I ordered this last September (at a much lower price) and was disapointed when the release was put back by 7 months or so. Also, most if not all the "reviews here are "In anticipation" rather than an actual viewing of this Eureka Release. Well worry not everyone. This Dvd comes with a Blu Ray disc, excellent booklet (with full cast list) and extras with Simon Callow, and other items. Given this film was made in 1932 the restoration is superb (this is the DVD not Blu Ray - I don't have a player), sound and picture quality no problem at all. The photography is so classic 1930's B/W -moody and magnificent. The acting is of the period too, but don't let that put you off. Laughton is hugely creepy and very effective. The Makeup for the man/beasts is as good as many a CGI of today (well, I think so). It all moves along at a spanking pace and conveys the Horror perfectly. Highly recomended to lovers of good serious cinema (Does that sound pompous? - I do hope not). I loved it.
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.
on 27 November 2011
This is the first of three adaptations of the H G Wells book, Island of Dr Moreau (the second being made in the 70s, and the third - probably not final - take being the condemned mid-90s production that Richard Stanley should have directed). Whilst reportedly not being a strict conversion of the material for screen (I haven't personally read the book), it is nevertheless a powerful film for its time that retains a twisted quality that even some of today's more open minded audiences may appreciate. The story introduces typical American hero Ed Parker, who is rescued from shipwreck but dumped again, after disagreements with the captain, with a group of odd people that inhabit an isolated island. There Parker discovers that vivisectionist experiments are being conducted to transform animals into humans, these creatures being ruled over by their creator and law-enforcer, Dr Moreau. Initially control is maintained, but soon things begin to get out of order, and the deformed inhabitants of the island gather mob-like to overthrow the crown.
Directed with a flair uncommon in the 30s by Erle C Kenton (whose other horrors include the not-so-impressive Ghost of Frankenstein, and the fun but similarly ill-fated double act that was to end Universal's more serious monster movie run, House of Dracula/Frankenstein) Island of Lost Souls is striking in its portrayal of the doomed creatures that are forcibly brought out of their natural lifestyle to adopt human characteristics for no better reason other than to prove that it's possible (and maybe to feed the god-complex of the Moreau character, who here resembles an amoral Dr Frankenstein). Bela Lugosi is amongst them, though not receiving a huge amount of screen time. The most notable hybrid, however, is played by Kathleen Burke - slinky, attractive, and meek, the moment that Parker realises the truth about her still sends a bit of a chill through the veins. What struck me about the spiralling chaos of the final act also was its similarity to that of 70s masterwork, Dawn of the Dead, as the creatures get more and more out of control, eventually taking over the 'asylum' as the human survivors make a desparate bid to escape.
I would have bought this from UK suppliers Eureka, but they are unfortunately choosing to release the film in standard definition only (at time of writing), and as matter of course these days I always buy Blu-ray when it's available. Having said that it is likely that the Eureka will feature unique extras so it'll be worth keeping an eye on when it arrives in 2012. Criterion's Blu-ray 1.33:1 Black & White HD (1080p) transfer is comprised of a combination of 35mm nitrate positive (the original negative is unfortunately deemed gone forever) and 16mm print in order to ensure as much audio/video footage, including previously censored material, is present in what we see on the disc. Considering the conditions the film looks very good - soft on occasions, persistently grainy, often pretty detailed and exhibiting good contrast. There is noticeable hiss on the soundtrack periodically but I wouldn't expect otherwise. I suspect that this could be the best this is ever going to look for home cinema, and would like to think it is comparable to original theatrical presentations. Criterion, as usual, have done their absolute best to preserve and restore a classic movie.
I haven't had chance to sift through all of the extras yet, but for information they include segmented interviews with John Landis, Rick Baker, Bob Burns, David Skal, Richard Stanley, Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh (of 'Devo') - these latter pair also provide a short film for the disc. Also present is a commentary by Gregory Mank, original trailer to the movie, plus a fascinating stills gallery showing off close-up images of the 'monsters' along with publicity photos, etc. This is all supported by a lovely booklet giving us an essay on the film, plus details of chapters, cast and the technical side of the transfer. My favourite piece of all this stuff so far is the fifteen minute interview with Stanley, who wanted to and should have directed the 90s remake that Frankenheimer was evetually hired for. This man (who directed the mesmerising Dust Devil if you're unfamiliar with the name) is always a joy to listen to - he comes across as highly educated, knowledgeable on a range of subjects, relentlessly enthusiastic, and is seemingly the beneficiary of a varied and enviable existence, even if he has had his share of tougher times. I could listen to this stuff for long periods of time. This is the sort of extra that most DVD/BD distributors can only aspire to.
It should be noted that this release is Region A only. The booklet and disc are packed in a translucent, standard-sized Blu-ray case adorned by attractive design work. Whilst I do wish that Criterion's Blu-rays had more of a physical presence in the manner that some of their DVD releases did (e.g. Vampyr, Videodrome, etc), one cannot argue with the content. Island... proves itself to be among the elite of 30s horror, and at last there is a release that does it justice and is very difficult to fault - hence five stars.
