A great double-feature DVD offering two greats from famed genre producer Val Lewton.
ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945)
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.
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). The atmosphere and mood of the setting are adeptly evoked, and the use of William Hogarth engravings--which Lewton claimed inspired the script--as transitional devices is an aesthetic masterstroke that adds even more to the high production quality and helps the film belie its meager budget. The last flick that legendary B-movie producer Lewton would develop for RKO Studios, it's also one of the best.
As with the other double-feature discs in Warner's VAL LEWTON series, the films presented here do not appear to have undergone any restoration, though both are in pretty good shape considering their age. BEDLAM is accompanied by an optional feature-length commentary from film historian Tom Weaver, but no other extras are offered on this disc. Still, these two films are some of the best examples of Lewton's efforts, and they also feature outstanding performances from genre great Boris Karloff. So this disc is well worth the reasonable price of admission and is a must-have for any serious film collector or Karloff fan.
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. The ending is very over the top and the dialogue and plot become more and more clunky as the movie continues. Karloff's performance remains excellent while everything else sinks farther and farther in to mediocrity.
BEDLAM is a very ambitious movie with incredibly genuine looking sets and costumes. Karloff is a true villain here playing Sims, the head of the infamous 18th century London insane asylum, Bedlam. Nell, a beautiful outspoken former actress now living as the protege of an old obese but immensely wealthy lord takes an interest in improving the lives of those committed to the asylum after viewing the conditions and actually seeing one of the inmates die "performing" in toxic gold paint at a party for the amusement of the rich. Nell and Sims have a mutual hatred of each other and through a variety of rather complex manipulations he manages to have her committed to Bedlam. The story does not end there though since Karloff as Sims has some payback coming from Nell and the "loonies". Though Sims and his fate are fictional the atrocities that are shown in the movie are historically accurate as tourists of that time period were allowed to tour the facility to laugh at the retarded and insane inmates and even prod them with long sticks to incite them in to rage. From the powdered wigs to the women hawking wares in the street the movie does an admirable job bringing 18th century London to life on a B budget and as always Karloff is excellent playing evil.
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. Karloff, having just given the performance of his career in the earlier THE BODY SNATCHER, now gives what may be his weakest performance of the 1940s with this film--and frankly he looks incredibly ridiculous with curly hair. But Karloff is not alone: the entire cast is truly at sea, their performances clashing at every possible stylistic level, and director Mark Robson is unable to chart any direction that might give these issues any interest.
True enough, the film does pick up steam in the last fifteen minutes or so, but it all proves too little to late. ISLE OF THE DEAD is a film that only a Lewton, Karloff, or classic film horror fan would care to see--and even they are unlikely to find much to admire in it.
On the other hand, BEDLAM is a remarkably strong film, and many feel that it challenges the very memorable THE BODY SNATCHER in terms of power and style. Released in 1946, BEDLAM was suggested by several engravings by English artist Hogarth, and the film itself echoes both the content and style of Hogarth's work. Set in the 1700s, the story concerns the infamous English asylum Bedlam, which is governed by George Sims--who uses his control of the asylum for personal pleasure, monetary gain, and in order to curry favor with the aristocracy.
When spirited Nell Bowen (Anna Lee) has a falling out with her mentor Lord Mortimer (Billy House), Sims convinces Mortimer to commit her to Bedlam--a process that was unexpectedly easy at the time. But Anna proves resourceful: although she is now at Sim's mercy, her growing sense of responsibility toward the horribly mistreated inmates provides her with an unexpected and unlooked-for powerbase, and she is able to turn the tables with horrific consequences.
Although I myself do not quite class BEDLAM alongside THE BODY SNATCHER, it is nonetheless a powerful, beautifully made film. Mark Robson's direction is equal to his cast, which finds both Karloff and Anna Lee at the top of their form, and the supporting roles give equally memorable turns. The style of the film is classic Lewton, a memorable mixture of dark and light. When all is said and done, it is easy to see why BEDLAM is so highly regarded.
