Island of Peril

Island of Peril was one of the last serials written for Pinnacle before a devastating fire destroyed the studio. From the production notes reproduced below, it is likely it would have tested both Pinnacle’s resources and its resourcefulness with the climactic action scenes.

The serial was written by experienced weird fiction author, Catherine Thomasina Black, a contemporary of H. P. Lovecraft and Henry Kuttner. It was her only chapter play.

For convenience, we have made suggestions for how the serial’s cast could be represented on the tabletop.


PITCH

A spine-chilling, twelve-chapter serial set in the South Pacific, Island of Peril blends exotic locales with a tale of unparalleled terror. When New Orleans detective turned private eye Sam Carson receives a troubling wire from his old buddy, Father Mathews, he travels to the priest’s parish on Kalamula, a remote island in the Tanuatu Archipelago. Once Carson arrives in the Anglo-French Protectorate, he is embroiled in a terrifying plot to free an ancient entity from its watery grave. With a stalwart group of adventurers and islanders beside him, Carson battles deceit, treachery and the degenerate descendants of shipwrecked mutineers.


PRODUCTION NOTES

The Island of Peril is a suspense-filled story of intrigue to be shot on the jungle sets mothballed from The Phantom Isle.The surviving wharf and town sets from Lurkers from the Deep, redressed with props from The Idol of Balaam-Rey, will serve as the Kalamula town of Bougainville. The climactic underwater sequences can be filmed in James Brate’s swimming pool. Brate auditioned for the part of Rick Rhodes and is still keen to work with Pinnacle. The rental costs are favourable. ‘Big’ Jim Tyson will be playing R’Thake in the Lizardman King costume from Trials of the Lizardmen.

The special effects team are retrofitting the headpiece with the miniature octopus prop from The Devil’s Triangle. Point Dume can double for the Kalamula coast with additional exteriors shot at Catalina Island and Balboa Park, San Diego. The curator is keen for his daughter to screen test for the Dotty White part in Tomb of the Emerald Pharaoh. She’s utterly without talent, but the botanical gardens are ideal for the production.


CASTING

The main cast are a group of misfit heroes holding back a rising tide of infamy.

  • Sam Carson was a New Orleans detective with a flawless record. His final investigation into a series of mysterious abductions brought him into conflict with the Alligator Men of the bayous. His sanity shaken after a narrow escape, he quit the police department and turned to Father Mathews to help him come to terms with that he had witnessed in New Orleans’ remote swamps. Although still affected by his experiences, when he recovered Carson became a licensed PI, refusing to accept cases that took him beyond the city limits. Nobody but Mathews could have convinced him to venture into the wild (Cynical Gumshoe).
  • Father John Mathews is a kindly Catholic priest whose growing interest in the occult stems from listening to Carson’s experiences with the Alligator Men. Unsettled by the priest’s enquiries on Carson’s behalf, Mathews’ bishop dispatched him to the South Pacific to rededicate himself to God as a missionary. On Kalamula, Mathews found evidence of hideous pagan practices amongst a debased cargo cult worshipping strange objects cast up on the island’s shores. When his parishioners began to disappear, he contacted Carson (Amateur Sleuth).
  • A tough, patriotic American of flexible scruples, Rex Burroughs is the resourceful captain of the S.S. Opal, a cargo vessel plying the islands carrying cargo and contraband. Recently, he has observed strange disturbances in the waters around Kalamula. When oddly humanoid shapes were spied in the bow-wave of his ship just hours before members of his crew vanished in calm seas, he contacted Father Mathews. Knowing the priest’s interest in the unusual and unexplained, he and Mathews have become unlikely allies (Ship’s Captain).
  • Ruth Burroughs is Rex’s attractive tom-boy daughter and chief engineer. Smart-mouthed and quick-witted, she’s a sassy kid unafraid of taking a swing when needs arise. She is drawn to Carson’s detached cynicism and apparent indifference to her, perhaps seeing him as a someone who can be fixed with a little care and attention (Grease Monkey).
  • Sparky, Captain Burroughs’s accident-prone wireless operator aboard the Opal, lightens the tone with his comic antics. If there is a pit to fall in, a giant insect to be menaced by, or an awkward situation to need rescuing from, Sparky is the one to find it (Comic Relief).
  • Aputu is a Kalamula island chief who acts as a guide to Carson and his friends after his village is raided by Quintal’s cultists. He is loyal, honest and courageous (Tribal Chief).
  • Guy Sears is a down-on-his luck freelance trouble-shooter washed up literally and figuratively on the shores of Kalamula. Befriended by Mathews, he maintains the leaky Catholic mission house in return for board and lodging. He also acts as bodyguard to Dutch businessman Hubert van Streepen. A dubious ally at best, Sears’ loyalty is open to the highest bidder (Hired Gun).
  • Outwardly a Dutch trader, Hubert van Streepen is the cover identity of Ernst Kruger, a fugitive Nazi occult scholar. Searching obsessively for a means to destroy the victorious Allies, the callous, sadistic Kruger has recruited Fletcher Quintal and his cargo cult with the intention of raising R’thake and enslaving the free world (Ruthless Lieutenant).
  • Descended from a crew of shipwrecked British mutineers who intermarried with Kalamula’s population of Fishfolk Devils, Fletcher Quintal is the leader of the apocalyptic cult, The Sons of the Sea. Quintal is a man without scruples or mercy, responsible for numerous disappearances throughout the Tanuatu Archipelago. His victims are all sacrificed to the cult’s supernatural master, R’thake (Unholy Cardinal).
  • R’thake, Lord of the Sunken City, is a tentacled nightmare stirred by the devotion and sacrifices of its subjugated race of Fishfolk Devils and their half-human hybrids, The Sons of the Sea. Its unfathomable intelligence dreams of seeing its city rise from the waves and assuming domination over the human race once more. Several islanders believe they have seen its monstrous bulk amidst the waves, its gigantic hands pawing at the beaches and cliffs (Eldritch Horror).

