Monday, January 14, 2013

Island of Lost Souls ~ Thoughtful or Dangerous?

I don't usually blog about movies, but I saw one last weekend that I'd like to discuss. The movie was Island of Lost Souls, and it made a real impression on me. Island of Lost Souls came out in 1932 and was based off the H.G. Wells story The Island of Doctor Moreau. There have been several newer movies based off of that story, but I've never seen those. I also haven't read the original story. All I knew going into this movie was that there was an evil doctor who experimented on people to turn them into human-animal hybrids.

I tend to cut older movies a lot of slack. If I'm watching a B-movie from the 1950s or 60s, I'm probably going to enjoy laughing at the cheesy props and acting. If I saw the same thing in a modern movie, I'd criticize it! So, in going with that theme, I give movies from the 1920s or 30s even more slack! I didn't need to this time, though. The acting was really believable, the makeup was creepy by modern standards, and it was filmed really well. OK, Lota the Panther Woman was a little goofy to me, but that's about it!

It's not her fault, that role was just goofy. She did as well as I think anyone could have in the part, and she was probably a big selling point for the movie. An interesting piece of trivia is that the actress who played Lota was a dental hygienist when she was cast. Lota wasn't much of a panther, aside from her claws. The other human-animal hybrids on the island were a lot more obvious! Do you recognize this one?

Those are Bela Lugosi's recognizable eyes under all that fur!

The Doctor Moreau character was somewhat Hitler-esque. I'm not sure if that's what the filmmakers were going for, since Hitler wouldn't have been a big part of American pop culture in 1932. He wasn't even Chancellor until 1933. Maybe there's just an evil mustache coincidence going on!

Charles Laughton said he hated his role as Moreau, and I can see why! The mustache wasn't the only thing his character had in common with Hitler. This Doctor Moreau was completely heartless. Funny enough, Laughton based his Moreau characterization on his dentist! (If you're basing an evil, sadistic role on your dentist, I think it's time to find a new dentist.) I heard that H.G. Wells was not at all a fan of this movie, because the Doctor Moreau in his story had been more of an obsessed scientist than a sadist. He also didn't like the horror aspect of the movie.

As I wrote earlier, the plot is basically about the evil Doctor Moreau, his "experiments", and the unfortunate people who discover what's happening on that island. I'm not going to get further into describing the movie's plot, because I don't want to give much away. Island of Lost Souls is worth watching, so I won't spoil it for you. Instead, I wanted to write more about how the movie was received when it came out.

In some places, this movie was not at all well received. In fact it was banned in Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, India, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Tasmania, and some Midwestern states in the United States. The thought was that this movie showed too many unnatural alterations to nature. That and some people didn't like that Moreau talked about feeling like God. I suspect the censors feared that some crazed, experimental person might actually try some of what's in this movie. That's amazing to think about today, with what we see in modern movies. This once banned movie is now rated only PG on the uncut DVD!

I watched Island of Lost Souls on the Svengoolie show. (Thanks for the head's up Bob!) If you're not familiar with Svengoolie, he's a horror movie host who presents some funny material spliced between scenes of movies. Here's Sven's intro to Island of Lost Souls:

It turns out that the Blondie song "Island of Lost Souls" got its name from this movie! The video is creepy in its own way, but doesn't have much to do with its movie namesake. Debbie Harry is having fun partly as a Druid (I think) and partly as a Calypso dancer. The creepy part comes in with those masked band members.

I always loved that Blondie song. I'll keep loving it, but I'll probably think of it in a different way now.

If you would like to see Island of Lost Souls in its entirety, here it is:

Those who have seen the movie might be interested in this page of trivia: IMDb Island of Lost Souls trivia 

This is fascinating too: 10 Things I learned: Island of Lost Souls

So, I'm curious to know what you think about something. Do you think Island of Lost Souls should have been banned? I mean, if a controversial movie might give troubled people ideas about how to cause damage, should the information not be shared? Or is banning any dangerous plot line just stifling people's creativity? I was shocked at the banning of Island of Lost Souls, but then this movie did come out 80 years ago. A lot has changed in that time!