Unfortunately this was not actually the case when the film was released. Although reviews were good-to-excellent, BEDLAM ran into significant censorship problems and was even banned from England, and post-World War II audiences were not in the mood for such a singularly dark story. The film lost money. BEDLAM would be Lewton's last film for RKO, and although he would produce three more films none would equal his earlier successes.
Neither ISLE nor BEDLAM is offered in a pristine print, but in truth the picture and sound quality probably represent a "best case" scenario short of digital restoration, and in any event the quality is more than adequate, easily the best print I have seen of either film. There are no extras relating to ISLE OF THE DEAD, but film historian Tom Weaver offers a memorable commentary for BEDLAM in which ISLE is also discussed to some degree.
BEDLAM is certainly a film worth having, and if it were offered as a stand-alone DVD I would certainly give it five stars. ISLE is an entirely different matter, and if it were offered as a stand-alone DVD I would give it three stars for historical interest--and consider that generous. I split the difference for a four-star final.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on October 19, 2014
I don't get it.
My wife and I love old movies. We have all of the Legacy Collection series and many other Karloff, Lugosi films. Although both of these films are good transfers/copies, they were not, to us, enjoyable. Better put, they were both very forgettable.
The first (Isle of the Dead) left us both baffled as to what the movie was all about. When we learned it was about a vampire, we were still shaking our heads. It seemed a movie that had lost it's way (I understand Karloff had to leave production and have back surgery...so that might have been some of the problem).
The second movie (Bedlam) was at least understandable, although the sudden turn for the character portrayed by actress Anna Lee was not believable. She was a sharp tongued upper crust sophisticate, then suddenly made an 180 degree turn to become a crusader for the mentally ill without any credible reason; really........!
Not a terrible movie, but not anything we would watch again. Unfortunately, we now own it.....
on August 11, 2013
Isle of the Dead is one hour and eleven minutes and releases in theaters on September 1, 1945. The main story is nine people are trapped on an island where there is plague has infected the people and now live in self-imposed exile. While waiting out the plague Madame Kyra convinces General Nikolas Pherides (Boris Karloff) that Thea is a vrykolakas or a vampire because she is nearby when the people die. Boris Karloff was two weeks in production with this movie when Boris Karloff needed a back operation. When he recovered work was already started on the Body Snatcher. So when the Body Snatcher was completed, he went back to shooting the Isle of the Dead two weeks later. The movie is set around the First Balkan War (1912-1913). Isle of the Dead holds you in suspense to the end guessing what is going on. Isle of the Dead gets an AAAA++++.
I. Spoken Languages
Bedlam is one hour and nineteen minutes and was released in theaters on May 10, 1946. Bedlam is based on William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, and a hospital in England. The movie is set in 1761 England and is about St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum. Master George Sims (Boris Karloff) runs the asylum and treats the patients with cruelty. Master George Sims tricks Lord Mortimer into sending Nell Bowen into the asylum because she wants to make reforms. In the end Master George Sims is put on trial by the inmates he mistreats and Nell is helped into escaping by one of the patients. Bedlam would mark Val Lewton last movie with RKO Studios and his first movie not to make a profit. Also this movie would be the last paring of Boris Karloff and Val Lewton. Also this is the only Val Lewton movie to have a happy ending. Bedlam is a good movie to watch though is does not have the previous suspense as his other movies. Bedlam gets an AAAA++++.
Commentary by Tom Weaver
I. Spoken Languages
on June 5, 2015
This is an excellent two pack collection. The sound & video quality are both outstanding for these older films. This is worth purchasing for Karloff fans - two of his must have films. For those who are not fans of Karloff this collection is still good to buy if you like older suspense & horror films.
I had to turn off the subtitles for the films... they were automatically on in English. So for those who purchase the film you have a forewarning. It's very simple to turn them off. As others have mentioned, the subtitles are in various languages which if a bonus for those needing them.
