on March 9, 2003
The earliest and best H.G. Wells' adaptations is Island Of Lost Souls, based on The Island of Dr. Moreau. After being rescued from a lifeboat by the S.S. Covena, Edward Parker ends up on an island run by the mysterious Dr. Moreau and his assistant Montgomery. The Covena was delivering some animals, mostly dogs, for Moreau.
The island also has some pretty strange natives, who are hirsute and barely human. Fortunately, Moreau has a whip that scares them off. Apart from Moreau, Montgomery, and M'ling the servant, there's Lota, a ravishing young girl whom Moreau introduces to Parker. He is curious as to their interractions, as he secretly observes them.
The natives also have a strange ritual. Moreau asks them "What is the law?" To which they reply "Not to eat meat. That is the law. Are we not men?" And other replies. The leader of the natives says of Moreau: "His is the hand that makes/His is the hand that heals/His is the house of pain." Those who have read the book will know what's going on, but does not exactly follow it, as is the case with most future Moreau adaptations.
Charles Laughton plays Moreau in a variety of shades, far from the typical mad scientist. He's refined, reserved in speech (for the most part), and cunning. His smile, and that weird twinkle in his eyes lends the hint to his (Laughton's) homosexuality, but his performance here demonstrates why Hollywood decided to protect him.
Richard Arlen plays Parker as a bit of an uptight and conventional prude, and Leila Hyams as his fiancee Ruth is a perfect match for him.
Kathleen Burke is a wonder as Lota--pity she didn't appear in that many films. She gives a sensitive, sympathetic portrayal, speaking in a soft, child-like voice. If I were Parker, I'd dump Ruth for Lota anyday.
Bela Lugosi is barely recognizable in furry makeup as the leader of the natives, but once one sees those unmistakable eyes... one instantly recognizes the man who lost his identity playing Dracula ad nauseum. And whoever played the giant Ouran did so with great menace.
As this was made before the Hays Code, some of the scenes and implied dialogue on the island is strong for that era. That this was initially banned in many countries and in some parts of the U.S. is not surprising. Pity they don't make movies like this anymore, because it stands heads over many.
"Island of Lost Souls," the 1932 adaptation of H. G. Wells' "Island of Dr. Moreau," features Charles Laughton in one of the best mad scientist performances you are going to find. This is not the ranting mad genius personified by Colin Clive in "Frankenstein," but a much more tempered madman who provides less obvious hints as to his insanity. The story begins with Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) being rescued from the sea by the ship Covena, which is delivering animals in cages to Dr. Moreau's Island. After a fight with the ship's captain, Parker ends up on the island, where the good doctor takes his visitor into his home, after using his whip to scare away man-like creatures in the jungle. On his island retreat, Moreau has been experimenting with turning animals into creatures capable of speaking. With Parker on the island Moreau can find out if Lota (Kathleen Burke), who has been evolved from a panther, can bear a child. But when Parker discovers Moreau in his "house of pain," doing vivisection, the horrible truth of what is happening on the island comes out. Meanwhile, Parker's fiancé, Ruth (Leila Hyams), arrives looking for her beloved.
One of the most fascinating parts of this nightmarish film is how Moreau plays god with not only the bodies but also the minds of his creation. He has taught them "the law," which is not to walk on all fours and not to spill blood. As Bela Lugosi, playing the Sayer of the Law solemnly asks: "Are we not men?" It is when the animal-men come to a different answer to that question that "Island of Lost Souls" proves itself to be one of the best horror films of the 1930s. Director Erle C. Kenton does the most with the atmospheric setting, giving Laughton a perfect stage for his mad experiments. You will never recognize them, but both Buster Crabbe and Alan Ladd appear as beast men (yes, Randolph Scott is in the film, but he has a bit part as a "real" human). This story has been remade, as both uncredited versions (1959's "Terror Is a Man" and 1972's "The Twilight People") as well as under the novel's title in 1977, with Burt Lancaster as the title doctor, and again in 1996 with Marlon Brando. But with all things considered, "Island of Lost Souls" remains the best of the bunch, even though it offended the author. In fact, it was banned in England and parts of the United States (I assume because of the implied bestiality), which is always a strong recommendation that a horror film deserves to be checked out at least once.
on February 7, 2003
I remember seeing this as a kid on TV's "Creature Features" in the early '70s, and it really embedded itself into my consciousness. Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) ends up on an isolated island run by Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) in this first film version of the H.G. Wells story.
