Unknown Island is a 1948 adventure monster movie directed by Jack Bernhard and released by Film Classics, Inc. The film features monsters such as dinosaurs and a giant sloth and stars Virginia Grey, Phillip Reed, Richard Denning and Barton MacLane. Ray Corrigan also appears in the film, playing the giant sloth. It is a rare example of a 1940s film that was shot in Cinecolor.
Under the title The Unknown Continent, the film went before cameras in late May of 1948 at General Service Studios. Special effects for the film were provided by Howard A. Anderson. Filming continued through early June 1948. All the footage of the principal actors was shot on sound stages at the studio. Only the second unit filming the dinosaurs and a sloth were on location, in Palmdale and Corriganville, California. All shots of the actors and monsters in the same shot were achieved with rear projection effects.
In a 6th June 1948 New York Times news item, producer Cohen claimed that the film’s budget was $450,000 and that about 35% of that figure had been spent on creating and photographing the prehistoric monsters. At some point during production, the film’s working title was changed to The Unbelievable.
The film was scored by Raoul Kraushaar, under his frequently used pseudonym of “Ralph Stanley.” It was released in October 1948 and, according to press reports at the time, was a major box office success.
[Additional information thanks to Bob DiMucci via FilmScoreMonthly.com]
“At least with the older films you were always guaranteed some pretty impressive stop motion creatures but here they’re replaced by the dreaded man in a rubber suit gimmick. Judging by the stumbling movements of the “dinosaurs” it seems they recruited their actors from the local drunk tank. They bump into and fall over each other like a surreal cross between The Banana Splits and the shambling zombies from Night of the Living Dead.” The Movie Waffler
“The special effects are ridiculous, but the 1948 film, shot in yellow-less Cinecolor, is a gas… The tensions among the adventurers provide plenty of drama, and the special effects are so outlandishly archaic they are spellbinding.” DVD Newsletter
Unknown Island is one of the cinematic ‘treats’ discussed in the Guilty Pleasures of the Horror Film book: