Island Of Lost Souls

1933, Movie, NR, 67 mins

Review

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS
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There's not a wasted frame in this chilling horror film that was banned in England upon its first release. Laughton is Dr. Moreau, a smiling, benign-seeming man who welcomes shipwrecked Edward Parker (Arlen) to his own private island. While waiting for the next passing freighter, Parker learns that the "natives" who serve Moreau are really animals who have been transformed into semi-humans by the doctor's experiments in an area known as "The House of Pain." The only woman around, Lota (Burke), becomes involved with Parker but she too conceals a terrible secret. When Edward's fiancee Ruth (Hyams) arrives with a search expedition, the two women vie for his affections while Moreau makes his own attempts to deal with the new intruders. Unfortunately for him he makes a crucial error which goes against the lessons in "humanity" and "civility" he has browbeaten into his creations. The famous, controversial climax is still a shocker.

H.G. Wells, from whose novel the screenplay was written, hated the picture from the start because he felt the makers missed his point about a man playing God and opted for the easy way out. The film is steeped in atmosphere and foreboding, and much of the terror was hinted at rather than shown graphically. Struss' cinematography is stunning, especially in the "lesson" scenes Moreau administers. "Are we not men?" and "What is the law?" are lines chanted by the half-human denizens of Moreau's isle, led by Bela Lugosi in an amazingly small yet very effective performance, that will stick in your memory. Burke's appearance is striking but her acting less so; Laughton, on the other hand, is unfailingly marvelous. So many countries (as well as many midwestern states) banned the movie that it took a while to recoup the cost, but ISLAND OF LOST SOULS remains, to this day, a classic chiller which holds up better than many others from its period. Remade in 1959 as TERROR IS A MAN and in 1978 (with Burt Lancaster and Michael York) as THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Neither version was quite up to the original. leave a comment

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