And the film was banned in Britain and many other countries for many years. Perhaps because of what Dr. Moreau is doing: transforming animals into humans. Yes, you heard that right. He found out how to speed up evolution (recall this was only a few years after the Scopes Monkey Trial) and when he does so to animals they become humanlike, but very freaky looking humans...
Anyway, Parker becomes attracted to this strange girl (Kathleen Burke) until he sees shes not exactly a girl, she's a former panther. This is the last straw for him and he vows to expose Moreau, but the problem is how to get off the island.
If you watch this film, don't be surprised if you have a nightmare containing a man with a whip asking, "What is the law?"
on January 15, 2003
For 35 years, the film was banned in England. As Dr. Moreau, Laughton is the ultimate mad doctor. He isn't experimenting for the good of science, nor is he using his genius to wreak revenge: he knows exactly what he's doing, and he knows why. A classic scene (in which he is speaking more to himself rather than to his guest): "Doctor Parker, do you know what it means to feel like God"? H.G. Wells, the story's author heartily denounced the movie and encouraged it's ban in Britain. Any which way the viewer looks at it, this film is potent stuff - especially considering that it was filmed 7O years ago!. The plotline runs thusly: On a South Seas island, Dr. Moreau transforms animals into humans via vivisection. Kathleen Burke does well as Lota the pantherwoman: her oddly angular yet attractive face and unaffected body language are assets towards a good charactersation. Karl Struss' camerawork is impeccable. Lugosi is memorable as the weird, tortured "Sayer of the Law". Unfortunately, Richard Arlen's performance is rather ineffective and wooden: a rather unconvincing portrayal in a film full of good ones.
on August 12, 2002
A superb adaptation of H.G. Well's frightening turn of the century novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, this film stars Charles Laughton who plays the vivisectionist immoderate, Moreau, with a strangeness not often seen in today's cinema. Made in 1932 the progress of the story follows Well's idea fairly close. When I first read the novel about 8 years ago I was terrified. I must admit the film did not have the same effect but is still unique in in own right. After being rescued by a less than cordial sea captain, Edward Parker (played by Richard Arlen) is transported to the mysterious island and basically forced to be a prisoner of the Doctor's whims. We are introduced to some of Moreau's perverse experiments when Parker and a woman, who herself is one of the more successful vivisection experiments, try to explore the island's mysteries, and find a whole population of animal/humans inhabiting the island's interior. One thing leads to another and the island's animal/men begin to revolt and seize control killing Moreau in the process. Parker is able to escape although his animal/woman friend dies helping him and his fiancee (who had recently arrived on her own search and rescue mission) reach safety. Some of the special effects and fighting scenes are [not up to par] but the film maintains interest and is worth the price.
on July 9, 2002
...I was surprised by this film because I hadn't ever heard
much about it. It's on a par with other Universal fright
features from the same era, but is distinguished on two
fronts: first, it has some fine location work; second,
it seems to have eluded the censors of its time. (My
bet is that it snuck into theatres before the Hays office
came to power.) There's some fairly frank blasphemy and
overt sexual talk from the characters, a kinky looking
broad running around in a pair of matching handkerchiefs,
and, best of all, a remarkably vivid end for Dr. Moreau.
