Island of Lost Souls (DVD, 2011, Criterion Collection)

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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2011-10-25
  • Genre: Horror
  • Artist Name: Richard Arlen, Kathleen Burke, Harry Ekezian, Stanley Fields, Rosemary Grimes, Arthur Hohl, Paul Hurst, Leila Hyams, George Irving, Bob Kortman, Bela Lugosi, Hans Steinke, Charles Laughton
  • Director: Erle C. Kenton
  • AMG Rating:
  • MPAA Rating: Unrated
  • Category: Feature Films
  • Cautions: Mild Violence, Questionable for Children
  • Year: 1932
  • Running Time: 71
  • Movie Country of Origin: USA
  • Available Language: English
  • Subtitles: Unspecified

    This first film version of H.G. Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau stars Charles Laughton as Dr.Moreau, a dedicated but sadly misguided scientist who rules the roost on a remote island. Shipwrecked sailor Edward Parker Richard Arlen finds himself on Moreau's island, agreeing to stick around until another boat can come along and take him home. But that's not quite what Moreau has in mind: he'd rather Parker stay on the island and marry the exotic Lota (Kathleen Burke), who curiously possesses the characteristics of the panther. In fact, all the island's natives seem more animal than human, especially the hirsute Bela Lugosi. And why not? They are animals who've been transformed by Moreau into humanlike creatures via surgery. Moreau's plans to mate Parker and Lota are complicated by the arrival of Parker's fiancee Leila Hyams, who has been brought to the island by ship's captain Stanley Fields, one of Moreau's flunkies. When Moreau kills Fields for this insubordination, he makes the mistake of breaking one of the rules he himself has imposed on the island: That no creature shall kill another. Island of Lost Souls does its job of inducing goosebumps so well that one can forgive the cherubic excesses of Charles Laughton in his portrayal of Dr. Moreau. The film would be remade under Wells' original title in 1978, with Burt Lancaster in the Laughton role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Movie Type
    Science Fiction, Horror
Movie Level Themes
    Mutants, Mad Scientists, Stranded
Movie Level Tones
    Disturbing, Creepy, Eerie, Ominous, Menacing, Atmospheric

DVD Features

  • Audio commentary featuring film historian Gregory Mank
  • New conversation between filmmaker John Landis, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker, and genre expert Bob Burns
  • New interviews with horror film historian David J. Skal; filmmaker Richard Stanley, the original Director of the ill-fated 1996 adaptation; and Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh of the band Devo
  • Short 1976 film by Devo, featuring the songs "Secret Agent Man" and "Jocko Homo"
  • Stills gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by Writer Christine Smallwood
    AMG Rating


        The Island of Lost Souls is that rarity, a horror film from the 1930s that still seems scary. While it may seem a bit creaky by contemporary standards, the film has retained its raw power to unnerve, thanks largely to Charles Laughton, who brings a vivid, sweaty amorality to his performance that's truly disturbing; lots of mad scientists in the movies have played God, but few made it seem more morally repugnant than Laughton. Make-up man Wally Westmore's creations genuinely resemble a grotesque middle ground between humans and animals; if make-up technique has improved considerably since this film was made, the crudity of the effects actually works in this context, giving Moreau's creations a rough, unpolished quality that suits the story perfectly. And while the film is extremely modest in its onscreen violence, the offscreen mutilations are quite shocking in context; the hideously pained overheard screams of Moreau's "manimals" (and later Moreau himself) are as chillingly effective as a hundred Tom Savini-designed limb-loppings. In its day, The Island of Lost Souls was considered a film that went too far (it was banned in England until the late 1960s), and its rough audacity gives it a power that hasn't dulled all these years later; it's inarguably superior to its latter-day remakes, both titled The Island of Dr. Moreau, after the H.G. Wells novel on which the films were based. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


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