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Island of Lost Souls [Masters of Cinema] (Dual Format) [Blu-ray] 
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SYNOPSIS: Originally rejected by the BBFC on its original release for being "against nature", this first and best screen adaptation of H. G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau is a taboo-flaunting, blood-curdling spectacular, and one of Hollywood's wildest, most notorious, pre-Code pictures.
Shipwrecked and adrift, Edward Parker finds himself a guest on Dr. Moreau's isolated South Seas island, but quickly discovers the horrifying nature of the doctor's work and the origin of the strange forms inhabiting the isle: a colony of wild animals reworked into humanoid form via sadistic surgical experiments. Furthermore, Parker quickly begins to fear his own part in the doctor's plans to take the unholy enterprise to a next level.
Featuring a peerlessly erudite and sinister performance by Charles Laughton as the diabolical doctor, a sterling appearance by Bela Lugosi as the half-beast-half-man "Sayer of the Law", and sensationally atmospheric cinematography by the great Karl Struss (Murnau's Sunrise, Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Island of Lost Souls now returns to claim a central position among the most imaginative and nightmarish fantasies from Hollywood's golden age of horror.
Unbelievably, this is the first-ever Blu-ray or uncut DVD release of this Universal horror classic in the UK, finally released in time for its 80th anniversary. A true classic of horror cinema from the early 1930s alongside Dracula, Frankenstein, Freaks, The Invisible Man, Vampyr, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Island of Lost Souls on Blu-ray and DVD, available in the UK in a standard Dual Format Edition & Limited Edition Dual Format Steelbook.
- New high-definition restoration of the uncut theatrical version, officially licensed from Universal Pictures
- Newly created SDH subtitles on the feature for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Uncompressed original monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- An exclusive video piece in which horror critic and historian Jonathan Rigby discusses the film and its source novel
- Original theatrical trailer
- A lavish booklet featuring rare production imagery, and more!
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I just want to add my voice to the other positive reviewers on here and praise Eureka for the wonderful job they have done transferring this movie to DVD. Apparently there is no original camera negative in existance so it just goes to show how close we came to losing this picture for good. The booklet included in this edition tells us all too briefly how this print was assembled from various 35 and 16mm elements. I must say I would liked to have seen a longer documentary on how they sourced and restored the existing prints to make this new one. Have they now managed to make a new negative from the old positives? I would have liked to have seen the condition of the reels and what they did to get this to the wonderful, pristine version that it is. I can't play the blue ray version because I don't have a player but I can certainly vouch for the DVD which is good enough as it is.
Excellent work Eureka. Now, if you can just get us, "London After Midnight."
"Not to eat meat, that is the law. Are we not men?"
"Are we not men?"
"What is the law?"
"Not to go on all fours, that is the law. Are we not men?"
"Are we not men?"
"What is the law?"
"Not to spill blood, that is the law. Are we not men?"
"Are we not men?"
H.G. Wells may have loathed it and the British censor banned it for nearly three decades for being "against nature," but 1932's Island of Lost Souls is still the best and most disturbing adaptation of the author's The Island of Dr Moreau. Certainly Paramount's idea of a horror film was much darker than Universal's classic monster movies of the period, and it tackles its subtext head on without appearing especially heavy-handed.
Looking like a cross between British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, a chubby Adolph Hitler and Little Britain's Matt Lucas (though he claimed he based the character's look on his dentist), Charles Laughton's white-suited vivisectionist turning animals into half-men in his House of Pain on an uncharted South seas island with the aid of Arthur Hohl's disgraced doctor is at once the worst of colonialism personified and the kind of scientist the Nazis would love to have had on the payroll. Ruling over his creations with a whip and a Law based on fear, he's not that far removed from the crazed eugenics experiments that would take place a few years later or of the patronising hypocrisy that would lead to most European colonies to fall to rebellion after the war. Unlike later versions, there's no rationale behind his experiments beyond the desire to prove they can be done, and he has no scruples about trying to mate his creations with the odd human visitor or, if that fails, create a situation that might lead to a convenient bestial rape to further his scientific curiosity. When his inevitable fall at the hands of his experiments comes when they realise man is not a god but mortal like them, it's just as cruel and sadistic, the shots of real-life amputees with cloven hoofs grafted on or mental patients transformed into animals courtesy of Wally Westmore's uncredited makeup effects still shocking today.
If Richard Arlen's human lead doesn't stand much of a chance of doing more than just about getting by against Laughton and Bela Lugosi's Sayer of the Law's screentime is limited to a couple of key scenes, Erle C. Kenton's direction is exceptionally good, with a real visual flair for camera movement that's as striking today as anything in James Whale's films, not least the fluid crane shots revealing the manimals' village or the commanding image of Moreau looking down on his worshipping creations like a malignant god. Hans Dreier's impressive art direction and Karl Struss' dramatic cinematography beautifully compliment what is still one of the best horror films of its kind.
The much-delayed Masters of Cinema Bluray/DVD combo may use the same transfer as the Criterion release, but contains different extras. Alongside the customary booklet (which includes stills of unused manimal makeup) there's an interview with Laughton's biographer Smon Callow that draws attention to the Conradian undertones of the story and the anguished sadism of Laughton's performance, while the factual background is filled in very impressively by an excellent interview with Jonathan Rigby that's one of the best of its kind that I've seen, not just covering the expected bases like Darwin and Wells but also dealing with the 30s craze for jungle movies and physical 'degeneration.'
Criterion's US Region 1 NTSC DVD offers a fine package: historical audio commentary by Gregory Monk, interviews with John Landis, Rick Baker, Bob Burns, film historian David J. Skal, musicians Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh and director of the ill-fated Marlon Brando version, Richard Stanley, two 70s short films inspired by the film, stills gallery, trailer and booklet. The picture quality on this uncut version (mastered from the same source as Eureka's upcoming PAL version) is particularly impressive considering the negative has long been lost.
It's worth noting that Criterion's Blu-ray release is Region A-locked.
Spanish DVD releases are pretty hit or miss - you'll either get a decent transfer (usually from the majors like Fox or Paramount) or something that looks like the worst of public domain transfers - but while the Spanish DVD of Island of Lost Souls isn't an official Universal release (it's out of copyright now), it is surprisingly good quality that's comparable to the laserdisc release though the synch gets a bit wobbly in a couple of scenes. It's English language with optional French or Spanish subtitles, with the 1933 The Vampire Bat and a booklet included as extras. Compared to the pretty lousy quality on the UK video release, it's surprisingly decent.
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