I can't stand any of the other adaptations of Wells's
"Dr Moreau", but this one isn't half bad. For instance,
unlike the films of our day, this one introduces its
man-beasts not with a sudden close-up and a musical
sting, but merely by having them lingering around, until
your eye picks them up and you wonder, "Hey, that guy
over there has a really hairy back!" The film is a product
of a completely different era, and that seems to help its
on April 13, 2001
H. G. Wells' novel "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is the source for this exciting sci-fi/horror flick. Charles Laughton as Moreau prissily poses and preens as the mad doctor conducting forbidden experiments in vivisection, a variation of Frankenstein's theory of life and death. As a twisted god, he rules a remote tropical island populated by terrifying animal-man mutants, the failed results of his dark science. Into this menagerie of lost souls stumbles shipwrecked Edward Parker. Moreau has the insane idea to mate Parker to Lota, the delectable panther girl. Lota is Moreau's greatest success, and he wants to verify that she will react sexually to Parker (she does). By 1933 standards, Lota is the sexiest near human around. Her cat-like body movements and brief jungle attire add to her erotic appeal. Bela Lugosi, as a wolf man with a thick accent, is eerily effective as the "Sayer of the Law." His plaintive wailing and drawn out syllables raise the hackles as this jungle Moses articulates "the law" before Moreau. The scary make-up of the animal men conveys dread and fear nicely. The night scenes in the steaming jungle of huge bonfires surrounded by hellish shambling creatures are the stuff of troubled dreams. Moreau's island is Dante's Inferno retold. Things get very grim when the animal men revolt. As the animal men howl and growl in the distance, in a side-splitting moment of unintended humor, Moreau utters that great cliche of old movies: "The natives are restless tonight!" The movie is competently directed by Erle C. Kenton who went on to direct some of Universal's best horror movie programmers. Relax and enjoy the thrills. ;-)
on March 27, 2000
Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, and Richard Arlen star in this eerie and haunting classic. It's about a shipwreck named Edward Parker(Arlen)who comes to Moreau's(Laughton) island along with Moreau's asisstant Montgomery. There, he learns of Moreau's unholy experiments that produce horrible monsters, "manimals" if you will. On the island, he sees where the creatures live. Their leader, Sayer of the Law, is played wonderfully by Lugosi. He finds out that Moreau treats them as slaves, as if he were a god. When a rescue expedition comes to the island in search of Parker, Moreau orders one of his creatures, one called Ouran, to kill the expredition's leader. Once the creatures find out that the Law(not to spill blood) was broken by their creator, they revolt. And as Parker and his fiance flee the burning island, the creatures give Moreau what's been coming to him.(I won't give it away because it would spoil the movie, but it's well done and very scary!). The fantastic set designs make this film extremely good for a 1930's thriller. Hauntingly entertaining, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS is a monster classic for anyone to enjoy!
on September 30, 1999
Erle C. Kenton brings H. G. Wells' novel to life in "Island of Lost Souls." It is the story of a mad scientist on a remote island that transforms animals into half-human abominations. Through medical procedures he slowly turns animals to resemble a human form. Dr. Moreau's control over his creations is soon lost and a rebellion takes place. While the others escape Dr. Moreau does not and receives a taste of his own medicine. The film was of tremendous quality. Charles Laughton illustrates to the audience the insanity of this mad scientist and his quest to feeling like God. He does this by the way he shows the emotion of the character, with his quick mood swings of being violent to calm. Béla Lugosi also makes a great appearance as the "Sayer of the Law" who is one of the creatures Dr. Moreau created. He along with the other beast does a good job of acting as animals formed to function like humans. The beasts acted as they should, only having few words and fraises to guide their lives by such as "are we not men?'' The special effect where a great asset to the quality of this film. The make-up of the creatures was spectacular. Adding a lot of realism to the film. Also the sets were something to admire. An entire house that contained enormous plants formed from the Doctors experiments. There were many jungle scenes among other scenes to make this secret island come to life. The dark lighting also greatly added to the mood and suspense of the movie. With a fabulous story, wonderful acting, spectacular scenes and special effects Island of Lost Souls is a great film to view.
on March 24, 2001
This atmospheric old thriller is amazing. With the limited techniques of the 30's it manages to be more moody, chilling and effective than it's modern remakes (both of them, the one with Burt Lancaster and the other with Brando).
The lack of modernity actually helps the movie. Black & white photography with it's deep black shadows, torch lit jungles, etc. makes for a much more sustained sinister tension. The makeup effects are fine, and again so much more effective shot in the half light of black & white.
Laughton is simply wonderful as this unrestrained loony Dr. Moreau, performing his hideous torturous experiments on his animal/human subjects. That his just desserts are served up to him in his own "House of Pain" is perfect. Lugosi is fine in a bit part.
But, this is Laughton's show all the way, and his final scene....broken glass, scalpels, and crescendo of terrified cries of agony...well, it'll put shivers down your spine. Unforgettable.