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Isle of the Dead / Bedlam

4.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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(Oct 04, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

The most celebrated star in the history of screen horror headlines these two atmospheric works filled with producer Val Lewton's trademark mix of mood, madness and premeditated dread. Boris Karloff shares a quarantined house with other strangers on a plague-infested perhaps spirit-haunted Isle of the Dead. St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum in 1761 London is the setting for Bedlam. Karloff gives an uncanny performance as the doomed overseer who fawns on high-society benefactors while ruling the mentally disturbed inmates with an iron fist. Mark Robson, who edited three films for Lewton and directed five, guides both films.

Special Features

  • Commentary by Film Historian Tom Weaver on Bedlam

Product Details

  • Actors: Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Billy House, Richard Fraser, Glen Vernon
  • Directors: Mark Robson
  • Writers: Mark Robson, Val Lewton, Ardel Wray, Josef Mischel, William Hogarth
  • Producers: Jack J. Gross, Val Lewton
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Turner Home Ent
  • DVD Release Date: October 4, 2005
  • Run Time: 151 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000A0GOFK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,712 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Isle of the Dead / Bedlam" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A great double-feature DVD offering two greats from famed genre producer Val Lewton.



A staid, low-key Val Lewton chiller that stars Boris Karloff as a tyrannical Greek general during the Balkan war. Due to an outbreak of a mysterious plague, the General is quarantined with a small group of people on an island cemetery. As members begin to meet their doom one by one, an old Greek woman among them claims that a vampiric spirit actually responsible for the "affliction" and thusly opens the debate of reason vs. superstition. Karloff's subtle performance perfectly complements the film's eerie atmosphere, and the rest of the outstanding cast delivers strong support. Genre fans will recognize supporting actor Alan Napier, who would later gain television fame as Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred Pennyworth, on the classic but campy 1960s series BATMAN.


BEDLAM (1946)

This creepy melodrama isn't really a horror film as much as it is a period-piece thriller. Set in and around a London insane asylum during the 18th Century, the film stars Anna Lee as an upper-crust sycophant who is wrongfully committed to the asylum when she interferes in the affairs of the institution's cruel director, Master George Sims. Boris Karloff's portrayal of Sims is devilishly delicious, yet he still manages to avoid upstaging the wonderful Lee and the rest of the strong, talented cast (a cast that includes Jason Robards, Sr., Billy House, and a young Ellen Corby, among many others).
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Format: DVD
ISLE OF THE DEAD and BEDLAM are two of the nine intelligently made "B" horror movies producer Val Lewton made for RKO in the 1940's. Both are short (about an hour in length) films more of psychological suspense than real horror. Boris Karloff is great in both films though ironically his acting is the best in ISLE OF THE DEAD while BEDLAM is the better overall film.

ISLE OF THE DEAD takes place on a Greek island during the 1912 Balkan War.
Boris Karloff, wearing a curly grey wig (I suppose to make him look Grecian) plays a Greek General nicknamed "The Watchdog". We first meet him forcing another Greek officer and former friend to commit suicide because he disgraced himself by showing up late with his troops to a battle. This shocks a young American journalist who witnesses this but the journalist still agrees to accompany the General to a nearby island to visit the grave of his long deceased wife. When they reach the island they found the grave of the general's wife and all others entombed there have been ransacked for archaeological finds and the bodies destroyed. On the island the general and journalist discover the comfortable home of a charming Swiss archaeologist. Staying with the archaeologist are an old Greek servant woman named Kyra, a British diplomat and his invalid wife, the wife's beautiful Greek nurse, Thea, a doctor and a cockney salesman. The salesman soon dies of the plague and the rest of the group including the general and journalist are quarantined on the island and begin to sicken and die one by one. Kyra creates hysteria with her belief that Thea is one of the legendary Greek vampires known as the Vrykolakes and the General is particularly susceptible to this belief making his mental health greatly deteriorate.
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Format: DVD
Val Lewton (1904-1951) was brought to RKO when that studio decided to compete with Universal in the horror genre. As it happened, RKO was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy at the time--and Lewton was given the audience-tested title CAT PEOPLE and ordered to create an inexpensive movie to fit it. Without the budget to create "a monster movie," Lewton responded with a remarkably artful film that relied on suggestion and implication. He would go on to produce nine such films in all, three of them starring Boris Karloff.

Released in 1945, ISLE OF THE DEAD was inspired by a celebrated Brocklin painting. The film had a troubled production; Karloff collapsed mid-way through the shoot due to back problems and was unable to work for several weeks. When he was able to return, other members of the cast were tied up with other projects--so the film sat half finished while Karloff worked in Lewton's memorable THE BODY SNATCHER. It was quite some time before the ISLE cast could be reassembled.

This may account for the fact that ISLE is by far and way the single weakest title in Lewton's films. Whatever the case, the script is certainly no help. Credited to Josef Mischel and

Ardel Wray, the story lacks focus and the dialogue is remarkably awkward. The story concerns a 19th century Greek military commander (Karloff) who visits his wife's grave, located on an island described as a cemetery. But plague breaks out--and in order to prevent its spread the commander quarantines the island. Even as various residents fall ill and die, others attribute the deaths to a Greek-style vampire; to further complicate the story a premature burial leaves the prematurely buried considerably annoyed, to say the least.

The performances are equally weak.
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