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.
Dr. Moreau: What is the law?
Sayer of the Law: Not to eat meat, that is the law. Are we not men?
Beasts: Are we not men?
Dr. Moreau: What is the law?
Sayer of the Law: Not to go on all fours, that is the law. Are we not men?
Beasts: Are we not men?
Dr. Moreau: What is the law?
Sayer of the Law: Not to spill blood, that is the law. Are we not men?
Beasts: Are we not men?
When Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) cracks his whip, asks his question and we hear the answers mumbled and shouted from those gathered below him, the obvious answer from us is "Hey, wait a minute." Moreau on his tiny island in the Pacific seems to have a tribe of hairy, hunched males obeying him. Then we notice how they're standing and how they look...some with eyes peering out from under bony brows, noses misshaped, dumb stares or suspicious looks, feral teeth, bulky shoulders, long arms, a foot with a hoof...and lots and lots of fur. The Sayer of the Law is unrecognizable as Bela Lugosi. His face is covered with long hair as he struggles to state the litany.
If you've never seen Island of Lost Souls, in glorious black and white from 1932 based on H. G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, you are in for a treat. If you've seen only the later versions of the story (1977 with Burt Lancaster as Moreau and 1996 with Marlon Brando as Moreau), you are in for a revelation. The Island of Lost Souls is a first class movie and Laughton is a memorable Moreau.
The story line could be campy. Here it's not. Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) through no fault of his own winds up on a jungle island. Dr. Moreau and Moreau's younger assistant, a man named Montgomery (Arthur Hohl), take him to Moreau's house. On the way he sees Moreau's crewmen and workers, strange men who seem...odd. Walking through the jungle he sees glimpses of creatures that might be large animals or might be men. Eventually he learns that Dr. Moreau, who was forced to leave London because of certain experiments, is dedicated to taking animals and turning them into men. No ray tubes, pulsing lights and such for him. Moreau goes about it the old-fashioned way. Using scalpels without anesthesia, Dr. Moreau, assisted by Montgomery, cuts out those parts of animals that are animal, leaving those parts that can become human. He performs these series of operations in his laboratory, which he calls the House of Pain.
Moreau's greatest success to date is to turn a female panther, after a lot of cutting, into Lota (Kathleen Burke), the panther woman. Lota, with large dark eyes that look a bit crazed, resembles Dorothy Lamour with claws. Lota is the only woman on the island. Parker is the only man who has ever been kind to her. When they kiss, Moreau is ecstatic. The scientific possibilities of Parker and Lota getting in on stimulate Moreau in more ways than one. This was before the curtain of prudery fell over Hollywood in the mid-Thirties. Laughton practically glows at the possibilities to watch and then experiment. He also practically glows in the evening because he always wears an immaculate while tropical suit.
But then rebellion occurs, good people live and bad people die. And what about Moreau's experiments? They're neither good nor bad. They're not human and not animal. And they have learned that The Law can be broken. See the movie. It's well worth it.
The acting is very good by any number of the cast. Laughton makes Moreau a dominating figure of suspicions, casual cruelty, twinkling good humor tinged with the instincts of a voyeur. He puts Lancaster and Brando to shame. Did Laughton ever telephone in a performance?
The photography is full of forbidding shadows, a dark cave, threatening night, and unnerving set pieces. Laughton cracking a whip to control the animal-men, with torches casting flickering shadows, doesn't turn into comedy. When Lota leaps from a tree limb onto a gorilla-man she looks like a woman but we see the deadly grace of a panther.
The Criterion release looks very good. There is a commentary track and a few extras which I didn't view but which quite likely are up to Criterion standards.
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.
There's an island somewhere out there in the foggy laden deep blue sea. Here resides Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton), he has a God complex and he is conducting experiments, turning animals into humans. Unsurprisingly and terrifyingly the results are not exactly a success!
Tod Browning's Freaks was released this same year, and when watching Erle C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls, it makes for the perfect companion piece. Full of haunting imagery, aided no end by cinematographer Karl Struss' stunning photography, it's a film that stays with you long after the end credits have rolled. Berserker science marries up to human chaos to provoke and trouble in equal measure. Laughton gives top villainy, whilst Waldemar Young and and Philip Wylie adapt from the H.G. Wells novel with a cheeky glint in their eyes. The 1930s had some great horror movies, this is up with the best of them. 8/10
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."
"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.
on 9 March 2013
always wanted to see this.laughton is brilliant and a total nut.surprised at the cert maybe a 12.i suppose only us old fogeys would watch and understand the under lying connotations some of which is relevent today.i don,t want to give any thing away a bit light on extras although quite a good book at about 32 pages with some interesting stills.the one thing with film it stays with you after it has finished.the ratio is 4.3 ish. the picture is as good as you are going to get with a film around eighty years old.as it has been taken from a 16mm screening print and a 35mm nitrate and a 35mm fine master .using the best of the 3 prints then remastered.the original negative no longer exists.the sound track is taken from the 16 and 35 nitrate source alas mono.i would say if you are a movie buff or a horror film nut you need to have this in your collection.