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Classic Horror Film,
This review is from: Island of Lost Souls (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Since many motion pictures, including "classics," produced in the early 1930s make somewhat ponderous viewing today, it's always pleasing to watch a movie from that era which retains its full entertainment value. ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932) is one of those pleasing films.
Based on THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU by H.W. Wells, ISLAND is greatly enhanced by an understated performance by Charles Laughton, playing a "misguided" doctor who, on a remote island in the South Seas, performs ghastly experiments in which he turns jungle animals into sub-human beings.
Richard Arlen, shipwrecked, is dumped by an unscrupulous sea captain on Laughton's isle, and is horrified by what he finds there. Indeed, the doctor plans to mate him with his panther woman (Kathleen Burke), thus producing the first human-animal child. Also in the cast is Bela Lugosi, cast as the grotesque leader of Laughton's macabre creations, who ultimately leads a rebellion against him.
Directed by Erle C. Kenton from a literate screenplay by Phillip Wylie and Waldemar Young, this suspenseful, atmospheric production moves at a lively clip and seems much shorter than its 70 minute running time. It's one of the very best horror films of the period.
ISLAND OF LOST SOULS has, surprisingly, never been released (legally) onto DVD until now, but for its debut, The Criterion Collection has given it a first-rate treatment. Aside from a new high-definition digital restoration of the uncut theatrical version and audio commentary by film historian Greg Mank, extras include a new video conversation among director John Landis, make-up artist Rick Baker and genre expert Bob Burns, new interviews with horror historian David J. Skal, filmmaker Richard Stanley and members of the band Devo., a short film by Devo, a still gallery, the theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring an essay by writer Christine Smallwood.
© Michael B. Druxman