Cast & Crew
Betsy Jones Moreland
American millionaire Harold Gern has fled to Puerto Rico to escape an indictment for his shady business practices. There, while watching a cockfight with his desperately bored wife Evelyn, Harold's young lawyer, Martin Joyce, urges the inveterate playboy to discuss his case. Harold instead insists on gambling at the casino and flirting with women, frustrating Martin further. That night, Harold sends Martin to his hotel room to retrieve some paperwork. There, Evelyn is drinking and tries to seduce Martin, to no avail. She lures him onto the balcony, where she balances precariously on the railing and announces that her unhappy marriage has left her with a death wish. She later finds Harold in the bar and urges him to pay more attention to her, and he responds that he has "business" that evening but will take her boating the following day. She is chagrined, however, to discover that Martin is joining them on the boat to discuss business. At sea, Harold is explaining to Martin that his money will protect him from prosecution, when Evelyn suggests the trio go diving. They enjoy their swim until, about twenty minutes later, Martin is stung by a manta ray. He is unharmed, but when they surface, they find the air unbreathable and so return to the boat with their oxygen masks intact. There, they discover that the captain is dead on the deck, and the radio is no longer receiving signals. When they are unable to fire the engine, they take the remaining oxygen tanks and row to shore. There, while cutting through the jungle to reach town, their oxygen supply runs out, and they fearfully remove their masks. Still unsure if they will survive, Harold lights a cigarette, and Martin points out gleefully that the lit match signifies that the air now has enough oxygen. They continue on to town, but there discover that everyone has died, their bodies littering the streets. Horrified, they take a car and return to the hotel, but can reach no one over the phone lines. In the bar, as they all drink to steady their nerves, Martin deduces that either a nuclear bomb has detonated or a natural disaster has occurred, killing most, if not all, of the human race. Realizing that they must leave town before the bodies begin to decompose, Harold drives them to his work partner's vacation house at the tip of the island. There, after a night of rest, they discern that they have enough canned food to last for years. Although Martin is cynical and Evelyn near hysteria, Harold insists they formulate a survival plan and stay calm. Later, when he sees a live insect and speculates that various bugs will soon thrive on the decaying bodies, bringing with them disease, Harold suggests that they plan to move farther north. In a colder climate, he reasons, they will be better able to store food and avoid disease. To that end, over the next weeks they teach themselves sailing, fishing and navigation. Harold is discomfited to note that Martin and Evelyn are growing closer, but he is so focused on his plan that he has no time to intervene. Meanwhile, Martin is becoming more and more resentful of Harold's gruff officiousness, as well as his claim to Evelyn. When Harold tries to control the tension between them by urging Martin to work harder, Martin chafes further. Evelyn also pulls away from Harold, whom she feels still refuse to allow her to be independent of him. One day, Martin wanders the beach, bereft, and when Harold and Evelyn find him, he taunts Harold, later admitting to them that if he can goad Harold into attacking him, he will at least know he is alive. Harold later goes out fishing, and Martin invites Evelyn to go to the beach with him, where the two kiss. Back home, Harold walks in just as Evelyn collapses into Martin's arms. The next day, the two men are on the boat when Martin announces that he will no longer take orders from Harold, and the two begin to fight. They are still fighting when they reach the shore, where Martin mocks Harold about Evelyn, prompting Harold to hit him in the face with a rock, grazing his eye. When Martin bitterly asks if Harold plans to "wipe out one third of the human race," Harold responds that he and Evelyn are leaving the island without Martin. At home, Evelyn pleads with Harold to change his mind, stating that she and Martin cannot comply with his demands. After Harold dismisses her, Evelyn approaches Martin and asks to leave with him. He tries to resist, knowing Harold will perish alone, but then relents and plans their escape. Later, Harold gives Martin the keys to the car, then is shocked to see Martin steal the keys to the other vehicle, a van, before driving away with Evelyn. As Harold hotwires the van to follow them, Martin and Evelyn discuss their escape plan, but when Martin's eye begins to throb, he loses control of the car and crashes it. They are unhurt, and run to the harbor just ahead of Harold. There, Evelyn asks Martin if they will have a child, but he declares that the human race is over and all that is left is to live without pain. He leaves her in a church while he searches for Harold, who is on the pier with a rifle. The two fight, and Harold once again delivers a head wound to Martin. After running through the El Morro fortress, Martin stumbles into the church, his vision failing. Harold follows, and inside, Martin declares that there is no God, then collapses and dies. Harold, horrified at what he has done, asks Evelyn to help him find a new life with her.
