Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Island of Lost Souls (1932), directed by Erle C. Kenton.

On a unnamed island in the South Pacific, it's evil little scientist/god performs hideous experiments on animals, transforming them into beast-men in his House of Pain. When first a castaway and later his fiance arrive, Moreau has new cross-species experiments in mind.

It's a reasonably close adaptation of The Island of Dr Moreau. They up the sex content by introducing the fiance and Lota the Panther Woman. This is "pre-Code" horror; although there was a production code then it was not as strictly enforced as later. The film was banned in 11 countries and censored in many places. The objections were for the torture of beast-men, intimations of bestiality, and sacrilege. HG Wells was still alive at the time and hated the film.

Of course, by modern standards it is not that intense, but is nicely atmospheric. The Doctor has a rather splendid mansion on that unknown island. What is the Law? Not to go on all fours, not to eat meat, not to shed blood. Are we not Men?

Charles Laughton is, as always, a hammy delight. He's funny and scary at the same time, a perversely dapper madman. Bela Lugosi has so much werewolf hair that only his voice reveals him.

Finally: Lota sacrifices herself in the end. Does that make her more human? Wouldn't a loyal dog have done the same thing? I doubt if my cat would.

Criterion Blu-ray, not available from Netflix. I rented mine from ClassicFlix. I don't have the DVD to compare, but I doubt if the Blu-ray offers much if any improvement.

The commentary track is a witty, rich source of information on the film, the industry and the people involved.

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