Before I begin the review of the movie, I wanted to introduce this series of movie reviews. This movie review, and some that I will do periodically, is apart of my favorite films (Here is the IMDb link for the rest). I use to able to pick out one movie that was my favorite but I have to many films to pick just one. This films I highly enjoy but are by no means the best films. In fact many are like this movie, in that they will probably never make a great movie list. Lastly you will know it is a part of my favorite films when I rate it a 10/10.
Director: Erle C. Kenton
Major Actors: Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, and Richard Arlen
IMDb rating: 10/10 (click for page)
Available in Criterion Collection
As it is well noted, one of the few genres in film that I am not the biggest fan of is horror. However that is not entirely true. I really enjoy 1930s horror films and Island of Lost Souls may just be my favorite from that time period. It is based off an H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, thus I knew going into there was basis for a good story. But that does not necessary mean that it translates well to film (see the most recent War of the Worlds). That aside it succeeds where others have failed.
This is a beautiful looking film. This is thanks to the camera work of Karl Struss (Sunrise and The Great Dictator). While I am by no means adept all the time at picking up on cinematography. I can on occasion recognize when great film work is done. But of course all I can is say “Wow that looks great.” I said this repeatedly while watching this film.
When it comes to the acting in the film, it like most early 30s movies is very choppy. In fact, if it was not for one actor this probably would have been around a 7 or lower, but one actor saves the acting, Charles Laughton. It is an automatic treat whenever he appeared in the film. He probably made many people jealous by making acting in a talkie look so easy. However, he is not the only acting treat. Bela Lugosi’s role in the film is a perfect role for him. Hearing belt out the words “Are we not men!” just sends chills done the spine. It really is a shame that Lugosi was not given more roles like this.
The last thing I want to talk about is the makeup. Watching a film like this, somewhat makes me wish we could go back to no CGI. The makeup is so real that when you first see the creatures. You think that they are just some type of natives to the island but you find out that is not entirely true. You can definitely see how this movie influenced the makeup within films for years to come.
From the camerawork, two great actors, and makeup, this film is highly enjoyable and a lot more gritty than you expect for 30s film. I highly recommend this film to any classic horror film buff.