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on 30 May 2012
This title has been very hard to get hold of, but finally, its here! This is a fantastic film and Charles Laughton is absolutely blow away fantastic! He is an actor's actor & steals every scene with ease. The Panther Woman (KATH BURKE)is exotic & erotic at the same time, & again, is one of the many things you will remember watching this film. Island Of Lost Souls is a horror movie which should be up there with Lugosi's Dracula & Karloff's Frankenstein. it most definatly stands the test of time. However... as for the BluRay Hi defintion look, no, sorry, doesn't really cut the mustard. Don't get me wrong, the film looks great, but not to bluray standards. Now, I know alot of fans of the genre are already putting pen to paper to tell me "I'm wrong", & "remember the age of the film", but stop it NOW! Films like The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind & Snow white & the seven dwarfs look magnificent because the studios involved in the transfers took their time, money & effort in showing us (the general public) what can be done to a classic old film. Its so important to criticise the bluray transfer because when Universal decide to transfer the forementioned Dracula & Frankenstein they get it right. We don't just want to watch Lugosi as Dracula, but, (with the help of a great transfer), have him in our living rooms giving it the old "children of the night" routine. We want to be launched to the top of the tower when Karloff's monster is being fed the electricity. This can be done, we've all seen it. Don't take second best when it comes to 'our' classics (you know who you are)? Insist on the best & the cleanest bluray transfers - We Monster Lovers deserve it.
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on 29 July 2011
At last this is coming to DVD!!!! And given the label/series its issued under it should be a cracking copy..... roll on October........ happy is me and many a horror movie buff I guess....
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on 7 August 2015
Please note that the following review is for the American import Blu ray release of Island Of Lost Souls from movie restoration experts Criterion. As with all of their Blu ray editions this is region A locked meaning that you WILL require a milti-region Blu ray player to view the content on this disc. I did however manage to skip the region coding on this particular release with my UK Panasonic BD80 by pressing stop on the mis-matched region screen then top menu on the remote control. As far as I know this trick only works on Panasonic equipment and on certain discs from a handful of distributors.

Mostly forgotten and ignored by modern moviegoers Island Of Lost Souls is a science runs amok sci-fi/horror gem from 1932 that was Hollywood's first and best adaptation of the classic 1896 novel 'The Island Of Dr.Moreau' by HG Wells. This atmospheric black and white classic arrives here on Blu ray in its completely uncut and uncensored form as part of the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Produced at the tail end of the Pre Hays Code Hollywood era, a time when there were no restrictions from The Motion Picture Production Code to enforce what could and couldn't be shown in movies of the time. So from the late 1920s through to 1934 when the code became completely enforced filmmakers had a free reign to include whatever debauchery they pleased from sexual innuendo, profanity and illegal drug use through to prostitution, scantily clad women and intense violence. Villainous characters would be seen as heroic rather than evil often profiting from their deeds with little in the way of repercussions and strong female characters and subject matters dominated certain films. Of course non of these efforts would ever be considered shocking, suggestive or disturbing 80+ years after their initial release but movies such as Island Of Lost Souls did manage to fall afoul of the BBFC in the UK were it was refused a certificate on three separate occasions until it was finally awarded an 'X' rating 26 years after its production completion date but only after cuts had been made. In the US the movie was released at it's time of production but dependent on which part of the country you saw the movie dictated whether you saw the cut or uncut version with various US states censors removing scenes of violence, sexuality and blasfamy. Had it not been for the lack of censorship of the period the complete version of the film under review here may very well have turned out remarkably different and dare I say it less well remembered by genre fans and far less influential as a twisted treasure and intellectual taboo breaker from the early decades of film.

