Thursday, May 20, 2010

Island of Lost Souls

The Daughter sweetly agreed to come with me to the Brooks Art Museum's Reel To Real film series presentation of Island of Lost Souls. It had been a very long time since I'd seen this. According to host John Beifus, the film is not available on DVD and hasn't been shown much on TV through the years. His introduction was informative. [The film has since become available from Criterion.]

The Island of Lost Souls is a 1932 pre-code horror film starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi. It's based on The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, which can be read online here, among other places.

The Bloodshot Eye has some pictures and an article. Images Journal calls it "a masterpiece of '30s horror," says, "Laughton's performance is one of the great performances in the history of screen horror" and praises the "marvelous cinematography of Karl Struss" and "a wonderfully campy performance by Bela Lugosi". Brights Lights Film begs for a DVD release. Moria gives it 4 stars, praising the direction by Erle C. Kenton and discusses the sexual themes. 1000 Misspent Hours closes by praising Laughton, saying
Laughton seems to understand Moreau perfectly, and he plays him as a competent, sensible, clear-thinking man who just happens to have spent his life doing what the rest of the world would consider appalling and unspeakable things for absolutely no practical purpose. It’s an unsettling characterization, and it elevates Island of Lost Souls to a plateau that it might not otherwise have reached.

The New York Times review from the film's release says, "Although the attempt to horrify is not accomplished with any marked degree of subtlety, there is no denying that some of the scenes are ingenously fashioned and are, therefore, interesting."


  1. Charles Laughton? I'm in!

  2. He is wonderful in this. There's one scene during which he sits on a desk, crosses his knees and almost smirks. That little smile and the twinkle in his eye. You can almost feel bad for him in the end. He strikes the perfect note and got a great response from the audience I was in.