  1. I, likewise, have never read the book or seen any of the film adaptations of this story.

    I'm an admirer of Charles Laughton's career though. Especially of his single directorial effort, "Night of the Hunter" which is a very effective horror story in it's own right.

  2. I personally find it hilarious that the authorities from 80 years ago thought there was danger of mad scientists getting inspiration from Island of Lost Souls and actually tring to create anmimal-human hybrids! Unless they were more afraid of some Human Centiped 2 kinda situation.

    As for the movie itself, I've only vaguely heard of it before now, and i'll definitely give it a watch soon!

  3. This one was a re-run on TV when I was a kid, if I'm not mistaken their chant was, "are we not men" It's interesting to examine these old movies and discover that they really weren't different than post 1970 movies - in regards to murdering and things.

  4. Mantan ~ I hadn't heard of "Night of the Hunter" before now. I just looked it up and how's this for a dramatic plot?

    "A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery."

    Family dysfunction, anyone? ;)

    That movie sounds like it could definitely go in a horror direction! I wonder why Laughton stopped directing after this movie?

    Chris ~ Yeah, it's pretty astounding by today's standards. The world of 80 years ago might as well have been a different planet in some ways. Just think of all the things that were censored back then, that we talk about in everyday life now.

    There was a second "Human Centipede" movie? I just googled it to see if there are even more, and it looks like there's a third one in the works! I'm steering clear of those, because the little bits I've seen make me say "Eww". I strangely found out about that movie from seeing a cat toy someone made in the shape of a human centipede!

    Island of Lost Souls is worth a watch! Let me know what you think once you've had a chance to see it.

    Matt ~ Good memory! That's just what the chant was. There was something spooky about these creatures standing in a large group and repeating "The Law" en masse. There's been murdering and violence in movies throughout the years, but it did seem to be handled differently. A lot is implied in Island of Lost Souls, but it's up to your imagination to see it. I was thankful at one point that we weren't shown what was being described!

  5. I love the old thrillers. Old black and whites like the original Wolfman with Lon Chaney and The Mummy with Bela Lugosi. I haven't seen this one. Must investigate Netflix!

    Ali@Rosewood Autumn

  6. Ali ~ Nice new sunflower userpic! Oh, I love all the old black and white thrillers too! Those types of movies may be my favorite. I love watching the classic horror actors too. I think black and white films lend themselves to more suspense and drama. Modern movies just don't have the same intense shadows. Yeah, head over to Netflix and find Island of Lost Souls! Or you can just watch it on YouTube for free. :)

  7. I love old black and white films, especially the music scores that go along with them! They were so creative with what they had to work with back then! I'm definitely going to bookmark this page so I can watch it some time soon as it looks completely bonkers! ~♥~

  8. Bella Morte ~ Yeah, I bet we're both thinking of the old Hitchcock movie scores right now! I agree about the creativity behind a lot of older movies. I think having less to work with actually made them better than modern movies in some ways. There weren't so many special effects and technology to work with, so filmmakers had to rely on quality acting and makeup artists. Sometimes more can be done with less!

    I probably showed the more bonkers side of this movie. This post could have been taken in a more disturbing direction. I think you should definitely watch Island of Lost Souls and then let me know what you think of it!

  9. I've never seen any movies based on 'The Island of Doctor Moreau', although I've seen stories that have used the same premise. There's even an episode in the Batman Animated Series with an island of animal/human hybrids. From memory, Catwoman is abducted and turned into an actual big cat.

    I find the censorship interesting. I was reading up on it and apparently it was banned in the UK because of animal vivisection scenes and there were strict laws about animal cruelty in films. The whole idea of man acting as God seems to be a wider spread reason for banning the movie. The concept of what science is capable of, versus what is ethical, is still just as contentious today, I think, only the line keeps shifting.

