Friday, November 2, 2012

31 Horrors: Island of Lost Souls (#19)

Wherein I attempt to watch 31 horror films over the course of October. 31 horror films that I have never seen before, from obscure to acclaimed classics. We'll see how well I go in actually finding the time to watch and then write about them in some way.

I knew as I popped in the Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray for this 1932 (by coincidence, the second of October's horror flicks to have come from that year) that Erle Kenton's Island of Lost Souls was an adaptation of sorts of HG Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau. Given the title change I figured it was one of those unofficial adaptations where everything's the same, but not. Alas, I was wrong. By the time a character is introduced called, you guessed it, Dr Moreau, it became obvious that this was just a straight out filming of the novel. Well, as close to one as you could probably get in 1932. I haven't read the book so I can't tell you how similar they are, but at least in Europe it was marketed with its original book title in tow.

The film isn't all that special, to be honest, but as an almost schlocky pre-code genre title, it makes for some interesting viewing. Starring Charles Laughton as the aforementioned doc, and Richard Arlen as the shipwrecked man who uncovers his research (if one can call it that) into regeneration and vivisection. There is also Bela Lugosi (Dracula!) as a half-man/half-beast creation known as the "Sayer of the Law", and Kathleen Burke as The Panther Woman. She was supposedly chosen amongst a group of 60,000 candidates and, on the marketing, wasn't even credited by name, but merely as "The Panther Woman". Those old Hollywood types really knew how to sell a woman's soul for financial gain, didn't they!

Island of Lost Souls came out a year before King Kong, and the two share quite a few similarities. So much so that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that that 1933 classic used some of the same sets as Kenton's picture. It opens with a boat sailing the choppy seas and various characters finding themselves amongst a island dense in as much flora as mystery. Admittedly, the first and the third acts hold most of what I found interesting here, with the middle - basically everything about the boring Panther Woman - losing my patience. I enjoyed the opening with its gruff sailors and charming, yet sinister, Charles Laughton. The end, too, is quite intense as the beasts retaliate against their maker - certainly it was Laughton's final scene that earned this movie its status as banned in the UK? At only 71 minutes long though even the stuff I didn't too much care for didn't stick around long enough to prove too detrimental. To be honest, I watched this early in the month and forgot to write it up. I have as little to say about now as I did then, I suppose. B-

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