I personally LOVE the film "Isle of the Dead". It is very mysterious & suspenseful drama. The movie "Bedlam" is more of horror suspense in my opinion. I find both are excellent films - but that is my opinion on the movies.
I ordered this two pack along with The Boris Karloff Collection (Tower of London / The Black Castle / The Climax / The Strange Door / Night Key) to kick off my Karloff collection that I have been longing for. (I also bought the Vincent Price Limited Series collection and it has the movie "The Raven" which also stars Boris Karloff. Plus I bought the 50-pack Horror Collection with The Phantom on the cover & it has 4 Karloff films in it: "The Ape", "Doomed to Die", The Fatal Hour" & "The Terror").
I'm very pleased with the purchase of this two pack Karloff double feature.
This is one of the creepiest films on asylums I've ever seen I've ever seen. Bedlam stars Boris Karloff and this might be the most vile role that Karloff has ever played: Master George Sims.
The movie is pure fiction - it is not based on a true story. It's a fictional story about St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum AKA Bedlam and it's a good story. Honestly, I don't doubt that there is some sort of truth within this film because many of us have heard real life horror stories about Bedlam before the reform or should I say the modern era.
This movie is worth watching if you like creepy movies about asylums, Gothic-styled thrillers, and horror films. The movie is quite a bit underrated on IMDb (in my opinion).
Isle of the Dead (1945)
Isle of the Dead is a good classic psychological thriller that involves the vorvolaka (basically a Greek vampire).
Karloff plays General Pherides, a man who's sole purpose in his life is to uphold the law and keep everyone protected/safe. He has shunned the old Greek Gods in favor of scientific method. As the story continues the general becomes heavily influenced by Madame Kyra and when things get very strange he finds himself once again believing that maybe the old Gods are real.
Yes this film is worth watching if you like psychological thrillers. This is not really a vampire film but worth watching if you enjoy vampires since it surrounds the vorvolaka.
I am a fool for spooky B&W horror films and I consider the Val Lewton series of more sinister than horror horror films utter perfection. I don't think any producer put his mark on films as solidly as Lewton did. Whether with the great Jacques Tourneur or with sharp Robert Wise, all Lewton productions had a distinct feel that had to come from the Producer in this instance rather than the various directors. His had a "feel" for Black and White film, rivalled by only the master Mara Bava. They understood dark was sinister and used shadows in a crisp contrast that struck an atmosphere that is unparallelled today.
You get two Lewton Classic for in in this package. "Bedlam" and "Isle of the Dead", both starring the great Karloff.
In "Bedlam" the setting is St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum in 1761 London. Another of Karloff's sharp, on target, understated performances as the overseer who fawns on high-society benefactors while ruling the mentally disturbed inmates with an iron fist. Chilling.
In "Isle of the Dead" you have Karloff as a General trapped in on an island that is surrounded by the plague. They hope the winds will keep the infestation away, but all they can do is wait. One of the women begins to weaken, slowly wasting away, and Karloff becomes convinced her young companion is a vampire.
Super story telling. Timeless Classics.
Subtitles for the films in Spanish, English and French. Commetary by Film Historian Tom Weaver on Bedlam.
With sad irony, Bedlam, one of the Val Lewton-produced B-movie quickies, was not successful at the box office yet was probably the best constructed of his films. Along with The Body Snatchers, I think it stands up as a compelling story with solid dialogue and better acting than we've come to expect from Lewton's films.
Boris Karloff, in a performance of skill and complexity, plays Master George Sims, the ruler of St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum in London...a forbidding hulk of a stone building. Bedlam, for short. The time is 1761. Bedlam is the place where the insane are sent, as well as inconvenient or embarrassing relatives. The violent ones are kept in chains and in cages. The quieter ones are housed in a huge ward, male and female all together, the floor covered with filthy straw, where the inmates mutter or cry or ceaselessly walk or stare at the walls. But they all cower when Master Sims comes in.
