For Reel


Isle of the Dead (1945)
November 1, 2015, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mark Robson
4.5 Stars
Isle of the DeadDeath casts a heavy shadow over each of producer Val Lewton’s terror films, suggested in the appearances of supposedly supernatural beings (I Walked With a Zombie, Cat People) or the characters’ slow crawl into a darkness that will consume them (The Body Snatcher). None of the nine horror films that Lewton produced is quite as grim as Isle of the Dead, which reeks with the stench of the dead. If deaths in Lewton’s films are often quick and vicious, Isle of the Dead concerns characters who are slowly rotting away, both in a very literal sense and psychologically. As General Pherides, whose primary motive is to protect (which becomes perverted as the film goes on), Boris Karloff brilliantly descends into madness while maintaining a beautiful sense of tragedy. Ardel Wray’s screenplay concerns itself with conversations regarding faith–whether the suffering on the island is due to an ancient vampire-like being or by something with a messier, less clear answer. The General turns to superstitions, seduced by a native woman’s (Helen Thimig) reasoning, and is met with the deadly “resurrection” of the girl he buries. If Isle of the Dead is somewhat ponderous and shapeless in parts, it is Lewton’s most brutal, oppressively hopeless endeavor.

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