“Blood Island” is the grim nickname given to a compound in the Malayan jungle where British Prisoners-of-War are made to work in the sweltering steamy heat under the watchful eyes of brutish Japanese guards and where the torture of hapless POWs is part of the daily routine.
Kept hard at work quarrying gravel, emaciated through ill-treatment and shortage of food, and sickeningly reminded of what happens to those who attempt to escape, the men are submissive though not entirely broken in spirit. But tension quickly builds up when a girl suddenly appears in their midst.
The girl, Elaine (Barbara Shelley) is a secret agent who baled out when her plane was shot down by the Japanese. She was on her way to Kuala Lumpur on a mission that must be completed if many Allied lives are to be saved.
Elaine is first discovered by Sergeant Crewe (Jack Hedley), who at once determines that she shall complete her mission. Major Dryden (Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, pictured at right) is quick to agree and Elaine, having cut her hair and assumed male uniform, is passed off as a young soldier.
But the men are not happy about the plan because they know Elaine’s presence puts them in mortal danger. The Kempeitai (Japanese secret police) know that the girl is in the area and they urge the tyrannical Major Jocomo (Patrick Wymark) and his brutal jackal Lieutenant Tojoko (Michael Ripper) to extract information by even fiercer cruelties.
The pair need little prompting and the order is given that a different prisoner will be flogged each day until someone talks. The first victim is George Bludgin (Bill Owen), a likeable Cockney ex-burglar, who is tied up and flogged to death.
Morale begins to crack amongst the prisoners. Fiercely opposing Crewe’s plan is O’Reilly (Edwin Richfield) who lost half his face at Dunkirk. He has hated women since his wife fainted upon first seeing his injuries and now turns his vindictiveness towards Elaine.
There are others, too, who shrink from the prospect of death by flogging, and so plays out the gripping tale of a struggle between dogged determination and a ruthless barbarism.
Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell