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Saturday, April 10, 2021

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932) -- Movie Review by Porfle


Currently rewatching: ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932). One of the most grotesque and truly horrifying films of the Golden Age of Horror. 
Paramount set out to match Universal after that studio's previous year's successes with "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" by adapting another classic novel, H.G. Wells' "The Island of Dr. Moreau", and ended up creating a film so dark and so shocking that it has lost little if any of its power. 
Erle C. Kenton ("House of Frankenstein", "House of Dracula") proves once more that he was hardly just a hack director by making this a lavishly decadent, often nightmarish viewing experience.

Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) survives a shipwreck only to end up on the uncharted island of mad scientist Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton at his best) who, through his techniques of accelerated evolution, transforms animals into tortured, pathetic animal/human hybrids.
These creatures are terrifying thanks to convincing performances (not the least of which being Bela Lugosi as a wolf man who acts as the keeper of the law taught to them by their cruel master Moreau (thou shalt not run on all fours, thou shalt not eat meat, thou shalt not spill blood, etc.) and a makeup department that had a field day creating a host of some of the screen's most frightening visages.
Things get even weirder when Moreau decides to test just how much of a woman his Panther Woman (the exotic Kathleen Burke) really is by introducing her to Arlen in a scene that practically oozes with pheromones. 

The film crackles with menace as the jungle surrounding Moreau's house is always crawling with the most wretched of creatures who are constantly on the verge of fully reverting to savagery and descending upon the island's human inhabitants.
When this finally occurs during the exciting finale, Moreau finds himself in danger of discovering why his "House of Pain" (the manimals' name for his laboratory) is a place of such terror and dread.
Leila Hyams and Paul Hurst also appear as Parker's bride-to-be and a captain who brings her to the island in search of her love. Arlen's a likable hero and Kathleen Burke both fascinating and heartbreaking in her character's yearning to be loved as a human female.

Laughton, of course, feasts upon the jungle scenery as a brazenly warped narcissist who revels in his own perversions and awaits the day he can return to shock the daylights out of those who have doubted and exiled him. 
As such, he shares a trait or two with ISLAND OF LOST SOULS itself, a film that shocks and horrifies its audience with giddy and almost human delight.
(NOTE: Thanks to Mark French for the heads up.) 



1 comment:

dfordoom said...

It's still by far the best adaptation of the novel. Wonderful movie.