The set up is simple with the sole survivor of a sunken ship Edward Parker(Richard Arlin) being rescued by a freighter transporting a wide array of wild animals to an unnamed and uncharted South Seas Island. On board he is cared for by a quietly unassuming but disgraced doctor known simply as Montgomery (Arthur Hohl) and also passes on a telegram to his fiancée Ruth (Leila Hyams) informing her he is safe and on route back to her. But after an altercation with the ship's drunken captain Parker is thrown off the boat at it's first port of call which also happens to be the destination of the exotic live cargo. The tropical island that appears on no map is owned by the well spoken reclusive Dr.Moreau(Charles Laughton) who uses it as a research facility for his bizarre experiments. Anyone familar with the HG Wells story or indeed any of the remakes will know straight away of Moreau's ghastly intentions and his infamous House of Pain where he creates his half human half animal hybrids which are then free to roam the Island. At first Moreau is wary of letting Parker know of his exploits but soon sees an opportunity for an experiment that involves both Parker and his most prized creation, Lota the Panther Women who also happens to be the only female presence on the island.
Directed by Erle C. Kenton who would later go on to helm three more horror films for Universal in the form of 'House of Dracula', 'House of Frankenstein' and 'The Ghost of Frankenstein', Island of Lost Souls is a beautifully crafted movie brimming with haunting imagery and mysterious atmosphere. The cinematography by the award winning Karl Struss is simply stunning with some wonderful uses of lighting to create a forbidding island setting full of ominous shadows and dark corners that work well with the stark black and white photography confined within the tight Academy Ratio. Even outside of the island set itself Island of Lost Souls often conveys a dreamlike ambiance from the mist shrouded ships in the opening scenes through to a busy South Sea Island port and of course the first glimpse of Moreau's beast-men. Speaking of the beast-men Island of Lost Souls is also an impressive foray into early cinematic special effects with some truly spellbinding and grotesque creations from Wally Westmore for Dr.Moreau's hybrid creatures. With a mixture of strong physical attributes of the beast actors themselves and skillfully applied makeup these really are a hideous collection of animalistic freaks that are genuinely disturbing to witness and of which have provided a template for special effects artists for years to come. For a movie of the period the cast also performs incredibly well without resorting to the overtly theatrical overacting that often plagued vintage features and the script never comes across as dated with some rather suggestive dialogue exchanges which did cause the movie censorship issues. As with alot of aspects in Island of Lost Souls the film as a whole feels decidedly ahead of it's time and this extends to the performances with Charles Laughton in particular seeming to revel in the role of the morally wrong and inhumanly sadistic Dr.Moreau who plays the god like character with a perverse sence of glee as he smirks, lurks in and out of the shadows and stares into the camera as if he is addressing the audience directly. The remainder of the cast are all strong from the heroic Richard Arlin as Edward Parker and the cat like Kathleen Burke as the constantly troubled Panther Women plus genre fans with enjoy seeing an almost unrecognisable and incredibly hirsuted Bela Lugosi as The Lord Of The Sayers, one of Moreau's more advanced and intelligent beasts.
Despite the passing of over 80 years, Erle C.Kenton's Island of Lost Souls remains an disturbing but immensely watchable creature feature incorporating themes such as the use of vivesetion and genetic manipulation that are still debated widely today. The film is as brutal as it is beautiful to look at culminating in a climax(of which I will not spoil here for the uninitiated) that still remains jarring and unsettling to this day proving that man shouldn't mess with nature for his own personal glory.

Island of Lost Souls claws its way onto Blu ray from Criterion with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer framed at the correct Academy Ratio of 1.33:1. In the notes concerning the transfer from the included liner booklet Criterion explain that the original negative no longer exists and that this transfer had to be made up from a number of different sources which include various 35mm prints and even a private collectors own 16mm print that was used to replace missing frames and scratches. These were then all scanned together in 2K HD resolution to create the most complete version of the film ever to grace home video.
Of course aspirations have to be kept in check but all things considered Criterion have to be commended on what they have achieved with what is an 83 year old feature as Island of Lost Souls looks remarkable good here. The movie has a hazy dreamlike quality throughout which does result in some softness but details are readily apparent showcasing the wonderful set design of Moreau's island from the architecture of the buildings through to the surrounding dense jungle. Close ups reveal textures in clothing,hair and the twisted features of the beasts whilst facial features are mostly strong as long as the camera doesent stray too far from the actors. For a film that relies so heavily on light and shadows to convey both it's story and atmosphere black levels and contrast had to be good too. Thankfully despite age and source limitations Criterion's transfer provides deep blacks and crisp whites with an accurate grey scale in between. Shadow detail is good which is essential for a picture that mostly plays out in thick jungle or dark laboratories and contrast whilst not always stable appears natural. As is always the case, Criterion's restoration team have worked wonders to clean up the elements but as to be expected from a title of this vintage anomalies do persist in the form of scratches, lines and other debris but thankfully the thick natural grain is kept in check and although this has had slight attention paid to it there isn't enough tampering to destroy the character of the image. Compression is good and the bitrate is high for this 70 minute movie resulting in no digital gremlins. This is yet another classy restoration of a vintage title.