SYNOPSIS

An alliance of evil threatens the world…

When Master’s Mate Tobias Quintal threw his captain overboard and took control of HMS Knaresborough in 1780, he sailed his mutinous Royal Navy crew to the South Pacific’s Tanuatu Archipelago. Driven by storms, the Knaresborough was wrecked on Kalamula, leaving Quintal and his men castaways. At first, the mutineers subjected the native islanders to violence and thievery. Later, the islanders united and fought back, driving the seamen to the slopes of Khua-na-Khey, The Throat of the World, an extinct volcano of Kalamula’s northern coast. The islanders believed the volcano cursed and a fitting home for the violent strangers brought to their shores by the sea.

Dwelling in Khua-na-Khey’s cold volcanic tunnels and vents, Quintal and his men were forced to look to the ocean for food. At the same time, R’thake stirred in the depths, woken from its slumber by the savage ways of the bloodthirsty seamen. To win their devotion it dredged up treasures from sunken ships and strange artefacts from its drowned city. It sent its congregation of Fishfolk Devils to instruct the sailors in its veneration and gave them fish-wives to breed a new generation of believers.

Over the next hundred years, the Knaresborough mutineers degenerated into a cult of Fishfolk Hybrids: The Sons of the Sea. For decades, they worshipped the items R’thake bestowed upon them and sacrificed islanders in thanks. When the French and British authorities came in 1883 to manage the archipelago through an Anglo-French condominium, the cult also  victimised the European settlers. The archipelago’s new administrators fought back, but several attempts to destroy The Sons of the Sea using colonial forces met with disaster. For over fifty years an uneasy peace has existed on Kalamula. The cult has kept itself isolated, abducting islanders only occasionally for its dark rites. The island’s colonial administrators now dismiss the cult as a local legend, attributing the disappearances to tribal in-fighting despite the islanders’ peaceable nature. Even the priests of the Catholic Mission doubt the cult’s existence.

The situation on Kalamula changed with the arrival of two men: the caring, dedicated Father John Mathews and the fugitive Nazi soldier-scholar, Ernst Kruger. Determined to exact revenge on the Allies for the destruction of the Third Reich, Kruger is searching the South Pacific for supernatural means of retribution. He sees R’thake and The Sons of the Sea as the instruments of his revenge. Under Kruger’s tutelage, Fletcher Quintal, the warped descendant of Tobias, has learned new rituals for raising R’thake and his lost metropolis, an act that would inundate the world. Requiring more sacrifices than ever before, The Sons of the Sea abduct many islanders, including several of Father Mathews’ congregation. With the colonial officers unwilling to intervene, the priest investigates the cult himself. He discovers enough to terrify himself and send for Carson.