Nell Bowen (Anna Lee), is the smart, privileged and arrogant protege of a fat English lord. When she meets Sims her dislike is instant. But Sims counts her patron as one of his sponsors. While many of the upper-class willingly pay a shilling to visit Bedlam and laugh at "the antics of the loonies," Nell finds herself repulsed and outraged. When she sets out to improve conditions, she finds herself blocked by the clever Sims. In a major miscalculation, she aims her furious temper at her protector, Lord Mortimer, leaves him and sets out to make him a laughing stock. Before long, she finds herself an inmate in Bedlam, too. Can she survive in Bedlam by showing kindness? Can she win over the inmates before a confrontation with Sims becomes inevitable? Will she ever be released? Will she find love in the arms of a Quaker she met...and if she does, can she curb her tongue with him? Will Sims ever be brought to justice? All rather mundane questions, but director Mark Robson and the Lewton production team, plus a larger than usual budget, set most of these questions in a fine and repellant reconstruction of an 18th Century insane asylum.
As unsettling and threatening as the movie looks, Bedlam is in no way a horror film. Bedlam is a well-balanced character study pitting the obsequious, envious and dangerous George Sims against the resourceful and unintimidated Nell Bowen. Karloff and Lee are more than up to the task. Anna Lee gives us a Nell Bowen who is remarkably quick with her temper and with her tongue. Her description of Sims is pungent. "If you ask me, my lord, he's a stench in the nostrils, a sewer of ugliness and a gutter brimming with slough." Boris Karloff gives us a fascinating portrait of a man who fawns over his superiors and abuses his inmates. It's a masterful job. Watch the difference in how he walks into Lord Mortimer's bedroom after being kept waiting for hours and how he strides into his own empire, Bedlam. Watch how he compulsively touches his pig-tailed wig to make sure it's on straight whenever he meets Lord Mortimer. Watch the difference in his stare when Nell Bowen is seen as just Lord Mortimer's plaything and when she's seen as a threat to him. There are several times when Karloff's face registers anger, resentment and satisfaction in just moments and with just a slight movement of his lips. And unlike many of Lewton's films, in Bedlam there are a number of capable actors in smaller parts.
With two strong actors, it's good to see that they were given a well-written script to work with. When Sims is accused of abetting the death of an embarrassing "guest" at Bedlam, a sane young man who could cause problems for Sims' sponsor, he simply smiles and says that the man's fall from the roof was "a misadventure, contrived by the victim and executed by nature's law that all who lose their grip on gutters must fall."
Was the treatment of the insane in Bedlam just an historical fact which we have corrected in our modern age? If you are naive enough to believe that you might want to read up on Titticut Follies, a Frederick Wiseman documentary he filmed in 1967. It shows the routine mistreatment and humiliation of the mentally ill by the guards and doctors at the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Mass. Or you might sign up for a sociology class in college that could take you to visit a state hospital for the insane. I can recall my own visit years ago to a ward for men which was filled with patients wearing only untied hospital gowns. The men shuffled about or came up to stare and try to touch or simply rocked back and forth. The ward smelled strongly of human waste.
Isle of the Dead:
This Val Lewton-produced Poverty Row programer is a good example of why B movies are B movies. The story could be interesting: A small group of people in an isolated setting (in this case, a small Greek island) are forced to deal with a threat to their lives (in this case, a nasty pestilence called septicemic plague), and in the course of the movie some will live and some will die, some will prove brave and some will go mad, some will swear there is an evil force and some will blame things on the wind and the fleas. And yet, while Boris Karloff does a fine job as the aging General Nikolas Pherides, the rest of the cast demonstrate why they never broke out of Poverty Row.