  10. PS. I forgot to mention how amazing it is that Bela's eyes are still so recognizable under that furry face! :)

  11. Little Gothic Horrors ~ I might remember that episode! Did that plot happen on "The Batman" animated show of the 90's? I used to like watching that. There was a really unique style to the characters and settings.

    Yeah, some people have said that about the vivisections. I found that weird, because we never actually saw any vivisections! Those are just described or implied. I may have seen the cut version of the movie with some scenes left out. If I was watching the uncut version, I have no idea what the problem was! Believe me, no animals were harmed in the making of this movie. I think I may have seen a tiger in a cage in the beginning, but that's the only animal I even remember!

    The issue censors had with man acting as God seems so weird to me. This was hardly the first story like that! How about Frankenstein? Still, I can imagine some people still getting their undies in a bundle over a fictional character saying he felt like God.

    You can't help thinking about controversial modern issues in science, like cloning. Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should do it. That's my opinion anyway. I feel like if an experiment doesn't help society in any way, and maybe even hurts it, why do it? Just to prove that you were smart enough to, or say you were the first to try something?

    Bela's eyes are amazing! I'm not sure how many people's eyes could be recognized under all that fur.

    Insomniac's Attic ~ Yeah! Those eyes are like a character in themselves. :)

  12. The show in the '90s (1992 - 1995) was 'Batman - The Animated Series' and the episode was called 'Tyger, Tyger'. This is the description on Wikipedia:

    "Selina Kyle is kidnapped by the villainous genetic engineer Dr. Emile Dorian and becomes his latest experiment to provide his man-cat hybrid named Tygrus with a mate. Batman learns of this and comes to the island to rescue Selina. He is captured and forced into a deadly game of cat-and-flying mouse as Tygrus hunts Batman through the island's jungles."

    There was an animated series called 'The Batman' as well, but it was later (2004 - 2008). Both shows had great animation. 'Batman - The Animated Series' was really influenced by Tim Burton's Batman movies with a similar style and score. And just as a bit of trivia, apparently Edward Gorey was a big fan, which is cool! I live in a Batman obsessed household, in case you're wondering why I'm providing way too much info on this topic. Haha. We've got all these series (and more) on DVD.

    I'm glad you mentioned 'Frankenstein' because that's what I kept thinking when I was reading about all the controversy over 'Island of Lost Souls. 'Frankenstein' is the ultimate tale of a scientist playing God.

    As far as the UK ban was concerned, I'm sure I read somewhere that it was eventually released after some scenes were edited. I'm really intrigued by the whole topic now. I'll have to watch the film, although I guess it's hard to know whether we're seeing an original, uncut movie or not. :)

  13. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Oooooh, I watched that too! I guess all the animated Batman shows I watched blended together in my mind. I knew which drawing style went with each, but I remembered "The Batman" in the wrong decade.

    "A deadly game of cat-and-flying mouse" eh? That's clever. :) I'll have to see if I can find that episode on YouTube. It sounds somewhat inspired by the movie I just watched. There's a bunch of twisted mate finding in that too.

    Yeah, now that I know which Batman series was which, I remember how dark "Batman - The Animated Series" was. I mean, in style and the way Gotham City was. There were lots of large, looming buildings and sharp angles as I recall.

    I did wonder a bit why you were so up on Batman trivia! I'm pretty much of a fan, but you guys have me beat 3-1. ;) I didn't know about Edward Gorey being a fan, but that makes sense. He did have good taste in TV after all. By which I mean, he had the same taste in TV as I do. :)

    I have no idea if I watched a cut or uncut version of the movie. Maybe I can find a list of what was cut out and judge from that. I think you'd find the movie interesting, so I hope you have time to watch it soon!

  14. Have you seen a still of the "pig-man" make up...??
    That character was considered "too horrifying" for movie audiences

  15. Dr. Theda ~ Yeah, I remember a pig-like creature in the movie. That was one of the more disturbing ones, although I'm not sure why. Maybe because he seemed more real to me. They did an outstanding job on that makeup considering when this was made!