I must confess to being slightly annoyed at myself. I have been running this blog on and off for some time and as of yet I have never reviewed a film that was pre-1950. So not once have I examined any of the delights from Horror’s early and in the opinion of many, Golden days. Now the film I am looking at today is not one of Universals famed Monster Movies, but it is one of my favourites and considered and considered to be a classic. Amusingly H.G Well’s, the author of the novel “The Island of Dr Moreau” on which Island of Lost Souls is based, apparently loathed the film. It isn’t always difficult to see why though; the film differs a great deal from the book, not only in terms of plot but also in style. None the less as much as I am a fan of H.G Well’s I adore Island of Lost Souls. Stylish, slick and with a slight touch of sadism thrown in for good measure, it’s an excellent example of why no one should ignore this age of horror cinema.
Edward Parker (Richard Arlen), ship-wrecked and lost at sea, after a few unfortunate miss-haps ends up on the Island of the mysterious Dr Moreau (Charles Laughton). Moreau has been pushing the boundaries of evolution, turning animals into humans. His most successful experiment Lota (Kathleen Burke) was originally a panther, but Moreau has transformed her into a beautiful young woman. Moreau attempts to have Lota mate with Parker but his plans soon spiral out of control and leads to a blood thirsty climax in which Moreau’s experiments finally get their revenge on him.
Now horror films set in jungles always grab my attention, I’ve always enjoyed the Italian Cannibal/Zombie movies; perhaps this is one of the reasons why I love Island so much. The sets really are magnificent and it utilizes its setting extremely well, somehow merging an art-deco house and laboratory with a strange jungle filled with various monstrosities. With this film you really get the impression that they knew exactly what they were working with and used it to get the best effect. Whilst a few might find black and white cinema jarring, I have always enjoyed seeing how it can be utilised to create chilling and surreal images. Island of Lost Souls certainly succeeds in this field helping to amplify the effectiveness of the beast men. In the two subsequent versions of Dr Moreau the beast men have looked far from terrifying, I understand that the 1977 version was aimed towards a teenage crowd but they just look ridiculous in that film! Here hiding amongst the shadows, they boast some of the most impressive monster make up of the time. Adding to the unique and unusual atmosphere is a soundtrack that aside from the title theme comprises mostly of silence.
Easley one of the best things about this film is Charles Laughton’s still haunting performance as Dr Moreau. Dressed completely in a white suit from head to toe and with a jet black beard he certainly looks imposing, yet it is not his appearance that sends chills up the viewer’s spine. The most frightening thing of Laughton’s performance is the way he takes childish delight in his experiments. He simply doesn’t care. He handles the screaming man on the table as if he were a piece of meat, stretching his mouth painfully open and not even addressing him, ignoring him when his examination is finished. His sadistic little giggles when he makes the most disgusting of jokes are a joy to watch. The moment when he delivers the line, “Do you know what it’s like to feel like god?” has to be one of the creepiest line deliveries ever.
Perhaps one of the greatest tributes I can give to this film is that even to a modern audience it is still shocking. I know that it was recently re-rated a PG by the BFFC and it is understandable that compared to the new series of Doctor Who and things like Pirates of the Caribbean why this has occurred. This doesn’t mean that Island of Lost souls doesn’t still pack a punch. The scene already mentioned where Moreau man handles the poor creature on the table is guaranteed to make you squirm a little bit as is the reveal of his “failed” experiments. Nothing however can top the tortured screams at the finale as Moreau is cut to pieces by his creations.
As you can probably tell, I really really love Island of Lost Souls. It’s got a certain style and sophistication about it, it sums up the early 1930’s post Dracula and Frankenstein when all sorts of interesting Horror movies were made, experimenting with various styles. The jungle location is superb and the monsters are incredible. It’s a shame that it can, like a great deal of horror movies from this period, be overlooked in favour of the greats like Dracula and Frankenstein. Now don’t get me wrong, I love those movies, for me however Island of Lost Souls has something a little bit more special about it.
Welcome one and all- Please leave sanity at the door
A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.firstname.lastname@example.org. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.