Isla de Sangre: Filipino filmmakers Eddie Romero & Gerry de León’s schlocky Blood Island Trilogy

By on July 5, 2019

Filipino exploitation filmmaker Eddie Romero and doctor-turned-actor-turned-producer/director Gerardo “Gerry” de León’s schlocky NSFW Blood Island Trilogy — Brides of Blood (1968), The Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1969), and Romero’s own Beast of Blood (1970) — were super low-budget flicks (approximately $125K each), produced in the Philippines for the late ’60s/early ’70s U.S. drive-in sleaze market.

Watch all four films this weekend on Night Flight Plus, and hey, why not make a drinking party game of it by chugging your “Riego de Dios” — made with Barik lambanog, a green Filipino liquor — every time a plant-or-animal-based creature appears onscreen?

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The collaborative creative partnership between Eddie Romero (born on the island of Negros Oriental in South Central Philippines in 1924) and mentor/friend Gerry De León (b. Gerardo Ilagan in Manila on September 12, 1913) actually began in 1941, when De León contacted Romero after reading an article he’d written for Panorama magazine.

The two young men, nearly ten years apart in age, soon began writing screenplays together, and in 1959, Romero co-produced his mentor’s low-budget black & white mad scientist saga Terror Is a Man, a.k.a. Blood Creature (1959).

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In this updated story — inspired by H.G.Wells’ classic novella The Island Of Dr. Moreau, and made with American producer Kane Lynn — American engineer “William Fitzgerald” (Richard Derr) is the sole survivor of a shipwreck who washes up on the beach of the desolate snake-infested tropical Isla de Sangre (Blood Island).

That’s where he meets up with “Dr. Charles Girard” (Francis Lederer), a sicko former Park Ave surgeon who has been busy Frankenstein-ing wild jungle animals, attempting to transmogrify them into human beings.

The result of his experiments so far is a human-adjacent man-beast, a horrid cat-faced panther-man.

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There’s an additional plot twist in that Dr. Girard’s gorgeous love-spurned wife “Frances” (Greta Thyssen) finds herself drawn to the shipwrecked man, which certainly complicates things for all three of them.

Terror is a Man remained a cult curiosity until it was distributed by Samuel M. Sherman’s Hemisphere Pictures as Blood Creature, in 1969.

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The occasionally NSFW Brides of Blood (1968) — a.k.a Island of Living Horror, Jungle Fury and Brides of Blood Island — was the actual first resulting flick in Romero & De León’s Blood Island exploitation film trilogy, reverently recalling those late ’50s’ “atomic panic” B-movies.

Severin Films describes this one as “’50s-style radioactive monster mayhem with taboo-smashing levels of graphic violence, nudity, dwarf-whipping and cuckolding that set insane new standards for drive-in/grindhouse depravity.”

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Future Jack Hill producer John Ashley — one of the few AIP lead actors who made the transition from juvenile delinquent movies to beach party films like 1965’s Beach Blanket Bingo — is a Peace Corps good guy “Jim Farrell.”

He ends up on Blood Island along with a scientist, “Dr. Henderson” (Kent Taylor) — ostensibly there to study the effects of radioactivity from atomic bomb tests on the island’s flora and fauna — and his bored promiscuous wife “Carla” (former exotic dancer and one-time Elvis Presley squeeze Beverly Powers, a.k.a. former stripper “Beverly Hills”).

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Brides of Blood features everything you’d expect to see in a film set in a colorful Martin Denny-esque tiki-fied exotica setting, with lots of buxom babes dancing to pounding jungle drums and a fugly vegetable-faced plant-man monster, all filmed in gloriously-stunning Technicolor.

Read more about the other two films in the Blood Island Trilogy below.

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The Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1969) — a.k.a. Grave Desires and the frankly zombie-ish sounding Tomb of the Living Dead — picks up where Brides of Blood left off a year earlier, with lots of Filipino girl nudity, a veggie-man beast, and savage gory violence.

Not to mention, the film — from a screenplay by Reuben Canoy — is simply drenched in copius amounts of a “mystical emerald fluid”; the poster tagline even asked the audience outright, “Do you have the GUTS to come and join the WEIRD RITES of GREEN BLOOD?”

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Our hero John Ashley returns to the Isla de Sangre once again, this time as a different white dude named “Bill Foster,” an American pathologist, and this time he’s paired with “Sheila,” played by Sixties starlet turned Eighties porn queen Angelique Pettyjohn, who barely can keep a stitch of clothing on her foxy bod.

Our friends at Dangerous Minds called this film — presented totally uncut for the first time ever and featuring the film’s legendary “Oath of Green Blood” prologue — “one of the greatest/nastiest/goriest films of the 1960s.”

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Finally, we come to the last sequel in the Blood Island Trilogy, Beast of Blood (1970) a.k.a. Beast of the Dead (US TV title) and Blood Devils (UK) — which was Romero’s first time on the island without De León.

Once again, and for the last time, shipwrecked white boy hero John Ashley returns to the Isla de Sangre, where he meets up with Filipino exploitation vet Eddie Garcia (oatmeal-faced “Dr. Lorca”), who is busy creating mutant monsters, this time a leafy-limbed creature that comes with a disembodied head.

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This time, Ashley’s Dr. Bill Foster is paired up with Sixties beauty queen/sexy starlet Celeste Yarnall (the Velvet Vampire babe plays a reporter named “Myra Russell”), who bravely shows a lot of skin (she was apparently pregnant at the time).

Beast of Blood was scanned in 2k from a 16mm CRI and presented totally uncut, including the complete head-transplant surgery scene!

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In 2018, our friends at Severin Films collected all four films together in their now out-of-print DVD/Blu-ray box set The Blood Island Collection, but if you’re a subscriber to our streaming channel, you can see the entire gore-filled grindhouse quartet on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.