|ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (director: Erle C, Kenton; screenwriters: Waldemar Young/Philip Wylie/ an adaptation of H. G. Wells's book, "The Island of Dr. Moreau"; cinematographer: Karl Struss; music: Arthur Johnston; cast: Charles Laughton (Dr. Moreau), Bela Lugosi (Leader of the Ape-Men), Stanley Fields (Captain Davies), Paul Hurst (Captain Donahue), Richard Arlen (Edward Parker), Tetsu Komai (M'Ling) Leila Hyams (Ruth Walker), Kathleen Burke (Lota), Arthur Hohl (Montgomery), Hans Steinke (Outan); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; Criterion Collection (Paramount); 1932)|
|"Kenton's best horror film."
by Dennis Schwartz
well-crafted, chilling horror pic helmed by the
forgotten American director, who made over 100 films
in a 50 year career, Erle C, Kenton ("They
Meet Again"/"Devil's Squadron"/"It Ain't Hay"). It's
the silent screen filmmaker's first important film.
Writers Waldemar Young and Philip
Wylie's provide a loose interpretation of
H. G. Wells's 1896 book, "The Island
of Dr. Moreau," altering the novel's
lampooning of religion and its anti-vivisectionist
tracts in favor of keeping it erotic and perverse
(suggesting bestiality). Wells disdained the
translation and the film, which was banned for years
in England because of its suggestions of bestiality.
But it turned out to be one of the best horror pics of
the 1930s and Kenton's best horror film. Also, the
malevolent performance by Charles Laughton as the smug
Dr. Moreau was brilliant, the b/w photography by Karl
Struss was ravishing and the makeup from Wally
Westmore was perfect. The three remakes, Terror is a
Man (1959) and the two versions of Island of Dr.
Moreau (1977/1996) are all clearly inferior.
the jungle scenes were filmed near the studio on
Parker (Richard Arlen) is rescued in the South Seas by
a freighter after shipwrecked. He finds that the ship
is carrying a cargo of animals. He also spots on the
ship's deck the weird looking M'Ling (Tetsu
Komai), who has a fur-covered
crude drunkard captain (Stanley Fields) has bad
vibes for Parker. When the captain punches M'Ling
in the face for no reason, Parker
needlessly comes to his rescue and knocks the
captain out. Strangely, the captain's attack on the
freak has no effect on him. Later when the captain
makes contact with the mad scientist Moreau's ship
and delivers to him his animal cargo, out of revenge
he also dumps Parker onto the mad scientist's ship
and sails away before anything could be done about
it. Moreau has aboard Montgomery (Arthur
Hohl) and some beast-like men.
eerie film builds an atmosphere of unease that only
increases when on Moreau's isolated island it's
learned animals undergo experiments turning them
into beast-men. . The oddness of Moreau andthe
natives and the intriguing weird visuals on the
island are enough to spook out the viewer. The
normal looking Moreau and Parker are viewed by the
beast-men as gods. The film's most memorable line
has Moreau, while on an island tour with Parker,
asks "Do you know what it means to feel like God?"
cunning Moreau promises to lend Parker a sailing
boat to get off the island, but never intends to
keep that promise. We learn that Montgomery is an
alcoholic who fled England over matters of medical
ethics like abortions, and has received shelter by
Moreau while forced to assist him in his edgy
experiments. Lota (Kathleen Burke)
is Moreau's most successful creation. Even though
Parker is engaged to Ruth
Walker (Leila Hyams),
who was to meet him in Apia, he's seduced by Lota
until noticing her panther-like claws and rejects
the tearful Lota. It then dawns on Parker that his
host can't be trusted and he's trapped on the
island. A place where the mad scientist conducts in
his "House of Pain" experiments that defy human
film has a fantastic atmosphere and is created with
great inventiveness. Bela Legosi, in a small but
excellent performance, is the leader of the
beast-men, who keeps them in line and obeying
Moreau's orders. One of the laws on the island
is "not to run on all fours."
only hope of freedom is when his fiancee finds the
captain who gave him to the despicable Moreau and
after forcing him to say what happened to her
boyfriend, gets Captain Donahue (Paul
Hurst) to take her to Moreau's safe haven island.
Things go awry for Moreau when he arrogantly makes a
critical error in judgment in humanity and his
strange world, where humans and animals are
comparable in their threats of violence, is resolved
in an atmospheric frightening manner.
REVIEWED ON 9/20/2015 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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