johnny for medical treatment. Rance, planning to kill Johnny, encourages him to escape and then volunteers to capture him. Evans and Sergeant Wrigley are detailed to go with Rance, and after they leave their base is destroyed. The three men, heading for the American lines, encounter Johnny and rescue him from the Germans. But after Rance mistreats him, Johnny runs away and takes refuge with Maria, an Italian. Wrigley is killed, but after meeting an Italian-American woman, Rance changes heart and helps Johnny and Maria escape from the Germans. Maria mistakes Rance for a German and kills him, but she is taken with Evans and Johnny to safety by an American patrol. Johnny soon recovers from his shell shock.
Charles Beach Dickerson
Shell Shock/Battle of Blood Island
Shell Shock tries to transport us to Italy, 1943, where a foot soldier suffers a mental breakdown and his situation is made worse by a sadistic sergeant. The main ingredients in this particular production involve various uniformed grunts shuffling about between tents in the Hollywood Hills, not to mention a long scene involving two soldiers and one goat. Director Hayes (1930 - 2000) is a veteran of the low budget fare, having cranked out such titles as Grave of the Vampire (1972) and Jailbait Babysitter (1978).
Battle of Blood Island really should have been the first film on the double-feature bill. Not only because it would have made more chronological sense to do so, but also because its central performances are far more compelling. Rapp did one other feature, High School Big Shot (1959), and otherwise has credits as a writer for the television shows of McHale's Navy and Gilligan's Island, among others. Battle of Blood Island is credited as being based on a short story by Philip Roth and begins on a beach full of dead American soldiers, two of which happen to be playing possum. Moe (Richard Devon) and Ken (Ron Kennedy) wait for the Japanese soldiers to return to their outpost before dragging themselves off into a cave. Moe has a rugged, no-nonsense approach to things. Ken has two useless legs and constant pain from a mortar wound. It's Survivor meets The Odd Couple, but with much deadlier consequences. Stick around for the "twist" ending and you'll also be privy to a cameo glimpse of executive producer Roger Corman, who also filmed Last Woman on Earth and Creature from the Haunted Sea around the same time and on the same Cuban beach.
Onto the bonus features. Not quite as much fun as the regular batch of Something Weird trailers that precede the double-feature, but still packing punch, are the "Battle-Scarred WWII Trailers" - bundled here to deliver lots of explosive scenarios. A 32-minute-long War Department Training Film titled Information Please! is meant as an educational bit to show how enemy combatants will try to eke out information from prisoners of war. If you were ever a bit foggy on how the whole "good cop, bad cop" routine works, now's your chance to get a step-by-step explanation. The 17-minute-long War Department Orientation Film titled Our Job in Japan is billed on the backflap as "outrageously racist" attempt by the Pentagon to psychoanalyze the Japanese, and is a fascinating piece of war propaganda. A short sing-along ditty by Bing Crosby extolling the virtues of buying war-bonds caps things off.
For more information about Shell Shock/Battle of Blood Island, visit Image Entertainment. To order Shell Shock/Battle of Blood Island, go to TCM Shopping.
by Pablo Kjolseth