Criterion present Island of Lost Souls with a 24bit 1.0 channel LPCM mono mix that like the visuals has been given the usual Criterion make-over. This is authentically flat with slight hiss accompanying the recording but dialogue is crisp, clear and well defined as are atmospherics and foley effects. Despite only a single channel being utilised the soundstage sounds relatively open and the music score is clear with a little depth but unfortunately exhibits slight distortion in the higher registers. Still this is strong and more than acceptable considering the age and condition of the elements.

As to be expected for a film produced in the early thirties there are no living cast or crew members to contribute to the extras for this Blu ray release so Criterion have esembled a varied selection of historians, filmmakers and special effects artists to talk about and dissect this fantastic film.
First up is a feature length audio commentary with film historian Gregory Mank. This guy has obviously done his homework on the feature as he possesses a wealth of knowledge all of which is genuinely interesting if you are a fan of the film or the genre.
Next up is a three way converstion with director John Landis, sfx artist Rick Baker and horror film fan Bob Burns. This 17 minute 1080p feature is a wealth of information as the three are obviously big fans of Island of Lost Souls. Although this is relatively short the history and production of the film are touched upon and as Rick Baker is present alot of time is spent on the groundbreaking make-up effects.
Following this are two short features presented in 1080p the first of which concerns rhe career of HG Wells with historial David J Skall. The second features an interview with director Richard Stanley who was originally selected to direct the remake of 'The Island of Dr.Moreau' which starred Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando.
To round of the main special features are two pieces on the band Devo who were influenced by Island of Lost Souls. The first part is a 20 minute interview with the two founding members of Devo and the second part is a short 10 minute film by them presented in 1080i.
Of course a special edition from Criterion wouldn't be complete with an original theatrical trailer, stills gallery and one of there beautifully produced glossy insert booklets this time featuring an essay by Christine Smallwood entitled "The Beast Flesh Creeping Back".

Criterion continue to impress me with yet another solid release of a vintage title I may well have passed by if it wasent for their intervention. I know the genres of film I love the most so when Criterion release a title in any of these particular fields that I havent seen or heard of more often than not they going to be something special. Island of Lost Souls easily falls under this banner standing as a remarkably creepy, atmospheric and truly inspirational horror film that despite finishing production at the end of 1932 has aged remarkably well. The Blu ray disk is another sterling example of how much effort this American boutique label put into all of their projects with a great AV transfer further assisted by a seletion of worthy supplementary features to create a package that I am more than happy to give space to on my already overcrowded shelf. Highly recommended.
As a footnote it is worth noting that Eureka in the UK have released their own edition of Island of Lost Souls as part of their Masters of Cinema range. Having not seen this UK compatible region B Blu ray I cannot possibly give a comparison but from what I have heard the transfer may come from the same source as the Criterion but has less extensive special features.
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on 17 August 2012
Another great film release as all the reviewers have said before. But let's get a grip here. Transferring from a hotchpotch of 16mm prints and 35 mm can never ever equate to Blu-ray quality. Wonderful that we have the film but I would have been happy with just the DVD and keeping £5 extra in my pocket than having been forced to buy an expensive dual format disc that adds nothing to the film's technical enjoyment. 5 stars for the film, 1 star for the decision to release an unwarranted BLu-ray so 3 stars overall. The more distributors release Blu-ray that do nothing for the format, the more people will shun the format and buy selective releases.
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on 28 July 2012
With the same euphoric enthusiasm as Colin Clive who shouts, "It's alive," in the 1932, "Frankenstein" we can shout, "I've GOT it, I've GOT it, I'vegotit, I'vegotitI'vegotit. Wuh huh huh huurr." After all, this has been one of the most elusive and difficult films to get hold of.