It's 1912 and we're in the middle of the Greek wars. The General has won a victory, but there are many dead on the darkened battlefield. He is a hard man, driven by duty and patriotism, yet by his standards fair. He's not without warmth and friendliness. He and Oliver Davis (Marc Cramer), an American reporter, visit a small island, used for decades as a place of burial, where his dead wife lies in a crypt. The island is just off the coast where the General's army is encamped. They find the crypt has been forced open and the body missing. But on this isolated little crag of an island they find a large stone house where there is a Swiss archeologist; his severe Greek housekeeper from whom he bought the house; Thea (Ellen Drew), a beautiful young servant; and three guests...soon to be just two. One of the guests, in the middle of dinner, declares he feels ill and staggers to his room. He is soon dead of the plague. The General has an army doctor come over who confirms their worst fears. The General is determined to fight the plague and keep it from infecting his army. He takes charge of the house. He insists that no one may leave the island. They all can only wait and hope the plague strikes no more of them down. And all this time the housekeeper whispers about death and demons. She sees the work of the dreaded vorvolaka, a wolf spirit in human form, and she insists the vorvolaka has taken the shape of the servant girl. As people die, we have noble death, madness, a live burial and, in at least one case, the triumph of superstition.
What to make of this? The first half of the movie is a taut look at people reacting under pressure, led by the excellent performance of Boris Karloff. We start out on a Greek battlefield at night, filled with the groaning wounded and the dead in carts being hauled to speedy mass burials. "The rider on the pale horse is pestilence," explains General Pherides to the reporter, "and he follows the wars." Then we're off on a small boat to the dark, well-imagined mountainous island, full of rocky, steep paths, threatening trees, a mouldering crypt and crashing waves below a cliff. We meet the cast and, at dinner, see their tentativeness. We can take a measure of their characters. But then the second half of the movie is upon us. We're in the middle of a corny Hollywood horror story with awkward acting (except for Karloff) and even cornier dialogue. "The vorvolaka still lives," whispers the crone of a housekeeper, "rose-cheeked and full of blood!" We're in the poverty-row world of white gauzy gowns slipping around corners, of creaking caskets, a mad death scene, a vicious-looking trident and a leap off a cliff. It's become predictable.
The movie has great atmosphere and Karloff. It's enough for a strong beginning but, in my view, not enough for a strong ending. I particularly enjoyed two members of the cast, in addition to Karloff. One, Skelton Knaggs, is only on screen for a couple of minutes. Knaggs had a distinctive-looking face, weak, ugly and unhealthy. Combined with his whiny voice, he was hard to ignore. In another Val Lewton-produced movie, The Ghost Ship, he plays a deaf-mute who, it's true, narrates the story. The other actor I like is a woman named Katherine Emery. She plays the ill wife of a British diplomat. She has a cultured, precise and unhurried voice. Close your eyes and you'd swear you were listening to Mercedes McCambridge. To see her in full dominant mode, watch Eyes in the Night.
Bedlam looks just fine on the DVD disc it shares with Isle of the Dead, There is one extra, a commentary by Tom Weaver, identified as a film historian. The DVD transfer of Isle of the Dead is good but at times is too dark during night scenes.
on October 21, 2011
ISLE OF THE DEAD
Finally, we get to a Val Lewton film! Lewton was the master horror film producer of the 1940s and introduced a whole new approach to horror. Coming of the golden age of Universals monster movies, Lewton made a radical 180-degree turn and began making films that emphasized suspense and the unknown to elicit fear. Isle of the Dead is considered by many to be his least accomplished film, but I think it is highly underrated and worth reconsideration.
Isle of the Dead takes place during the First Balkan War in Greece. Boris Karloff stars as General Nikolas Pheredes, a rational and competent commander who will do anything to ensure the defeat of the Turks and secure Greek independence. Followed by an American reporter Oliver Davis, the general travels to a remote island to visit his wife's grave only to find it has been desecrated. The curator of the island explains it was the work of the natives in search of valuables, but an old Greek woman tells a different story. She claims the dead were destroyed because a vampire was among their numbers, and that the beautiful Greek girl Thea is actually a vorvolaka, a vampire.
