Friday, October 28, 2011

Horror Fest 6 Day One: The Island of Lost Souls

 I offered two choices for the first film of Horror Fest 6: a classy Criterion Collection release of The Island of Lost Souls from earlier this week, or the 35th Anniversary Edition of Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, another film in my continuing search for all Blaxploitation Horror films. Not surprisingly, the classy choice won out (although the blaxploitation played next), and we watched the long out-of-circulation Pre-Code Paramount answer to Universal Horror, Island of Lost Souls.

 To be honest, I'm not too certain what I want to say about the film. I can understand why it would disappear for so long (and had, to this point, not been released on DVD) as many Pre-Hayes Code films had - it takes the "playing God" references further than Frankenstein did* and the material would be considered fairly salacious (trying to seduce a man using a half woman / half panther or the ambiguity of "The Law" and the House of Pain) at the time anyway. The film is an interesting relic of another time - it's as close as a Hollywood adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau was going to get for the 1930s, and while its pace fluctuates over 70 minutes, I was never bored. It dragged sometimes and relied heavily on punching to solve problems, but it does come out of the same era that King Kong did, which also relied on machismo to move past stubborn plot hangups.

 Charles Laughton is arguably the most eccentric I've ever seen him (which has to be saying something) as Dr. Moreau (pronounced in the film as "Murrow"), while Bela Lugosi is actually barely in the film as "The Man Who States the Law." His presence is amusing though, because when he recites the law, the rest of the creatures on the island do a sort of mumbled echo of his accent, so it sounds less like repeating him and more like a "mrrmrrrm mrmrmrm mrrrm" every single time Lugosi says anything.

 It was certainly nice to finally see the film (I've only seen parts of it to this point) and it set an appropriately bizarre tone for night one.

 Up Next: Dr. Black and Mr.Hyde

* And for many years, the line "I know what it feels like to be God" had been cut out of Frankenstein altogether.

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