Friday, October 06, 2017
Island of Lost Souls
Based on the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, Island of Lost Souls is the story of an island where a scientist is trying to a hybrid of humans and animals as it eventually goes out of control. Directed by Erle C. Kenton and screenplay by Waldemar Young and Philip Wyle, the film is a strange sci-fi horror film set in a remote island in the South Pacific where a shipwrecked man makes a chilling discovery of what a mad scientist is trying to do. Starring Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Kathleen Burke, Arthur Hohl, Stanley Fields, and Bela Lugsoi. Island of Lost Souls is a thrilling and evocative film from Erle C. Kenton.
The film follows a man who had been kicked out of a ship after being saved following a shipwreck where he finds himself on a strange island where a scientist is trying to create a hybrid of humans and animals in a strange experiment. It’s a film that explore the idea of a man wanting to play God as he lives in this remote island where he would collect animals with the help of his assistant Mr. Montgomery (Arthur Hohl) who was onboard of a ship collecting these animals. During Montgomery’s journey, he would encounter a man on a capsized lifeboat in Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) who is saved and aided by Montgomery back to health until the ship’s captain knocks Parker onto the ship of Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton). Parker would stay in the island for a few days where he befriends Dr. Moreau’s daughter Lota (Kathleen Burke) where he would later make a chilling discovery. The film’s screenplay showcase this air of madness in Dr. Moreau as well as what he’s trying to do in creating a civilization that would allow a lot of the animalistic traits out of these people and create a better version of humanity.
The direction of Erle C. Kenton does have elements of style in terms of its approach to suspense and horror yet much of it is very straightforward. Shot on soundstages, the film does play into this world that is cut off from society where Dr. Moreau is trying to create one with order as one of his creatures known as the Sayer of the Law (Bela Lugosi) recites the concepts of the law. While there are a few wide shots, Kenton’s direction emphasize more on medium shots and some close-ups for some of the coverage in the film’s 1:33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Notably in the way he presents some of the drama as well as these moments of suspense including Parker’s discovery of this room known as the House of Pain. The third act where Parker’s fiancée Ruth Thomas (Leila Hyams) arrives to the island with another ship captain, the suspense and terror do heighten up when Dr. Moreau decides to do something that is against everything he had intended to do. Overall, Kenton crafts a chilling yet rapturous film about an island of human-animal hybrids being created by a mad scientist.
Cinematographer Karl Struss, with special photographic effects by Gordon Jennings, does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography with its stylish usage of lights for many of the scenes at night as well as in some of the film’s interior scenes. Art director Hans Dreier does amazing work with the look of the sets including some of the rooms at Dr. Moreau’s house as well as the look of the jungle. The makeup work of Charles Gemora and Wally Westmore is excellent for the way the monsters look into their mixture of animal and human. The sound work of M.M. Poggi and Loren L. Ryder is superb for the sound effects created as well as the sense of eerie atmosphere of the jungle. The film’s music by Arthur Johnston and Sigmund Krumgold is fantastic for its usage of tribal drums and heavy orchestral music to play into the suspense and terror.
The casting by Fred A. Datig is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from George Irving as a consul at a nearby Samoan island, Tetsu Komai as Dr. Moreau’s animal-human hybrid servant M’ling, Hans Steinke as a big animal-human hybrid in Ouran, Stanley Fields as a cargo ship captain who kicks Parker out of his ship in Captain Davies, Paul Hurst as a ship captain in Captain Donahue who accompanies Ruth to Dr. Moreau’s island to find Parker, and Bela Lugosi in a fantastic small role as the animal-human hybrid known as the Sayer of the Law as an intelligent beast who states the complexities of the laws while figuring out its flaws. Arthur Hohl is superb as Mr. Montgomery as a former doctor who aids Dr. Moreau in the surgeries and experiments as he has an interest in what Dr. Moreau is doing only to realize how far Dr. Moreau has gone.
Kathleen Burke is excellent as Lota, the Panther Woman, as this human-like figure who is considered a daughter of Dr. Moreau who has a great interest in Parker as she copes with her animal-like condition. Leila Hyams is amazing as Ruth Thomas as Parker’s fiancée who is eager to find him as she would learn about what is going on at Dr. Moreau’s island which terrifies her. Richard Arlen is brilliant as Edward Parker as a man who had been shipwrecked only to be kicked out of another boat where he finds himself on Dr. Moreau’s island as he copes with what he sees as he tries to escape only to be part of an experiment as it relates to Lota. Finally, there’s Charles Laughton in a phenomenal performance as Dr. Moreau as a mad scientist trying to create his own version of humanity through animal and experiment them with humans as a way to create a new society only to display elements of madness and manipulation as it is one of Laughton’s iconic performances.
Island of Lost Souls is a spectacular film from Erle C. Kenton that features a tremendous performance from Charles Laughton. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, top-notch makeup work, and a chilling premise of playing God. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the convention of horrors and suspense in order to study a man’s attempt to create his own idea of humanity through animals. In the end, Island of Lost Souls is a sensational film from Erle C. Kenton.
Related: The Island of Dr. Moreau - Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau
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