Shipwrecked and adrift, Edward Parker finds himself a guest on Dr. Moreau's isolated South Seas island, but quickly discovers the horrifying nature of the doctor's work and the origin of the strange forms inhabiting the isle: a colony of wild animals reworked into humanoid form via sadistic surgical experiments. Furthermore, Parker quickly begins to fear his own part in the doctor's plans to take the unholy enterprise to a next level.
"Are we not men?"
- Island of Lost Souls review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 5
Well, let's see now. This is a fairly low-budget horror film over 80 years old, so you can safely assume that any sex and violence is pretty much non-existent, and the reason it was banned for decades in the UK had more to do with our draconian censorship laws than anything truly offensive about the film. You can also take it as read that the special effects are very crude indeed. H. G. Wells, the author of "The Island Of Dr. Moreau", on which it was closely based, publicly disowned it. And both modern remakes, bizarrely starring Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando respectively, were unmitigated disasters. So this film has to be terrible, right?
Actually, it's an incredibly atmospheric minor masterpiece. Bela Lugosi has a very small part but he was seldom better, and fans of Devo will enjoy seeing where that "Are we not men?" quote came from. The hero is, inevitably for this era, blandly forgettable, but Charles Laughton is simply fantastic as a mad scientist who for once doesn't overact but is still very mad indeed, in the rôle you'd think Bela would have gotten. And he really sells a horribly crazy character who has no idea there's anything wrong with doing ghastly, pointless things to helpless animals just because he can. He's the best kind of movie villain - you utterly detest him because any sane person would, but you're still fascinated by him. And what ultimately happens to him - the scene that got the film banned in the UK - is implied rather than shown, but it still packs a real punch.
Just about the only thing wrong with it is that they didn't go with the mind-bendingly surreal makeup designs still photos of which are included in the DVD extras. Oh, and this being 1932, Lota the Panther Woman's rampant animal sexuality, supposedly a crucial plot-point, has to be so downplayed that she might as well be a slightly troubled nun. But overall, as vintage horror classics go, it's up there with "The Bride Of Frankenstein", and far better than the Lugosi version of "Dracula". As a bonus, real movie buffs can have fun spotting obscure young actors who weren't famous yet slumming it as Beast Men - Randolph Scott is easy to identify, but good luck finding Alan Ladd!
Oh, by the way, the photo at the top of this page is of Frederick March in the 1931 version of "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde", and has no connection whatsoever with this film.