Starring: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlem, Leila Hyams
Director: Erle C. Kenton
Running Time: 71 mins
Island Of Lost Souls is an American film about a man fallen overboard who ends up on an isolated island, where a mad scientist is conducting disturbing experiments that bring animals and humans closer together.
While it may be nearly 90 years old, it’s remarkable just how modern Island Of Lost Souls is, particularly for the infamous ‘Pre-Code’ era of Hollywood cinema. Though not exactly terrifying by 21st century standard, this is still a really unsettling watch, complete with bold horror and disturbing themes that certainly wouldn’t have made it past the censors just a few years later.
It’s not just the dark sensibilities of Island Of Lost Souls which makes the film seem so modern, but also the way that the film is made. It may only run for just over an hour, but it moves at quite a pace, with energetic, dynamic dialogue and brilliantly choreographed action scenes that make it a thoroughly captivating watch.
The superficial terror that comes from watching a man stranded on an island while a mad scientist primes him for an evil experiment is great throughout, but Island Of Lost Souls also counts on some fantastically unsettling emotional and thematic depth to keep you glued to the screen.
The special effects that bring Dr. Moreau’s horrifying animal-human hybrids to life really aren’t that bad for their time, but there’s an ominous sense of melancholy that lingers over the whole film, adding to the deeply disturbing nature of what you’re seeing unfold before you.
Couple that with the fact that, while you know what’s going on for most of the story, Island Of Lost Souls never shows the worst of the worst to you in graphic detail until late on, allowing your mind to haunt you with images and thoughts that are far more disturbing than any early 1930s special effects could conjure up.
Overall, I was really impressed by Island Of Lost Souls. It may have lost its punch a little in the 21st century, but when looked at against other films of its era, it’s remarkable just how modern and dynamic this movie is. Complete with strong visual effects work, an ominous atmosphere and excellent writing throughout, it’s a captivating watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4 overall.