DIRECTOR Erle C. Kenton WRITER Waldemar Young; Philip Wylie; H. G. Wells (novel) STARS Charles Laughton; Bela Lugosi; Richard Arlen DUAL FORMAT 28 May
Making its UK Blu and DVD debut is this first — and probably best — adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau. Revisiting this 1932 horror classic is an absolute treat, particularly so for a superb restoration from the excellent Masters of Cinema series.
Running at just 71 minutes, Island of Lost Souls obviously skims over the source material, however it is faithful to the balance of comments on science, hunger for power and morality, making for a thoroughly engaging story.
Originally rejected by the BBFC for being ‘against nature’, this could seem rather silly now. The FX for the Beast Folk obviously appears extremely dated, and vivisection as subject matter is no longer shocking. Said FX however is the only real element to have aged — well, the fight choreography is still the delightfully cheesy sort of the time — as Charles Laughton takes us into the world of Dr. Moreau, a place just as, in fact probably much more, creepy than if made today. No person or animal is safe on his island.
There is simply nothing to fault here. Each performance is worthy, and the set piece foreboding, complementing the horrific story wonderfully. The Beast Folk — led by the fabulous Bela Lugosi as Sayer of the Law — were directed with the perfect compromise between animal and human, their eventual revolt truly moving as result. But the highest of praise must be reserved for Laughton, his command of the screen genuinely sinister, no hamminess in sight. The lack of soundtrack makes this overall impression that bit more impressive; clearly, a perfect choice in casting.
Coming from Masters of Cinema, the package is naturally attractive. There is the usual booklet featuring stills from the production, and a video piece featuring horror expert Jonathan Rigby is informative — another boasting Simon Callow not so. Best of all, however, is of course the limited edition steelbook. An essential purchase.