CAST

  • Detective Sam Carson – Jack Royal
  • Father Mathews – George Glad
  • Captain Rex Burroughs – Kenneth Cash
  • Ruth Burroughs – Jennifer Fine
  • Ernst Kruger/Hubert van Streepen – John McCann
  • Fletcher Quintal – Harry Brand
  • Guy Sears – Joe Coward
  • Sparky – Bruce Brown
  • Aputu – Dale Cooke

CHAPTERS

1. A FISH OUT OF WATER

Carson arrives in Bougainville, Kalamula’s main port but, in reality, little more than a small, wooden town. Here he meets Father Mathews. At a local hotel, Mathews describes the disappearances and his discoveries regarding the existence of a debased cargo cult. They are overheard by van Streepen, who sends word to Quintal that their plans may be in jeopardy. Later at the Catholic mission, as Carson and Mathews discuss a possible investigation, Quintal attacks with his Fishfolk cultists. A battle ensues, but Mathews’ congregation is overwhelmed, and the church set alight.

2. FOLLOWING THE TRAIL

Rescued by Captain Burroughs and his daughter Ruth, Carson and Mathews barely escape. Van Streepen is furious at Quintal’s rashness, fearing the attack will provoke the colonial authorities. He sets Sears to watch the priest and his friends. At the ruined mission, Burroughs recounts his strange experiences in the waters around Kalamula and agrees to help Carson track the attackers. Burroughs takes Carson to the Opal to collect Sparky and weapons. Their actions are watched by Sears. With a party of sailors, Carson, Burroughs and Sparky follow the cultists’ trail to an abandoned French garrison. Sparky falls into an old cellar, attracting a pack of grave-haunters. Carson’s party are dragged into old tunnels beneath the garrison.

Almost as frequent on set as Spenser Packard himself, the Pinnacle Pacific Pictures’ prop skeleton known affectionately as ‘Long Pete’ would have almost certainly featured in Island of Peril.
Image from Trials of the Lizardmen (1942).

3. SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE

When the old tunnels collapse, Carson and his party escape and return to Mathews’ mission. In their absence, three islanders have been abducted. Aputu, their chief, tells how his ancestors once banished a group of marauders to Khua-na-Khey. He believes their descendants are responsible for taking his people. Sears reports Aputu’s words to van Streepen, who realises a diversion is needed to give Quintal’s cult time to gather the last sacrifices. Consulting his esoteric texts, he summons three Fractal Hounds to harass Carson and his friends. In the old mission, the creatures emerge unseen from shadowed corners and attack.

4. BAITING THE HOOK

With the help of Father Mathews, Carson and the others defeat the hounds. When van Streepen arrives on the pretence of discussing cargo with Captain Burroughs, he hears of the hounds’ attack. Acting surprised, he tells Carson that packs of such creatures haunt a secluded western cove and may be responsible for the islanders’ disappearances. He dismisses Aputu’s story of cultists at Khua-na-Khey. Carson decides to investigate to cove. He takes Aputu and several tribesmen overland while Burroughs, Ruth and Sparky return to the Opal, intending to sail around the coast and provide support from the sea. Their plan is ruined when they find the Opal’s engines damaged. Van Streepen anticipated their plan and sent Sears to sabotage the ship: Carson is on his own.

5. FISH IN A BARREL

Battling through man-eating jungle flora, Carson and Aputu lead their men towards the cove identified by van Streepen. In the meantime, Ruth works to repair the Opal’s engines. When they finally sail, Captain Burroughs pushes his vessel to its limit so they can reach Carson’s party in good time. On reaching the cove, Carson and Aputu investigate a series of cliffside caves. They find the skeletons of long-dead seamen, marooned centuries before. Distracted, they fail to notice a shoal of Fishfolk Devils rising from the sea. As the Opal steams into view, her engines explode. Captain Burroughs and Ruth are caught in the blast.

6. THE FOUNDERING SHIP

Sparky manages to drag his captain and Ruth from the engine room. As he brings them on deck, Fishfolk Devils swarm the ship. The crewmen fight a desperate battle in defence. On shore, Carson and Aputu hold the caves against a second force of Fishfolk Devils. The situation looks bleak until Burroughs breaks opens a crate he was smuggling in secret from Ruth: machine guns. Quickly overcoming her disapproval for gun-running, Ruth joins her father and his crew in driving the Fishfolk Devils into the sea. On shore, Carson and Aputu are overwhelmed.

