In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
After his ship goes down, Edward Parker is rescued at sea. Parker gets into a fight with Captain Davies of the Apia and the Captain tosses him overboard while making a delivery to the tiny tropical island of Dr. Moreau. Parker discovers that Moreau has good reason to be so secretive on his lonely island. The doctor is a whip-cracking task master to a growing population of his own gruesome human/animal experiments. He does have one prize result, Lota the beautiful panther woman. Parker's fortunes for escape look up after his fiancée Ruth finds him with the help of fearless Captain Donohue. However, when Moreau's tribe of near-humans rises up to rebel, no one is safe...Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It begins where DR. JEKYLL & MR HYDE left off! A weird, fantastic adventure with a mad doctor who discovers how to turn animals into humans-but not how to control them! On a lonely tropical island he practices his black art! Changes wild beasts into creatures whose strangely human appearance and action hide raging animal passions! Something brand new in picture plots, with a specially selected cast, that will bring thrills to audiences and joy to exhibitors. Showmanship Plus! See more »
On the first ship, a man carries a large bucket of slop and accidentally spills some slop on Captain Davies. In the next shot, as Davies punches the man and knocks him down, the slop bucket is sitting on the deck behind him. See more »
It's a good story, based on one of Wells' best science fiction novels, but ISLAND OF LOST SOULS never has gotten the kudos that it's fellow science fiction and horror tales of the early 1930s got. For all it's flaws, Dracula (Bela Lugosi's version) remains a classic, and the Spanish/Mexican/American version has gotten an increased audience in the last thirty years. FRANKENSTEIN, restoring the cuts, is still powerful, and the sequels (THE BRIDE and THE SON) are also popular. THE INVISIBLE MAN, for all it's dated special effects, still packs a wallop, as does KING KONG. THE MUMMY, THE BLACK CAT - they have not lost their powers to hold interest. Neither has ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, but it seems to get more of a lambasting by critics than the others. Why? My guess is that the very strength of the film is what turns off the critics: Charles Laughton's performance as Dr. Moreau. I happen to find it a fascinating performance of a talented scientist who is driven to madness by his success in a situation where he cannot really reveal it. For Moreau's ability by physical operations (I almost said by grafting) on animals has led to his being ostracized and forced into exile by his peers in Europe, and he is stuck on this island ruling a kingdom of his half-human/half animal followers. His only companion is Montgomery, who turns on him in the movie and Parker and Ms Thomas are just two people who bungle onto the island by accident (as does the ill-fated sea captain). But in the novel, while there is no love interest like Ms Thomas, the state of the human companionship is not so good either.
Parker's literary version - Charles Predinck - is a shipwreck survivor too, who is horrified by Moreau's experiments (and almost made part of them). Montgomery is more willing to work with Moreau, but Montgomery is not a very admirable type - he's an alcoholic (which is how he ended up with Moreau), and his lack of common sense leads to his demise.
The novel was trying to make a statement about ego-maniacal dictators and their falls from power, which is clearly delineated in the film version. But the end of Moreau is not at the end of the novel. He is killed off by rebellious "subjects" earlier, and Montgomery, thinking they won't harm him, proceeds to drink too much and sets himself up for his own gruesome end. Predinck just manages to kill the most dangerous of the animals, and escapes at the end (as Parker and Ms Thomas do in the film with Montgomery).
Laughton was one of Hollywood's greatest actors. I can't think of that many character actors who had such a wide variety of successful performances. But Moreau, although in his setting he seems natural, is an over-the-top Laughton performance. I believe that is why the critics are so harsh on him. The threatening shouts about "the law" and "the house of pain" are repeated and repeated like the mantras they are. But the critics who hear this think of the Laughton who, a year earlier, had overacted as a mad and jealous submarine commander in THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP with Gary Cooper, Tallulah Bankhead, and a youngish Cary Grant. There are similarities, but that film had a pretty weak script (unlike THE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS). These critics tend to think of those films made by Laughton before his Oscar winner in THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII as overripe, and tedious - not the expert work of his later career. They fail to notice that he was learning his craft in movies, in these years, and his ranting in parts like Moreau or the submarine commander were necessary to learning the restraint that paints Henry VIII and Captain Bligh and Quasimodo. I find one might not think of the film as highly as the other contemporary films I mentioned earlier, but it is a worthy film nevertheless, and important in Laughton's growth as an actor.
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