When one of the group falls ill, it is determined he has died of plague, and the island is quarantined. Stresses build as uncertainty sets in, but with the guidance of General Pheredes and the army doctor, Dr. Drossos, there is hope that the disease can be defeated. This faith in science suffers a severe setback when Dr. Drossos falls ill and dies. Suddenly the whisperings old woman's words about vampires and the supernatural take seed in the general's mind. He is shaken by the death of science. If indeed there is a vampire in their midst, he decides he will search it out and destroy it. Thea becomes his primary suspect and he resolves to put an end to her nightly feedings.
The dynamics of this quaranteened group is fantastic to watch. Oliver defends Thea, as do her employers (she is the personal attendant of an ill English woman), against the accusations of the old woman and the general. Things come to a head when the English woman dies and is quickly entombed. But without a doctor's knowledge, she is incorrectly pronounced dead and has been buried alive--or is she indeed the actual vampire?
This is what makes this movie so great. Lewton keeps us guessing, all the while feeding us obscurely macabre visions. The scenes are filled with dark shadows--a typical Lewton motif--feelings of terror and dread. Pheredes represents the typical modern person. When in control, he is rational. When his foundations of faith have been destroyed and he is cornered by a terrific threat, his mind degenerates into superstition and irrational thoughts. The idea of a real vampire was once ludicrous, but now he defends the Greek superstitions to their fullest. Karloff plays the duality perfectly and is believable to the last.
The finale of the film is extremely tense and terrifying. Words cannot justify the masterful cinematography and development the film uses to create fear. It is the work of a true artist and has to be seen rather than read about. Indeed, it is an end to a movie that few films can match and it will at the least shock you with its conclusion.
Again, the Isle of the Dead is a wrongfully overlooked film. It is brilliantly acted and written, and the concept of a small group trapped on an island and forced to face a horrific power outside of their control is fantastic. Through this medium, Lewton forces us to examine a variety of issues, such as authority, science, religion, and human nature. It is also a lot of fun to watch and interesting throughout. Widely considered one of Karloff's least ambitious films, I think it was in actuality one of his greatest.
on September 11, 2011
1945 had an interesting horror film featuring a horror creature from Greek myth -- a vervokla or something. Unlike the European vampire, it sucks the life force and sometimes blood from its victims and oftentimes the person is unaware they are doing so.
With that backdrop comes a general fresh from the wars in Greece in 1912. The views of the battlefield with the journalist are pretty horrific for its time for sure. The men end up on the Isle of the Dead that is actually a graveyard of sorts.
The general (Karloff) at first scoffs and then begins to believe the old woman's tales are true that a beautiful nurse is in fact this horrid creature and they plot to kill her. All the victims are also fighting the plague that has invaded the island.
Will superstition win over science?
And what of the woman who suffers from catalepsy? The theme of being thought dead and screaming in a coffin is quite frightening.
I recommend this horror film not only for Karloff's play, but the acting is fairly great for such a low budget horror story. The special effects even for the time are tame, though the clear black & white contrast photography makes up for it.
* Boris Karloff - Gen. Nikolas Pherides
* Ellen Drew - Thea
* Marc Cramer - Oliver Davis
* Katherine Emery - Mrs. St. Aubyn
* Alan Napier - Mr. St. Aubyn
* Jason Robards, Sr. - Albrecht
* Helene Thimig - Kyra
* Ernst Dorian - Dr. Drosses
* Skelton Knaggs - Henry Robbins
* Sherry Hall - Greek Colonel
* Erick Hanson - Officer
* Ernst Deutsch - Dr. Drossos
* Mark Robson - Director
* Val Lewton - Producer, Screenwriter
* Al Greenwood - Set Designer
* Albert S. D'Agostino - Art Director
* Ardel Wray - Screenwriter
* Constantin Bakaleinikoff - Musical Direction/Supervision
* Darrell Silvera - Set Designer
* Edward Stevenson - Costume Designer
* Harry Scott - First Assistant Director
* Jack MacKenzie - Cinematographer
* Josef Mischel - Screenwriter
* Leigh Harline - Composer (Music Score)
* Lyle Boyer - Editor
* Walter E. Keller - Art Director