Sunday, October 24, 2010

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932)

So that thing I said before about expectations working in a film's favor cuts both ways. I was less than a teenager when I read a glowing review of this film in Fangoria when it briefly popped up on VHS. Like a Tiffany-stalker love letter-level glowing review. Fast forward some twenty years (and I am 100 years old, yes) and I finally get to see it! And it's...pretty good.

Charles Laughton is FAT from scenery-chewing and easily delivers the film's standout performance as Moreau. You all know the story. Scientist takes animals and makes them people, of sorts. Leading protag Richard Arlen lands on the island and takes a shine to Panther Woman Kathleen Burke (I love her look here...she's almost a physical relic of the more expressionist actresses of the silent film days, plus you guys know what a big fan of cavewomen/primitive girls I am). Laughton, Burke, and Bela Lugosi as one of Moreau's animal people are the film's leading lights. Arlen and his fiancee (Leila Hyams) are pretty drab by comparison, a prom king and queen plopped in the middle of Freakshow Island.

It's easy to see why this was shocking to audiences of the time. ISLAND doesn't really hold back from displaying human/animal hybrids in all their hairy-backed glory and it goes full throttle for shock scenes, never deigning to consider audiences of fainting ladies. It's not as transgressive as something like FREAKS nor is it as accomplished/innovative as the Whale FRANKENSTEINs, but it's definitely pretty solid. And now I'm going to bed.

#23 of 31.

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