For Reel

Island of Lost Souls (1932)
May 26, 2015, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Erle C. Kenton
5 Stars
Island of Lost SoulsIsland of Lost Souls was so shocking that it was banned in several countries at the time of its release. It could be called one of the first (and certainly among the most sophisticated) films about pain, and even in a culture largely desensitized to filmic violence it continues to disturb. Director Erle C. Kenton would never achieve these heights again, so one must credit much of the film’s success to the cinematography of the legendary Karl Struss. As with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (which he shot the previous year), Struss conceptualizes the horror as something three dimensional. The parade of disturbing man-beasts lurch towards the camera near the climax, just as Fredric March’s gruesome Hyde was often photographed head-on. Of all of the close-ups in Island of Lost Souls, perhaps none are more upsetting than those of Charles Laughton, who brilliantly conceives of Moreau as a manchild and a snob, shamelessly expressing glee when considering the potential of his vivisection practices. In a chilling touch, Laughton is often giggling and holding back smiles as if in a desperate struggle to hold back his proud laughter. That disconnect–between his unknowable private jokes and what he projects outwards–suggests that more than simply being an evil doctor, he’s an utter sociopath.