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Island of Lost Souls(1932)
A shipwrecked sailor finds himself trapped on a remote island in the South Seas. While there, he discovers the island is home to a mad doctor who performs strange genetic experiments.
For more about Island of Lost Souls and the Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray release, see the Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray Review
Starring: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke, Arthur Hohl
Director: Erle C. Kenton
» See full cast & crew
Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 20, 2011
Erle C. Kenton's "Island of Lost Souls" (1932) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; conversation with director John Landis, award winning makeup artist Rick Baker, and horror film aficionado Bob Burns; video interview with historian and documentary filmmaker David J. Skal; video interview with writer and filmmaker Richard Stanley; interviews with Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, founding members of the band Devo; gallery of stills; audio commentary by writer and film historian Gregory Mank; and more. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring Christine Smallwood's essay "The Beast Flesh Creeping Back". In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
A ship sinks in the middle of the ocean. The only survivor, Edward Parker (Richard Arlen), is picked up by Captain Davies (Stanley Fields) and his men, who are transporting various wild animals to an unnamed small tropical island. Before they reach the island, Parker and Captain Davies get into a serious argument. As a result Parker quickly ends up with the cargo on the island, not in the hands of his beloved fiancée Ruth (Leila Hyams), who has already been informed that he has been saved and is on his way back to her.
The island is run by Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) and his assistant Montgomery (Arthur Hohl). The former is a mad scientist performing strange experiments on men and animals. The latter is a quiet man who never questions Dr. Moreau. The two rarely talk about anything else but the experiments.
Parker quickly discovers that Dr. Moreau and Montgomery are not the only living creatures on the island. He meets the beast-men, strange creatures that fear Dr. Moreau, and the Panther Woman named Lota (Kathleen Burke).
Dr. Moreau welcomes Parker in his mansion and encourages him to spend time with Lota. While enjoying her company, Parker accidentally discovers the House of Pain, Dr. Moreau's secret laboratory, and learns why the beast-men fear him. Outraged and disgusted, he immediately confronts Dr. Moreau, who warns him that if he does not behave there is a good chance he may never see his fiancée again.
Meanwhile, Ruth learns that Parker has been abandoned on Dr. Moreau's island. Assisted by Captain Donahue (Paul Hurst), she immediately boards a ship bound for the island, and a couple of days later enters Dr. Moreau's mansion. But before they could leave together an accident happens and all hell breaks loose.
Erle C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls is undoubtedly the creepiest, most atmospheric and certainly most intelligent adaptation of H. G. Wells' classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. Heavily censored in the U.S. and banned in the UK until 1958, the film offers some shockingly serious observations about human progress, science and morality, and man's fascination with absolute power.
Laughton's character is a man who plays God. He is a mad scientist who believes that he has absolute power and the right to use it in any way he deems appropriate. His island is a mini-universe controlled by his laws and populated with his creatures, clueless beast-men who strive to be human without truly knowing what it means to be human. As the title of the film suggests, they are essentially lost souls.
Laughton is simply outstanding as the overconfident and manipulative Dr. Moreau. Occasionally he looks like Clark Gable's proud plantation owner Hamish Bond from Raoul Walsh's Band of Angels, but the two characters could not be any more different.
Arlen and Burke are also convincing. The latter looks incredibly seductive once she befriends Arlen's character. The legendary Bela Lugosi also delivers a memorable performance as the Sayer of the Law, though he is practically unrecognizable with the heavy makeup.
The film was lensed by legendary Oscar-winning cinematographer Karl Struss, who worked on such classic films as F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927), Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), and Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940) and Limelight (1952).
Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Erle C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Because the original negative no longer survives, this new digital transfer was created from a number of sources, including 35mm fine-grain master positive with some inherent damage; the UCLA Film & Television Archive's 35mm nitrate positive, which also had defects but contained lines of dialogue not heard since they were censored upon the film's theatrical release; and a private collector's 16mm screening print, used to help repair scenes with missing frames and scratches. These elements were scanned in 2K and HD resolution on a Spirit Datacine and a SCANNITY film scanner, and then combined to create the most complete version of the film ever to appear on home video. Finally, thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Scanning supervision: Lee Kline, Maria Palazola.
Telecine colorist: Lee Kline.
Master assembly editor: Ian D. Whelan.
2K/HD scanning: Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles; Cinelicious, Hollywood; Prime Focus, New York. "
Despite the fact that this new high-definition transfer was created from various sources, it actually has a fairly balanced look, and many of the close-ups in the film look rather impressive (see screencapture #7). The image does not appear flat or dull, and a light layer of grain is always present throughout the entire film. Now, the grain often shifts and pulsates, and contrast levels are not always stable, but overall the image has a consistently pleasing organic look, which truly is what matters the most, considering the amount of work that was invested into the restoration project. In other words, a lot could have gone wrong, but the final result is indeed satisfying.
With a few minor exceptions, such as the sequence where Edward and Lota are captured by the islanders but quickly rescued by Dr. Moreau, clarity is rather pleasing (even during the very dark nighttime sequences it is not too difficult to see what takes place on the screen). Also, there are no traces of secondary sharpening. Aside from a few inherited transition issues, there are no serious stability issues either. Lastly, the film has been thoroughly cleaned up, but some minor scratches and small lines still pop up here and there. All in all, this is a strong and very convincing presentation of a film that is unlikely to ever look better on home video. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the collector's 16mm print and section of the 35mm nitrate print, the best sources available. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The LPCM 1.0 track is pleasing. There is some mild hiss that occasionally enters the dialog, but it is never overwhelming. Additionally, dynamic levels have been stabilized and optimized. As a result, the audio actually has a relatively good depth and fluidity. With a few minor exceptions, the dialog is crisp, stable, and easy to follow.
Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The folks at Criterion have once again put together a tremendous package for a truly inspirational classic horror film - Erle C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls. Not only does the film look the best it ever has, but there are some outstanding supplemental features on the disc as well. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Island of Lost Souls Blu-ray - December 15, 2011
Independent British distributors Eureka Entertainment have revealed that they will release a Dual Format Edition of Erle C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls (1932). The film was previously set to appear only on DVD. The preliminary street date set by the distributors ...
• Criterion's October Blu-ray Line-Up: Korda, Shindo, Antonioni, Ke... - July 15, 2011
Criterion has announced a new batch of titles that will debut in October. They include Kaneto Shindo's Kuroneko, Zoltán Korda's The Four Feathers, Michelangelo Antonioni's Identification of a Woman and Erie C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls. Past titles getting ...
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