Film Review: Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Also known as: The Island of Dr. Moreau (working title), H.G. Wells’ Island of Lost Souls (poster title)
Release Date: December 26th, 1932 (Scranton, PA)
Directed by: Erle C. Kenton
Written by: Philip Wylie, Waldemar Young
Based on: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells
Music by: Arthur Johnston, Sigmund Krumgold
Cast: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke

Paramount Pictures, 70 Minutes

Review:

“Have you forgotten the house of pain?” – Dr. Moreau, “You! You made us in the house of pain! You made us… things! Not men! Not beasts! Part man… part beast! Things!” – Sayer of the Law

For several years now, the name “Dr. Moreau” has been immediately associated with the 1996 film The Island of Dr. Moreau, which was plagued with incredible production issues that were so legendary that there’s a feature length documentary about it (I reviewed it here).

However, that 1996 movie wasn’t the first Dr. Moreau film and in fact, the first sound era adaptation was this film, which was released way back in 1932 and featured the talents of Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi, who had just come off of Dracula.

For the most part, this was a decent adaptation of the ideas, concepts and general story of the original 1896 novel by H. G. Wells. Sure, there are certainly some differences and the movie is also limited by what was possible in 1932.

However, in spite of those limitations, this movie makes the best with what it is able to do and honestly, this was a hell of an achievement for its era. The special effects, especially in regards to makeup and the creatures, was top notch stuff. Being that this was the first time that I had seen this film, I found most of it to be visually impressive and really cool.

Now the acting was a mixed bag but Laughton gave a solid performance as Dr. Moreau and Lugosi was as enjoyable, as always. Lugosi just makes a great monster and in this, he was much better than what any other actor probably could’ve done, except for maybe Boris Karloff.

Additionally, Kathleen Burke was really impressive as Lota, the Panther Woman. I liked her look, she was incredibly expressive like she was playing in a silent picture and she really made a hell of an impact alongside talents like Laughton and Lugosi.

I was also impressed by the sets from the compound, the lab and the island itself, which was haunting, lush and tropical.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from this in the quality department, as I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid. I’m glad to say that I was really satisfied with it, overall, and wish it was as revered as some of the more famous horror pictures of its time.

Rating: 7.25/10