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."
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on 12 July 2012
Vivisection. Always, and rightly so, a subject to inspire horror and revulsion. HG Well's novel, 'The Island Of Dr Moreau' caused an outcry upon its 1896 publication. That outrage was to be shared by Wells himself less than thirty years later with the release of Paramount's film version, 'The Island Of Lost Souls'. Wells, reportedly, hated it; and was pleased when the British censor banned the film outright from being screened in the UK for more than twenty years. Perhaps Wells had a point. The film does - as do all film versions of novels - drastically simplify his morality tale to the point of reducing it to a mere shocker. But on the plus side it does deliver its shock with elan. For a movie over seventy years old the sudden sight of a 'man' hobbling on one leg and one animalistic hoof can still turn the stomach. It certainly turned mine! As for the cast: well, of course Charles Laughton is great - was he ever not? - despite bearing absolutely no resemblance to the physical description of Moreau in Wells' novel - ironically, Burt Lancaster came the closest in that respect in the lacklustre 1977 remake, which, by the by, I wouldn't bother with. Richard Arlen - (who?) - does a passable job as the square-jawed hero, and of course there has to be a love interest - not featured by Wells - in the highly arresting shape of 'Panther Woman' Leila Hyams. It is however slightly sad to see the inset of the rot in Bela Lugosi's career as he resorts to hiding behind a face of fur and chanting Laughton's law as the Sayer of the Law. The plot, as I have said, takes the source novel and truncates and simplifies it, thereby losing a lot of the original power. But that's what Hollywood did then just as they do now. On the whole, an obviously fantastic film and one every movie-lover should own. But, having watched it, do what I did - go back to the novel, it really does help fill in the gaps.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 18 July 2012
This is one of those films I have wanted to see since as long as I can remember and it does not disappoint. The furore around this production was as much the attraction as the ghoulish tale itself. Based on the classic novel, `The Island of Doctor Moreau' by H.G. Wells, who was pleased when this was banned in the UK as it `vulgarised' his book. This was made in the pre censor era of Hollywood, when almost anything could be tried. As such the dark creeping horror of the subject matter was not seen as an issue - the British film sensors banned it as being `against nature'. Australia banned it to be seen by Aborigines.

It tells the story of Edward Parker, who has been shipwrecked, he is picked up by a boat bearing a strange cargo bound for an un named and uncharted island, that has a reputation the causes it to be the stink of the Pacific. He then gets marooned there by his unwelcoming Captain. At first his host, the evasive Dr. Moreau wants nothing to do with the uninvited guest, but then he remembers `The Panther Woman' and the possibilities of more interesting, furry progeny.

The jungle on the island is teeming with manimals, of varying levels of hairiness and decrepitude. Moreau wanders around king of all he observes carrying a bull whip to maintain discipline. Once the true horror of Moreau's experiments are realised by Parker he just wants to escape.

This is a classic of classics, the make up is stupendous and Bella Lugosi as `Sayer of the Law' is so well made up that I didn't even recognise him. Charles Laughton is at his swaggering and understated best, he oozes evil in such a way that even a simple phrase he utters is dripping with menace. He relishes the macabre and sees only more opportunities for his bloated view of a misguided science, much to the chagrin of his assistant - the failed Doctor Montgomery. The lighting is superb having been created by Karl Struss (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and makes you pine for a time when lighting meant more than just being able to see the actors.

The film also ran into problems with the dialogue especially when Charles Laughton says `do you know what it means to feel like God?' There was also a nationwide campaign to find `the Panther Woman in which there were 60,000 applicants, you just don't get that sort of thing any more and adds to the allure and glamour of the whole thing.

This also includes a brilliant booklet putting the making of the film into context and containing some stills that show just how good the make up was. There is also an extra from film historian Jonathan Rigby, a restored version of the original trailer and a piece from Charles Laughton biographer, Simon Callow and as such is an absolute gem.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 December 2011
"What is the law?"
"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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on 10 August 2011
I have been waiting for the release of this 30s horror classic forever! Starring Charles Laughton & Bela Lugosi- Laughton is the mad scientist Dr Moreau living on a remote island who transforms wild animals into human abominations- it was made just before the Hollywood Code came in so remains a very strong horror even today- it was banned in the UK for 35 years. HG Wells whose novel it was based on hated the movie & endorsed the UK ban! The movie horrified 1930s US audiences due to its subjects of sadism, beastiality and vivisection & Laughton is fantastic as the sinister sadistic madman- the screams and cries of agony coming from the House of Pain (Moreau's laboratory) will horrify you! An atmosphere of lurking terror runs thru the movie & the powerful ending still frightens audiences! The movie was filmed on Catalina Island off the Californian coast so the jungle settings are real unlike most movies that were shot on studio backlots at the time- Moreau's mansion & lab were constructed on a Paramount sound-stage. Kathleen Burke is unforgettable as the panther-woman Lota (the 19 year old was selected for the part from 60,000 candidates after Paramount conducted a nationwide contest for an exotic-looking actress to play the part-she had been a Chicago dentist's assistant!) & Lugosi is very good in grotesque makeup as the weird Sayer of the Law(spokesman for the savages). This new high-definition digital restoration of the un-cut movie is worth paying the extra for.
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on 6 October 2011
Well this is bad news...... the release date has been pushed back 7 months!!!!!!!!! Such a shame, will have to be patient folks. Sad is me and many other horror movie buffs I guess...................
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