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Customer Review

151 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Blu Ray review. . ., October 19, 2011
This review is from: Island of Lost Souls (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (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. Even though he's almost unrecognizable behind all the hair, Bela Lugosi's unmistakable accent comes across strong when he asks, "Are we not men?" Brilliant.

The extras are always a place where Criterion shines, and this is no exception. It's important to remember that the film is from 1933, so making-of documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage aren't to be expected. That means that Criterion had to create extra content with what is available here and now. The most notable of the extras is the discussion of the movie between director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Rick Baker (7x Oscar Winner for visual effects makeup, Wolf Man), and Bob Burns (horror collector/historian/super fan). I've had the pleasure of working with all three of these gentleman extensively and the thing that makes me happiest to see them here isn't the status of their celebrity, it's that all three of them are super fans. Talk for 15 minutes to any one of them and you'll realize that part of what makes them so good in their respective disciplines is that they know their history. This isn't just some celebs chatting about something that ends up being a testament to how brilliant they are. These three genuinely discuss the film, disagreeing on several points, and really get to the heart of why it has endured. It is really worth taking the time to watch (more than once).

The second extra that really adds to the disc is the commentary by Greg Mank. Again, I've had the pleasure of working with Greg on several occasions. This guy is one of the most knowledgeable horror historians on planet earth. The things he knows would make your head explode. When I heard that Criterion was doing this, his was the first name that popped into my head (partially because some of the work I've done with Greg centered on Lost Souls) because there really is no one better for the gig. He's fun. He's conversational. And you're going to gain an absolute wealth of knowledge and insight from listening to what he has to say.

There's also an interview with Richard Stanley, the man who was supposed to direct the Marlon Brando/Val Kilmer version of Moreau. But, he was let go before production began (lucky him). He's very frank about how he wanted to make the film, why he didn't, and just what a disaster the filmed version turned out to be. He even has some great stories about sneaking back onto the set just to see if it was as bad as the actors were telling him. But I think what I enjoyed most was his discussion of why Moreau is such a hard piece to adapt and what it would take to do it justice.

The last piece is an interview with the founding members of the band DEVO. It turns out that a lot of what they did was based off of the film and the book. Honestly, if you're not a fan of the band it's not a very engaging piece.

The bottom line is that this is the definitive version of LOST SOULS. It incorporates not only the best, but also some missing and rare, footage, making it the most complete version. It looks and sounds gorgeous and has an absolutely fantastic wealth of extras that will appeal to even the most educated horror aficionado. The film is a classic and has earned that moniker well. This edition finally allows it to shine and let the world see why it has remained as prominent as it has. Very highly recommended.

And if you don't find this review helpful, please just leave a comment and I'll be happy to expand on it.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 21, 2011 11:03:18 PM PDT
A. Percival says:
Such an awesome review that it makes me want to see it, but I think it might be too scary for me!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 24, 2011 9:09:14 PM PDT
Great review, Garv - what "new" scenes have been restored? How much? Thanks.

Posted on Oct 25, 2011 5:56:26 AM PDT
This is , certainly , a great review , a marvelous one.I have a copy of this strange movie in VHS.But I'm going to purchase ,as soon as possible, this film's Criterion ( DVD) version .I also agree with the opinion of the reviewer about Greg Mank.He is ,truly, a great film scholar and a great classic horror film's connoisseur .

Posted on Oct 25, 2011 6:23:16 AM PDT
Thanks for the awesome review! Criterion has done wonders with older classics on blu ray! My favorites being The Third Man and Kiss Me Deadly, awesome transfers. Glad to hear Criterion didn't "over clean" this print. Some older films of the '30s need the grain and dust intact. Just like Warner's King Kong. They left the grain where it doesn't look like video. I like the older films to look like movies rather than video. Everybody expects perfect picture. That takes away from the period and the time these classics were made.
Thanks again for the early review. Hopefully I'll get my blu ray of Island of Lost Souls in a few days and retire my laserdisc of this wonderful classic.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2011 5:38:18 PM PDT
James Quirk says:
I can't wait to get my hands on this baby, on Blu-ray yet. The last time I saw it was sometime in the 90s, and that's way too long. But the ending is something that has always lived in my nightmares. Anyway, excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2011 7:35:19 PM PDT
James, don't hesitate getting this baby ordered. Got mine today and it is fabulous!! The different prints they used gives us the best this movie has ever looked (blu ray, that is)! Most of the special features are neat, but not required. This classic stands on its own! The blu ray detail is great compared to laserdisc and tape versions of this masterpiece. Too bad the negative doesn't show up one day, could only imagine how much better it could look and sound.

Posted on Oct 28, 2011 6:03:09 AM PDT
Very helpful review--one of the few I've seen that actually comments on the content of the DVD rather than the film in general. Still, "you can't imagine why anyone would want this film in that 'clean' of a version"? Really? Beware! Jonathan Swift's definition of a "true critic": "He is a discoverer and collector of writers' faults." Personally, I'd prefer the kind of clean the studio would have wanted on first release--alas that it's not possible!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2011 4:33:16 PM PST
Garvinstomp says:
Well, if you've seen the AMC version, then nothing will be new to you. Sadly, this is the version that has been floating around for a while, but more complete than the initial VHS releases. But for those that have only seen some of the old prints or the VHS versions, this should have a more complete feel to it. It's a great addition to any catalog, though. The extras help. but are certainly not the primary draw. I've watched it a few times since and it really holds up, even when you get past the initial wow at just how fantastic it looks.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2011 5:09:28 PM PST
Actually, the last time I saw this was on Creature Features more than 35 years ago in New York-so I am really interested in seeing any cleaner version, even one that's been around for a while. Does the Blue-Ray format make a difference? And has there been an attempt to preserve the original aspect ratio or is it just the same approximate ration you see on the versions meant for the old tube televisions?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2011 5:26:44 PM PST
Garvinstomp says:
The Blu Ray does indeed help. Even though it has grain and scratches, film is still film and holds its resolution well. Especially when we're talking about Black&White you're going to get a wider grey scale, allowing more detail where before it was just darkness. Plus, HD is great for depth. And this is back in the day when they built big sets and populated them with lots of characters. It really helps with that sense of scale. But overall I'd say it's definitely worth it. I would have paid for one had Criterion not hooked up me. So take that for what it's worth, lol.
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