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GENE NELSON AIMS AT JACK NICHOLSON'S 'THUNDER ISLAND'

Year of Assignment: 1963
Here's a movie that almost was, and nearly could've been — something pretty good: As one of many low budget programmers by 20th Century Fox in the early sixties, THUNDER ISLAND just happens to be co-written (alongside Don Devilin) by a young starving actor named Jack Nicholson (who doesn't appear), and the set-up is cool enough...

On a balmy locale straight out of KEY LARGO style Film Noir, Brian Kelly, best known as the two young boys' dad on TV's FLIPPER, ironically runs a boat charter business, and his ex wife and daughter just happen to show up for a visit while, right inside the only hotel, a hit man's being paid by slick Latin beauty Miriam Colin, whose family suffered the wrath of a former dictator from a Cuba-like country, and he's exiled on a nearby, heavily guarded island... you can call it THUNDER ISLAND although the 11th hour bursts of rushed gunfire would hardly be mistaken for cinematic lightning...

Picture on Fox DVD Cover
Filmed in black and white within a sparse, pulpy aesthetic skipping from land to sea, the hit man is played with slow burn, stone-walled ease by former dancer and CRIME WAVE protagonist Gene Nelson...

Brian Kelly shooting blanks
But he's thwarted by a few annoying devices. The grating-voiced horrible acting daughter of Brian Kelly and ex-wife in former AL CAPONE girlfriend and future GODFATHER II Hyman Roth betrothed, Fay Spain, blocks the killshot before her charter captain dad... distraction number two... shows up; a mere afterthought despite his initial potential as a TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT Bogart type, and who'd already been forced to hand his vessel over to the killer.

Gene Nelson ISLAND Score: ***
Backing up a bit with some interesting Brian Kelly trivia: He was a tall and muscular, handsome lug who, after a severe injury riding a borrowed motorcycle, and no longer able to be cast as a tall and muscular, handsome lug, talked a secluded, temperamental and, up to that point, completely reluctant science-fiction author Philip K. Dick into selling the rights to his novel, DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? That's right... Without Flipper's father, Ridley Scott's dystopian future neo noir, BLADE RUNNER, wouldn't exist at all...

Brian Kelly hunting for the hunter in Thunder Island
But a decade before sealing that legendary deal,  the young actor's bills were being paid, portraying a useless hero who is absolutely no logical match for, and a complete bulwark to, Gene Nelson...

Not only does he look the part of a cold-blooded, slithering assassin, but he uses his dance skills to goat-leap around the craggy island exterior (replete with wild yet caged zoo animals) as his character alone attempts making this clunky misfire an action vehicle that almost was, and nearly could've been — something pretty good...  Sound familiar? Well, either way, THUNDER ISLAND  does exist comfortable within the predictable confides of its own safe mediocrity.
What can you say about this picture of Gene Nelson firing a gun but... it's a cool picture from THUNDER ISLAND
Miriam Colon and Fay Spain in Jack Nicholson's Thunder Island
Miriam Colon and Fay Spain sunbathing bikini in THUNDER ISLAND
Miriam Colon and Gene Nelson in Jack Nicholson's THUNDER ISLAND
Miriam Colon and Gene Nelson in Jack Nicholson's THUNDER ISLAND
Miriam Colon and Gene Nelson in Jack Nicholson's THUNDER ISLAND
Miriam Colon and Gene Nelson in Jack Nicholson's THUNDER ISLAND
Miriam Colon and Gene Nelson in Jack Nicholson's THUNDER ISLAND
Miriam Colon and Gene Nelson in Jack Nicholson's THUNDER ISLAND
The bad and the good Gene Nelson and Brian Kelly in THUNDER ISLAND
A scuba geared Gene Nelson slithers for the kill beneath the a henchman leopard
Beside hunky Brian Kelly is Hyman Roth's wife and Al Capone's girlfriend... Fay Spain in Thunder Island
Brian Kelly's name (along with the guy who couldn't get Dick) at the Shining-footage version of Blade Runner
Miriam Colon appearing with and directed by Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks
Gene Nelson looking like Will Ferrell with Tuco's grandma from Better Call Saul, Miriam Colon in Thunder Island
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