Ronald S. Stein
The Roger Corman Puerto Rican Trilogy on DVD
Roger Corman himself is on hand to introduce each film and to set up the broader story: in 1960, Corman and his Filmgroup company wanted to take advantage of tax incentives and shoot two films back-to-back in sunny Puerto Rico. The films were The Last Woman on Earth, to be directed by Corman in color and in CinemaScope, and a war movie, Battle on Blood Island, directed by Joel Rapp. Corman took only a skeleton crew and his lead actors to Puerto Rico. The Last Woman on Earth was written by Robert Towne, who would later pen such essential 1970s screenplays as The Last Detail (1973) and Chinatown (1974) (as well as serving as a "script doctor" for many important movies of the decade). Upon their departure time, Towne had not finished the script. The obvious Corman solution to that problem was to bring Towne along to finish the writing chore on location, and as long as he had to be there, Corman recruited him to act in the film as well - in one of the lead roles. To add to the fun, Corman decided at the last moment to film a third movie during the trip! He asked frequent collaborator Charles B. Griffith to rework the script from an earlier film, Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), into a light-hearted romp to be filmed almost entirely on a boat. The result, The Creature from the Haunted Sea, is the third part of the trilogy.
The behind-the-scenes story does not end there. As was the custom for drive-in quickies of the day, the running time for each of these films was barely over an hour. When the time came a few years later to sell the movies for television broadcast, they were too short. Filmgroup had Beast from Haunted Cave director Monte Hellman reunite the cast members of all three pictures and shoot extra footage (in California this time) to bring the films up to a saleable running time. The DVD presents the theatrical versions of each movie, and the extended TV scenes as separate bonus features.
The main film in this collection is The Last Woman on Earth, which is presented on the A side of the disc. Featuring an ideal scenario for a low-budget drama with a small cast, the movie introduces small-time mobster Harold Gern (Antony Carbone), his wife Evelyn (Betsy Jones-Moreland), and his lawyer Martin Joyce (Robert Towne, acting under the name Edward Wain). Following a well-populated scene in which the trio watch a cockfight (and a rather graphic one, too), the party goes off on a scuba-diving excursion. When they come up from the ocean depths, they see that something terrible has happened while they were submerged - due to some unexplained occurrence, oxygen has disappeared, killing their boat driver and every other living creature. Determining that the oxygen has returned, the trio take off their air tanks and investigate the city. Seeing no sign of life, they take over a large house in the countryside and start to go on with their lives. They discover fairly soon that "three's a crowd," even under these conditions! Martin begins to pay excess attention to Evelyn, which she gladly returns, causing quite a rift between the two men. Although the film has a deadly slow pace, the dialogue is good, the actors are game, and the situations are tense enough to hold interest. The sci-fi elements are slight, so the movie disappoints as a genre film. The print quality is not ideal, and yet this is by far the best looking copy of this movie ever released on home video. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the print is fairly free of dirt, and has good color and contrast - Corman fans can toss out their old, washed-out VHS and DVD copies of the film. The mono audio is fine, and clearly points out that almost all of the dialogue was dubbed in after the fact - there seems to be little or no sync sound recorded during principal photography. The audio commentary includes a lively discussion of the Puerto Rico trip with co-stars Carbone and Jones-Moreland. Robert Towne did not participate, unfortunately.
Next up is Corman and Griffith's monster quickie The Creature from the Haunted Sea. This film does not match the standards of the duo's earlier tongue-in-cheek efforts A Bucket of Blood (1959) and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). The comedy is very strained, and the lack of budget really shows. The film opens in Cuba, as shady mobster and boat owner Renzo Capetto (Carbone) helps some exiles out of the country. They are weighed down by stolen money, which Renzo plans to relieve them of during the trip. Also on the boat are Renzo's moll Mary-Belle (Jones-Moreland), inept government agent Sparks Moran (Towne, again billed as Edward Wain), and Renzo's henchman (Beach Dickerson). Renzo cooks up a story about a sea monster to cover the theft, but things go from strange to bizarre when a real monster shows up. While The Creature from the Haunted Sea has a bigger cast and more activity than The Last Woman on Earth, it is much more tedious. Carbone does an entertaining imitation of Bogart's Harry Morgan character from To Have and Have Not (1944), and Jones-Moreland is clearly having a lot of fun in the moll role, but the movie has little else to recommend it. The slapdash atmosphere is annoying rather than fun, and the monster of the title is of the pathetic steel-wool-and-ping-pong-ball variety. Listening to the DVD's commentary is actually more interesting than listening to the film's soundtrack. Carbone and Jones-Moreland appear again, saying that this film offered more fun and improvisation than their other Puerto Rico shoot. While they praise the antics of Beach Dickerson, his idiotic moves and animal noises in the film are grating at best. The print located for the Retromedia disc is not much better than the public domain copies that have floated around for years - it still has poor contrast and a lot of splices and scratches. The soundtrack is fair, and at least the dialogue seems to have actually been recorded on the set rather than dubbed-in after the fact.
The final film on the set is Battle of Blood Island, distributed by Corman's Filmgroup but directed by Joel Rapp, who also wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Philip Roth. Not sci-fi or horror, the story is a straight drama set during World War II. Two American GIs find themselves to be the only survivors of a beachfront attack on an island occupied by Japanese troops. They find refuge in a cave, unnoticed by the enemy. Ken (Ron Kennedy) is wounded, so Moe (Richard Devon) must go outside the cave in search of food and medicine. While planning a desperation attack on the small squad of Japanese soldiers, they watch in amazement as the soldiers commit suicide upon the news of Japan's surrender to the Allies! Then the drama becomes more psychological as the two men wear on each other while awaiting rescue. Rapp actually handles the two-man drama quite nicely; the tensions between the soldiers become very convincing. Unfortunately, anything approaching an action scene is badly handled; the movie features probably the lamest hand-to-hand combat ever staged for film. The acting by the leads is fine, however, and the total effect is as absorbing as an average episode of the 60s TV series Combat. Corman appears onscreen briefly as a GI, his only acting role during the Puerto Rican outing. The print quality in this transfer is satisfactory, certainly much better than the poor print of The Creature from the Haunted Sea. The contrast and detail of the black-and-white film is quite nice, with a minimum of grain or scratches.
Retromedia wisely keeps the added TV footage for the three movies separate from the theatrical prints. For the most part, this footage is padding and the scenes add no needed information. The most useful bit is a new opening for Battle of Blood Island, showing the actual beach combat rather than just the aftermath. The added footage for The Last Woman on Earth is particularly nonsensical, and would've no doubt just confused the plot, particularly since the actors' appearances had changed a bit in the intervening years. The best added bit for The Creature from the Haunted Sea is a deck-top song by the swimsuit-clad Jones-Moreland.
There are even more extras on the disc - a stills gallery features poster art and lobby cards for all three films, and there is also a generous helping of trailers from various early Roger Corman movies. Added to three movies, three commentaries, three Corman introductions and all of the bonus scenes, there is plenty here for the fan of low-budget 1960s filmmaking to drink in.
For more information about The Roger Corman Puerto Rico Trilogy, visit Image Entertainment. To order The Roger Corman Puerto Rican Trilogy, go to TCM Shopping.
by John M. Miller
The Roger Corman Puerto Rican Trilogy on DVD
Although the viewed print was black and white, contemporary reviews noted that Last Woman on Earth was shot and released in Eastman Color. As noted in the Variety review, the film was shot on location in Puerto Rico. Edward Wain was a pseudonym for screenwriter Robert Towne, who made his feature film writing debut with Last Woman on Earth and went on to write such seminal films as Chinatown (1974), Shampoo (1975) and Marathon Man (1976).
Roger Corman stated in his autobiography that Towne's slow writing process compelled him to take the writer on location with him, and the only way to afford the additional expense was to have Towne play one of the main roles. Corman shot Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961, see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70) at the same time as Last Woman on Earth, and Towne also appeared in that film, again credited as Wain.