Cast & Crew
Edgar G. Ulmer
Veda Ann Borg
The Isle of Forgotten Sins Inn is run by the no-nonsense Marge, and features a bevy of lovely hostesses with questionable backgrounds. When Marge's boyfriend, Mike Clancy, and his deep sea diving partner, Burke, become embroiled in a fight, they tumble into the restaurant. Mike is declared the victor by Krogan, a former sea captain who has adopted the pseudonym Carruthers to run an island plantation. Krogan presents his talented friend, Johnny Pacific, a former ship's purser at the inn, and Johnny plays a classical tune on the piano. Mike recognizes Krogan as the captain of a ship that was scuttled, and recalls that three million dollars in gold bullion also went down with the ship. Suspecting that Krogan still has the gold, Mike and Burke plot to find the treasure and take it. After Olga, one of Marge's hostesses, murders a patron in the club, Marge realizes her inn will be shut down by the authorities, and flees with her hostesses, taking refuge on Burke's ship. Mike convinces Burke to take the women with them to Krogan's island as a cover. Mike and Burke are unwittingly playing into Krogan's hands, however, as he needs deep sea divers to recover the gold from his sunken ship. Krogan therefore welcomes the group to his island, and cleverly leaves his logbook, with a map to the sunken ship, in a place where Mike and Burke easily find it. As a monsoon brews near the island, Mike and Burke dive for the gold, but upon retrieving it, they get into a fistfight over who is to take the larger share. As they are fighting, Krogan, Johnny and a group of islanders overtake the ship and take them hostage, locking them in a cabin. After taking the gold with them, Krogan blows up the ship with dynamite. On their return to the island, Marge is horrified to learn that Olga has been giving Krogan and Johnny information about Mike and Burke's activities. Krogan has no intention of sharing the gold even with Johnny, who, as ship's purser, had told him about it in the first place. Krogan draws his gun, as does Johnny, and they kill each other in a hail of bullets. As they lay dying, Mike and Burke reappear, having escaped the ship just before the explosion. However, the monsoon reaches the island and a tidal wave splinters the hut. Mike and Marge are saved as they cling to a portion of the hut, and eventually float to safety. Much later, they have married and are the proprietors of The Bird Cage Café in the tropics.
Edgar G. Ulmer
Veda Ann Borg
Melville De Lay
Charles Henkel Jr.
Raymond L. Schrock
June L. Stillman
Edgar G. Ulmer
Peter R. Van Duinen
Monsoon (aka Isle of Forgotten Sins)
A wonderful example of his craft is the 1943 film Monsoon (aka Isle of Forgotten Sins). The film originated when the director discovered that 200 miniature trees -- created for John Ford's disaster drama The Hurricane (1937) -- were still stored in the prop vaults of the Goldwyn Studios.
"I knew I would persuade them to loan the miniatures for a picture," Ulmer told Peter Bogdanovich in a 1970 interview, "so I wrote Isle of Forgotten Sins."
A pastiche of Raoul Walsh's two-fisted male-bonding film What Price Glory (1926), combined with the Pacific exotica of Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940), Monsoon follows the exploits of brawling seamen Mike Clancy (John Carradine) and Jack Burke (Frank Fenton) as they attempt to recover a sunken treasure. Enlisting the aid of Marge (Gale Sondergaard), the lead hostess (or perhaps madame) of a tropical nightclub called the "Isle of Forgotten Sins," they travel to the remote outpost of a rival sailor (Sidney Toler) who holds the key to the loot. Thus begins a series of criminal maneuvers, as the rivals attempt to outwit each other and sail away with the gold. But the intrigues are interrupted when the island is besieged by a colossal storm and the game of cat and mouse becomes a battle for survival. The mode of screenwriting in which Monsoon had been written -- building a script around a prop -- was unorthodox to the film industry at large, but hardly unusual for Ulmer. As a filmmaker operating within the low-end studios known as Poverty Row, he had cultivated a knack for seizing the day -- or the prop -- and quickly making a movie out of found objects.
