Isle of the Dead / Bedlam
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- Commentary by Film Historian Tom Weaver on Bedlam
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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).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great movie. I loved the atmosphere. Isle of the Dead, in my opinion, is not a horror or terror movie as much as it is psychological. Well worth it.Published 6 months ago by Diane Blanken
This is an excellent two pack collection. The sound & video quality are both outstanding for these older films. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Rainey Dawn
Isle of the Dead has to be one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Imagine Boris Karloff sporting long curly blonde locks. He looked like a poor man's Liberace sans piano. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Page Turner, III
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. Read more
The Isle of the dead is not a great movie. As a matter of fact it is kind of comical at the "scary" peak but it is worth watching because it discusses topics that once... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Collector 23
You will love the end of bedlam
A horror film based on history
Isle of the dead didnt measure up but had its own captivating qualities
I love bedlam and I remember being scared silly as a child to watch it. as an adult I appreciate the story more. Read morePublished on February 10, 2014 by beetlejuice