Director: Erle C. Kenton
Genre(s): Adventure, Horror, Science-Fiction
Runtime: 70 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
My all-time favorite horror movie, Island of Lost Souls is a supremely depraved flick about a shipwrecked sailor, Edward Parker (Richard Arlen), trapped on a remote tropical island ruled by mad scientist Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton). While the film’s atrocities are mostly kept offscreen, this movie is still as potent as they come. Pulpy and lurid, the Rotten Tomatoes blurb for Dave Kehr’s review of the picture describes it as “dripping with sex and sadism.” I couldn’t have put it better myself (although I would’ve also added “sweat”).
Combining South Seas adventure with gripping sci-fi horror, Island of Lost Souls has a thick atmosphere of cruelty. The costumes and make-up are excellent, and the lighting is awe-inspiring. It’s quick and fast-paced, featuring some well-drawn characters. Of course, it’s Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau who steals the show. He’s deliciously evil here, making for a truly vile and repulsive villain. The grand finale builds up to a fury that could be described as unintentionally antinatalistic, and the whole thing has some fascinating philosophical and even religious implications.
Made during the “Pre-Code” era of Hollywood in the early 1930s, before the Production Code was being enforced, this film is full of the unnatural and perverse. It was even banned in Great Britain until 1958, according to its IMDb Trivia page. Island of Lost Souls would also prove to be a major inspiration for the prominent New Wave band Devo, among others (even rock titans Van Halen wrote a song, “House of Pain,” allegedly based on the picture).
To sum things up, this one is extremely underrated, and deserves to be remembered with the very best of the horror genre. Sick and slick, it never overstays its welcome and packs quite a punch. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it can’t be twisted.
My rating is 10 outta 10.