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Sunday 30 October 2011

Burl reviews Island of Lost Souls! (1932)

Ha ha, am I not Burl? I am, and I’m here to review the first screen version of H.G. Welles The Island of Dr. Moreau, which was titled Island of Lost Souls for some reason! I’ve seen this one a few times, but it just gets better and better, and just the other day I saw the new DVD version that was recently released, and that was the best of all!
The story is pretty well known, I would think! A castaway ends up on Dr. Moreau’s mysterious South Seas island, where it transpires that he’s been using weird science to transform animals into human simulacra! Some of his beastpeople, like Lota the Panther Woman, are more successful than others, and some of them have Hungarian accents for some reason! Ha ha, that would be the Sayer of the Law, played by Bela Lugosi sporting the greatest beard ever filmed!
Moreau is played by Charles Laughton, who wears the second-greatest whiskers of all time! They’re shaped like an anchor, and perfectly suit Laughton’s great, haughty moon face! The whip-cracking Laughton is simply perfect in his part as the oily and sadistic but undeniably genius sawer of bones! He can be a real hambone, though I really enjoy his performances in that mode; but here, at least until the last few minutes of the picture, he plays everything pretty well down, to great and chilling effect!
Ha ha, they really play up his sadism in this version! The doctor seems not to have even heard of anesthetic, and so his surgeries are conducted without its benefit; but of course it would probably be a lot easier and more pleasant for him if his subjects weren’t squirming around and bellowing in pain! I guess he’s dedicated not just to the speeding-up of the evolutionary process, which is his stated goal as a scientist, but also to the delivery of pain! No wonder he’s nicknamed his operating theatre The House of Pain!
This is a top-notch picture, and I’d put it up there with other creepy pre-Code horror classics like Freaks and The Black Cat, two pictures I’m just wild about! The climax, with the beastpeople on a vengeful rampage, recalls that of Freaks quite a bit, though it lacks that extra frisson you get from watching actual deformed people slithering through the mud with castra*ion knives clutched between their teeth! But it’s safe to say that Moreau comes to an appropriately sticky end!
The movie looks great, the acting is flavorful across the board and the makeup on the animal fellows is absolutely as good as it gets! Why, this is an excellent picture! I give Island of Lost Souls four drunken seacaptains and urge you to see this remarkable and horrific movie!

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