Based on H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau (1896), The Island of Lost Souls opens with shipwrecked Edward Parker (Arlen) being rescued by a floating zoo. After an altercation with the captain he is unceremoniously tossed off the ship to a remote island owned and operated by mad scientist Dr. Moreau (Laughton) where Parker runs into several scary humanoid creatures. This being the 1930s though, everyone is very polite about the whole thing and he is invited to stay the night in Moreau’s house.
The creatures in the jungle are the experiments of the good doctor, who we learn was driven from London when one of his experiments escaped. They are mutated and surgically altered animals kept at bay through “religious” doctrine, enforced by “The Sayer of the Law” (Lugosi). Moreau then decides to introduce his only female creation, the Panther Woman Lota (Burke – credited only as “the Panther Woman”), to Parker and see if she’ll seduce him. Because that what fathers do with their daughters.
Like Frankenstein, Moreau has a pesky little God complex which will (of course) be his undoing, and like his German counterpart, he will learn that if you create life and mistreat your creation, you gonna get fucked. Meanwhile, the audience are treated to such simple philosophical questions as “what makes a soul?” and “what makes humanity?”
This film is awesome – easily the best adaptation we have seen of Wells’ novel (which we haven’t read, but we’ve seen three film versions, so we like to pretend we have). It’s beautifully shot and has some great performances. The only thing missing is a song- and dance-number but, fortunately for us, The Mighty Boosh took care of that. Enjoy!
What we learned: Oh so much! Ships make people slaphappy; Bela Lugosi is awesome even in small roles; don’t play God and mess with nature unless you want to be killed horribly; watching Freaks and The Island of Lost Souls back to back before bedtime will give you weird dreams.
We’re back in our element with this classic horror film based on the same source material as Nosferatu, and Bela Lugosi is bringing sexy back to the vampire! I mean, not to the same extent as Gary Oldman, because that’s impossible, but still. This Count Dracula is classy and stylish, and the sexual aspect of feeding on the young women is much more apparent in this version (partly because this one includes Dracula’s wives, roaming the castle in their nighties). The castle itself is a derelict yet awesome building where the pangolins run free. If it hadn’t been for the spiders we’d move in on the spot!
The story is much the same as in Nosferatu, but with a few changes. Jonathan Harker never visits Transylvania; instead, the first scene is with Renfield who undertakes the journey and is warned by superstitious locals about the Count and his wives. He is quickly enslaved and accompanies his new master on the voyage to England where he is promptly placed in a lunatic asylum run by Mina’s father.
Professor Van Helsing plays a more important role in this than in Murnau’s 1922 version. In fact, the scenes with Dracula and Van Helsing are easily the best ones in the film as their chemistry is brilliant. Mina is still the object of the Count’s desire though, and it’s his lust for her which is finally his undoing.
This is an iconic film that everyone should watch at least once in their lives. There are some great performances and the way Dracula’s eyes are lit throughout is very cool. For die hard fans (not fans of Die Hard (1988), but die hard fans of Dracula) we can also recommend travelling to Sighișoara in Romania which is the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, the real life inspiration for the character. And have we recommended Coppola’s 1992 version of Dracula..? ‘Cause Gary Oldman, people!
Things we learned: never trust nobility. Especially if they have no reflection.