Doomwatch (1972)

Doomwatch (1972)

“This island has trouble enough of its own without you coming here and stirring up more!”

A scientist (Ian Bannen) with the British environmental watchdog group Doomwatch is concerned when he visits the island of Balfe and notices its residents acting both secretive and aggressive, with some appearing to suffer from acromegaly. With the help of a local schoolteacher (Judy Geeson) and his colleagues back in London (John Paul, Simon Oates, and Jean Trend), he investigates what might be happening to this tight-knit community — and why.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Amateur Sleuths
  • George Sanders Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Scientists

This follow-up to the similarly titled BBC TV series (1970-1972) is based on the intriguing premise of a (fictional) environmental protection agency discovering literally horrific after-effects of environmental catastrophes. Indeed, Doomwatch starts off very much like a horror film akin to The Wicker Man (1973), as an “outsider” visits a cloistered island where the residents refuse to share exactly what’s going on in their community.

However, Bannen isn’t trapped on the island, and gets plenty of support from his colleagues back in London:

— so the feeling of anxiety and claustrophobia dissipates, turning the story into more of a procedural mystery: what in the world is impacting these people to the extent that they’re experiencing fear of their own loved ones? I’m not a fan of Bannen’s performance (he comes across as brash and smirky), and Geeson’s role is underdeveloped (how did she end up at the island in the first place?).

However, the inherent tension in solving the mystery at least keeps one reasonably engaged throughout.

Note: George Sanders appears in a thankless supporting role, one of his last before dying at the age of 65.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography and sets

  • Fine location shooting

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look if you’re curious. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.


2 thoughts on “Doomwatch (1972)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Solid little socially aware sci-fi drama which is – as is said – a spinoff from the TV series. Controversial in its day and in the UK because the regulars from the TV series are sidelined to cameo supporting roles.

    Still, Bannen is his usual excellent self and everyone else is also great. Atmospheric, creepy and effective. It’s a minor film of no long term historical significance so not must see. But, it’s a rock-solid, meat and potatoes genre effort that does deserve more exposure than it gets.

  2. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Mildly engaging cautionary tale with a slight element of horror (esp. at the conclusion). What keeps it going is the fairly strong pacing – but the dialogue feels a bit off or forced occasionally.

    The comparison to ‘The Wicker Man’ is a good one; the similarity is almost striking. This film version of the related BBC series was released early in 1972 – and ‘The Wicker Man’ followed in late 1973 – so, although that doesn’t leave a lot of development time in-between, the original series began, as noted, in 1970 so it’s possible that writer Anthony Shaffer saw it and was influenced.

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