An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations.
We are Devo! There's an island somewhere out there in the goddamn 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
There is something almost "Hitler-esque" about Charles Laughton's performance in this stunningly eerie adaptation of HG Wells' novel "The Island of Dr. Moreau". I have to admit to a certain bewilderment as to the name change - if anything, it rather detracts from the original - but hey, I'm nitpicking. Laughton is perfect as the charismatic genius who is experimenting to turn animals into human beings. Not for us here, is that typically maniacal lunatic-scientist style of characterisation; our protagonist here is cold, calculating and evil - but he also has a structured - if entirely flawed - scientific theory with a goal that aims to facilitate his return to London to prove those previously sceptical of his claims that he was right. Were it not for the arrival of "Edward Parker" (Richard Arlen) who had been unceremoniously dumped from a passing freighter; and whom he introduces to his most promising subject "The Panther Woman" he might well have succeeded. This external intervention, however, changes all the dynamics on the island and we head to the ultimate clash of personalities. Bela Lugosi features sparingly, and - to be honest - his part could have been played by any tall man in a beard (real, or otherwise) and Arthur Hohl as his rather too acquiescent sidekick "Montgomery" lacked any sort of screen presence. The lighting contributes hugely to the spookily haunting imagery; more than making up for the, well, make up! It's all about Laughton - his menacing, almost megalomanic performance is captivating.