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Island of Lost Souls (The Criterion Collection)

141 customer reviews

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(Oct 25, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

A twisted treasure from Hollywood’s pre-Code horror heyday, Island of Lost Souls is a cautionary tale of science run amok adapted from H. G. Wells’s novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. In one of his first major movie roles, Charles Laughton (The Private Life of Henry VIII) is a mad doctor conducting ghastly genetic experiments on a remote island in the South Seas, much to the fear and disgust of the shipwrecked sailor (Richard Arlen) who finds himself trapped there. This touchstone of movie terror, directed by Erle C. Kenton (House of Frankenstein), is elegantly shot by Karl Struss (The Great Dictator), features groundbreaking makeup effects that inspired generations of monster-movie artists, and costars Bela Lugosi (Dracula) in one his most gruesome roles.

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration of the uncut theatrical version

Audio commentary by film historian Gregory Mank, author

New video conversation among filmmaker John Landis and more

New interviews with horror film historian David J. Skal

New interviews with Devo founding members Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh

Theatrical trailer

Subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired

PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Christine Smallwood

Product Details

  • Actors: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi, George Irving
  • Directors: Erle C. Kenton
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: The Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2011
  • Run Time: 70 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005D0RDKM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,627 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Garvinstomp VINE VOICE on October 19, 2011
Format: Blu-ray
Thanks to my job I was able to get an early copy of the Criterion Blu Ray for Island of Lost Souls. There's not much to be said about the film that hasn't already been said. This adaptation of Wells "Island of Dr. Moreau" is one of the absolute pinnacles in the classic horror genre. One of the most notable things about this film is how much its tone contrasts with that of the Universal horror movies of the same era. This film is far darker in its subject matter (vivisection, rape, bestiality) and has an overt air of sexuality that Universal films tended to stay away from. But enough about that, on to the disc itself.

The transfer itself really does stand with the best that Criterion has done. Anyone expecting a transfer clean of all dirt and scratches is setting themselves up for disappointment (and I can't imagine why anyone would want this film in that "clean" of a version, regardless). But this is the most pristine I've ever seen. It is superior to every other home video release by a wide margin. I doubt the film has looked this good since its original theatrical run. Although, my guess is that this is about the best format for the film. I wonder if a lot of these older films that have been restored will hold up when we get up to bigger formats in the future. My guess is most of them won't hold at a 3K or 4K resolution. But this is absolutely gorgeous.

What really struck me was the re-mastered mono track for the audio. It is some of the clearest I've heard from the era. So many times with movies from the 30s and 40s it sounds like the actors are speaking through two tin cans connected by a string. Here, the voices and effects are clear and ever present.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By James Morris on August 24, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Several years ago, when I started to purchase DVD's, I decided that my VHS collection of 700 or so titles did not need to be replaced, and I would only buy DVD editions of films that I hadn't yet acquired. Right. A dozen years later, I have since replaced every VHS tape I had, with the exception of 40 or so films that have not yet made their way on to DVD. Of all the films I have left in my VHS collection, I have wished for the DVD release of none more than Island of Lost Souls. That this classic is finally being released by Criterion in a deluxe edition just makes my mouth water more in anticipation.

In 1932, Paramount Pictures made one of their few horror titles, Island of Lost Souls, based on the H. G. Wells classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Even today, the film emerges as an intelligent and extremely creepy exercise in unspeakable horror. One of Hollywood's sadly forgotten leading men, Richard Arlen, plays Edward Parker, a hapless traveler set adrift, who is rescued by a freighter delivering supplies to an island ruled by Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton). After an argument with the ship's captain, Parker is stranded on the island, and the terror unfolds.

More of the plot should not be revealed to the uninitiated; let's just say that Bela Lugosi will surprise you with his amazing performance as Keeper of the Law and Charles Laughton, one of my favorite actors, was rarely better. When you learn the full secret of the island, the concept of the House of Pain and Lugosi's chant, "What is the Law?" will cause chills to run down your spine. The answers to Lugosi's chant, "Not to spill blood" and "Are we not men" are as downright creepy as films from this period get, especially in light of Dr. Moreau's unholy experiments.
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111 of 126 people found the following review helpful By blue-59 on August 8, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've been anticipating this release for years, so I'm glad to see it finally appear. The Paramount VHS version looked pretty darned good (for tape), so I have high hopes that the Criterion DVD has a top-quality source and will do this masterpiece justice. Definitely get the Blu-Ray version.

As for the movie itself, Laughton couldn't be better. He owns Dr. Moreau the way Sean Connery owns James Bond. No one could do effete aristocratic evil better than he.

Yes, the panther woman is made up to look a little nightclubby, and Stanley Fields (the drunken captain of the ship) and Paul Hurst (the garrulous captain of the rescue ship) ham it up a bit in their character parts, but was there ever a more terrifying scene than the one in which Richard Arlen first lays eyes on the animal-men?

I haven't seen every remake of this story, but the Burt Lancaster (1977) and Marlon Brando (1996) versions aren't in the same league. In fact, even without comparison to the Laughton version, both of them are pretty bad.

I've seen this film fifty times and look forward to watching it again when the disc arrives. I'll be sure to invite my dad, who saw it when it came out (at age 7) and now (at age 85) says no other movie ever filled him with such profound fear.

Look for the theological themes. It has only been in my more recent viewings that they manifest themselves so clearly to me.

Bela Lugosi should have won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Sayer of the Law . . . "Are we not MEN?"
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