7. SLIPPING THE NET

Seeing Carson’s dilemma, Burroughs’ launches boats and sails to the beach. Caught between Burroughs’ crew and Aputu’s tribesmen, the Fishfolk Devils are defeated. Sears, who has followed Carson’s trail for van Streepen, hurries back to warn his master. Realising that Carson will know he deceived them, van Streepen kills Sears to cover his trail and joins Quintal at Khua-na-Khey. He issues instructions to Quintal to abduct Ruth and Sparky. Leaving a skeleton crew to protect the Opal, Burroughs and Ruth accompany Aputu and Carson back to Bougainville. On his return, Carson investigates the Dutch trader’s offices. He finds Sears’ body and several occult texts in German, including Wolfgang Lange’s Kulte des Pazifischen Ozeans. He uncovers who van Streepen really is and what he intends. As night falls, Quintal’s Fishfolk Hybrids use darts tipped with poison to paralyse Carson and his friends. As Carson, Burroughs and Aputu watch helplessly, Ruth and Sparky and taken away.

8. A RACE AGAINST TIME

Recovering from their paralysis, Carson, Burroughs and Aputu mount an expedition to Khua-na-Khey. They are joined by Father Mathews and a band of islanders. Armed with Burroughs’ guns, they march into the jungle. In the grim caverns below Khua-na-Khey, Ruth and Sparky plan an escape. Their bid for freedom is foiled when Sparky’s attempt to unlock their cell door alerts the guards, bringing them to the slimy attention of a gloating van Streepen. Out in the jungle, Carson’s party are beset by cultists and Protoplasmic Terrors sent by Quintal. As they fight a desperate rear-guard action, Carson is surrounded by the horrid creatures.

9. BURIED ALIVE

Carson is saved by Aputu and his tribesmen who kindle a great fire to drive the Protoplasmic Terrors into a nearby river, where they are washed away.

In the great water-filled vent of Khua-na-Khey, van Streepen and Quintal prepare Ruth, Sparky and the captured islanders for the ceremony that will free R’thake and raise its city from the sea. With renewed urgency, Carson leads his party through the haunted wasteland around the volcano, harried by Fishfolk Hybrids. They finally reach an entrance to the dead mountain and plunge into its depths along a narrow corridor. In the flooded caldera, Quintal begins to chant. R’thake stirs beneath the waters, shaking the stones of the vast chamber like an earthquake. As Carson draws near to the centre of the volcano, he and his men are buried alive by tumbling rock.

10. THE LURKER IN THE DEPTHS

At the last moment, Carson guides his men into a side passage, avoiding the worst of the cave-in. In the central chamber, Ruth struggles against her bonds as Quintal’s cult continue their ceremony. Carson, Burroughs, Aputu and the islanders burst in upon the ritual and a pitched battle begins. The cultists protect Quintal. Van Streepen reaches for the sacrificial knife and a partly wakened R’thake heaves its monstrous bulk into the cavern. Its great hands grasp Carson’s men, dashing them against rocks or plunging them into the depths. Carson runs towards Ruth but R’thake’s seizes him in its scaly fist. Around them all, the volcano trembles with power.

11. OUT OF THE DEPTHS

Burroughs battles through the cultists and shoots Quintal. R’thake’s angered roar fills the chamber as the cult leader falls. It drops Carson, who runs to release Ruth, Sparky and the islanders. R’thake’s anger shakes the mountain, its deafening bellows driving its adherents mad. The ground splits open and lava bubbles into the chamber. Steam fills the air. Father Mathews dodges through the chaos to knock van Streepen to the ground. He climbs onto Quintal’s dais, seizes the cultists’ book of rituals and hurls it into the cleansing fire. With Ruth and the others free and its cult destroyed, R’thake sinks into the depths, but not before its fury fully rekindles the fires of Khua-na-Khey. Lava fills the chamber, sealing off any hope of escape.

12. THROUGH THE FIRE

With the ritual stopped and R’thake dismissed, Carson spies a narrow passage out of the devastated caldera. Burroughs guides them out, with Carson bringing up the rear. He is about to quit the chamber when van Streepen attacks. They fight on the brink of a raging lava stream before Carson knocks him into the flames. Burroughs, Ruth, Sparky and Aputu lead the rescued survivors from the erupting volcano. They are pursued by the last of the Sons of the Sea. Fighting a running battle through the caves and tunnels of Khua-na-Khey, avoiding lava and sudden collapses, they finally emerge into the sunlight. The volcano convulses and, in one final conflagration, consumes the last of the Fishfolk Hybrid cultists. Miraculously, Carson emerges unscathed to embrace Ruth, no longer afraid of the world’s hidden horrors.