In another reversal of the accepted process of making movies, he was also adept at writing films to fit their catchy titles. "At the beginning of the season, [asst. studio head Leon] Fromkess would sit down with me and [production head Sigmund] Neufeld...and we would invent 48 titles. We didn't have stories yet -- they had to be written to fit the cockeyed titles. I am convinced, when I look back, that all this was a challenge. I knew that nothing was impossible."
For someone like Ulmer, nothing was impossible, even under the extremely limited budgets at the Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). He knew how to shoot a set so that its frayed edges didn't show. As a result, the catastrophic storm that befell a bunch of borrowed miniature palms looked quite convincing -- so convincing that Isle of Forgotten Sins was later retitled Monsoon to capitalize more on the natural disaster than erotic undertones that had at first been considered the film's primary selling point.
Undaunted by monetary constraints, Ulmer also conceived an elaborate underwater sequence for the film, in which a deep-sea diver explores the wreckage of a ship. The solution again was miniature, in this case a marionette rigged to function underwater (complete with tiny air bubbles). Brilliantly demonstrating his resourcefulness, Ulmer layered the scene with evocative music and brisk dialogue between the diver and his on-board comrade. In the end, one almost doesn't notice the clumsy puppetry, and the scene works, in spite of its technical crudity.
Around the time of Monsoon, the film's star suddenly became close friends of the Ulmer family. "Carradine was running away from his first wife, and she was going to put him in jail for lack of child support," remembers Edgar's daughter, Arianne Ulmer Cipes. "She was really after him, so he hid out in our house; he lived with us for about two months, until he got himself sorted out, made enough money -- I think it was on Bluebeard (1944) -- to pay off his ex-wife. Then he bought a house not even half a block down the hill."
Monsoon may have been written to fit a flock of miniature trees, circa 1943, but the idea of a South Seas drama had been floating in Ulmer's mind for some time. He called the film "a holdover I had left from the time I was with [F.W.] Murnau." Ulmer worked with Murnau during the filming of the romantic docudrama Tabu in 1931, and had collaborated on all of Murnau's American films, beginning with Sunrise in 1927.
It may seem odd that the "King of the B's" was a cohort of the highbrow Murnau, but Ulmer had schooled with some of the most gifted visualists in stage and screen history. After his theatrical education in Vienna, Ulmer spent three years working for theatrical genius Max Reinhardt. He later moved to film and contributed set designs to some of Fritz Lang's greatest works (including Die Nibelungen  and Metropolis ) at the Ufa Studios in Germany.
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Producer: Peter R. Van Duinen
Screenplay: Raymond L. Schrock, based on a story by Edgar G. Ulmer
Cinematography: Ira Morgan
Production Design: Fred Preble
Cast: John Carradine (Mike Clancy), Gale Sondergaard (Marge Willison), Sidney Toler (Carruthers), Frank Fenton (Jack Burke), Veda Ann Borg (Luana).
by Bret Wood
Monsoon (aka Isle of Forgotten Sins)
The viewed print was titled Monsoon. A plot synopsis in the file on the tilm in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the story originally ended with "Mike" and "Marge" sacrificing themselves to save "Diane," one of Marge's hostesses. The PCA protested this ending, noting in a letter to Edgar G. Ulmer that "the glorified suicide of [Mike] Clancy and Marge, at the conclusion of this story, will be eliminated through the introduction of the suggestion that they still have hopes of reaching safety." In addition, the PCA insisted that "Marge and her girls will not be in any way suggestive of prostitutes," and that "a gambling element in connection with her establishment" be added "to further get away from any suggestion of prostitution." Despite the PCA's changes, some reviewers still referred to the inn as a brothel. Isle of Forgotten Sins was also the working title for the film Prisoner of Japan (see below). According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Armenian actress Maria Zovian was considered for the role of Marge. Hollywood Reporter also reported that swimmer Judy Cook had been cast in the "jungle pool" sequence of the film, which was shot at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley, CA, but her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.