586 Island of Lost Souls

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Jeff
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586 Island of Lost Souls

#1 Post by Jeff » Mon Apr 25, 2005 11:37 am

Island of Lost Souls

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A twisted treasure from Hollywood’s pre-Code horror heyday, Island of Lost Souls is a cautionary tale of science run amok adapted from H. G. Wells’s novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. In one of his first major movie roles, Charles Laughton is a mad doctor conducting ghastly genetic experiments on a remote island in the South Seas, much to the fear and disgust of the shipwrecked sailor (Richard Arlen) who finds himself trapped there. Erle C. Kenton’s touchstone of movie terror is elegantly shot by Karl Struss, features groundbreaking makeup effects that inspired generations of monster-movie artists, and costars Bela Lugosi in one his most gruesome roles.

- New high-definition digital restoration of the uncut theatrical version (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Audio commentary by film historian Gregory Mank, author of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and Hollywood’s Maddest Doctors
- New conversation between filmmaker John Landis, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker, and genre expert Bob Burns
- New interviews with horror film historian David J. Skal; filmmaker Richard Stanley, the original director of the ill-fated 1996 adaptation; and Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh of the band Devo
- The Beginning Was the End: The Complete Truth About De-evolution, a short 1976 film by Devo, featuring the songs “Secret Agent Man” and “Jocko Homo”
- Stills gallery
- Theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Christine Smallwood

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dvdane
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#2 Post by dvdane » Mon Apr 25, 2005 12:09 pm

It is quiet an interesting horrorfilm, but very aged and very not Wells. As I recall, Wells was furious about the adaption and it was because of it, that he insisted on and recieved approval rights for the script of "The Invisible Man".

I wouldn't recommend to cash out over $50 for the laserdisc, unless you are a hard-core thirties horror fan and must have any film made during this period.

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david hare
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#3 Post by david hare » Mon Apr 25, 2005 7:14 pm

If you are at all interested in Universal horror or pre-code Hollywood this movie is a must have. The Laserdisc was a gatefold which included Robert Florey's MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE.
As to ISLAND, although director Erle C Kenton is hardly a name to wrestle with, the movie is extremely effective and frightening in a way neither of the sequels are. (They're both dreadful in fact.) Laughton is terrific, the atmmospherics are terrific, Bela Lugosi is extremely moving as the "Sayer of the Law", and amongst the largely uncredited extras lurk Buster Crabbe and Alan Ladd!

I really don't care that H.G. Wells didn't like the movie - if anything that's a recommendation!

(If you are particularly interested PM me.)

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alandau
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#4 Post by alandau » Wed Apr 27, 2005 5:09 am

well said flixyflox. However, you forgot to mention the excellent cinematography by Karl Struss, which gives this precode horror a touch of that Paramount glow.

I had the MCA video, and sold it on ebay, thinking a DVD would be released. I am still waiting, even though I do not expect much from Universal.

Finally, there is a gay sado-masochistic subtext that permeates the whole film. I for one, do not think this classic has aged.

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david hare
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#5 Post by david hare » Wed Apr 27, 2005 5:47 am

Neither do I Mate!! And I should add nothing old is necessarily boring (including nous-meme!) I agree Laughton swiitches in this from demented ephebophile faggot in SIGN OF THE CROSS (expert Paramount decor and casting courtesy Mitch Leisen and de Mille) to a particularly lurid S/M number...
In contrast the Florey is relatively dull!

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alandau
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#6 Post by alandau » Wed Apr 27, 2005 10:48 am

I just love Laughton playing the vicious queen. I always wonder how poor Elsa could take it all. In Island of Lost souls he has a ball. And I guess he, Leisen and Claudette, would of had a great time in The Sign of the Cross.

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david hare
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#7 Post by david hare » Thu Apr 28, 2005 5:03 am

It occurs to me Laughton left a legacy of crazed perversity here which is picked up a few years later by the incomparable Albert Dekker, first at Paramount in Dr CYCLOPS (another fruitcake Sado character) which derives heavily from ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, through STuart Heisler's AMONG THE LIVING, ending up as the mad Doctor in KISS ME DEADLY.
Laughton also leaves a template for Australia's gift to the 60s biblical spectacle, Frank Thring who also specialized in vicious nellie queen (but not as well as Laughton.)

Have just been playing these titles back to back with BIG RED ONE extras! (The latter are wonderful - endorse everything Devlinn has said..)

It's always been a real shame about Paramount's lousy preservation record (they were the motherfuckers who dumped the Technicolor reels of It's All True into the Pacific in the late 70s, as legend goes. I believe it1!) The print of the Florey (a Universal title) is excellent, if a bit battered and would make a perfectly fine addition to the Universal Horror repertoire.

Alas the same can't be said for the print of ISLAND OF LOST SOULS - this was one of the most depressing evenings of my endless disc re-visiting. The print is terrible - dupey, weak etc. My old LD copy is no better than a pretty average VHS from the 80s. (Fortunately many of the Leisens, deMilles, Sternbergs, Lubitshcs etc are still in good shape.)
There is an untold story lurking here (like an extra in SOULS) about the totally shit archival practices of Paramount. As an example BIG CLOCK print in the otherwise superb Universal box is totally weak, compared to CRISS CROSS, for example. Guys! Gals! Don't hang out for a decent DVD of ISLAND soon!!

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alandau
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#8 Post by alandau » Thu Apr 28, 2005 6:10 pm

flixyflox. I thought the VHS release from the early 90's was quite good. It lacked sharpness, however, the close-ups looked great. One could appreciate, Struss's soft focus photography.

I also saw this film at the cinematheque in Melbourne in the late 90's. The print was good too, so I do not know where Universal sourced the laserdisc transfer.

I agree with you, and doubt this will ever be released on DVD, or that it will ever be restored. The only salvation for this movie is if Criterion (or Kino) release it.

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david hare
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#9 Post by david hare » Fri Apr 29, 2005 4:20 am

Alandau - how this has become a two way conversation (But who cares as long as people read it....)

We should probably get this thread linked up to "Paramount in the Thirties", if indeed we think it will have any effect. I mean, even getting a slow trickle of any Paramount "classic" titles has been like extracting teeth. Universal APPEARS to have decent masters of their own titles and they have inherited the burden of the decidedly mixed (in terms of Pic quality) Paramount library. Which will obviously cost a fortune to fix up, if ever.

When I think Paramount -which is as seminal to Hollywood to me as Warner - I just think "no effort", "who cares" etc.....

Here's another example. Look again at the shithouse Paramount transfers of 50s Vistavision movies like FUNNY FACE or WHITE XMAS - they look dreadful - infused gray, totally lazy transfers and godnkowswhere the master print might be, etc. Not even to mention the appalling condition of the fifties Hitchcocks. Even their supposedly Technicolor master of DemIlle's "GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH looks edge enhanced and contrast boosted, and color balance is all wrong (too much brown and blue.)

Extremely depressed Flixy

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Cinephrenic
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#10 Post by Cinephrenic » Fri Sep 08, 2006 3:52 pm

Does any know if of Paramount's plans to bring this out on DVD anytime soon?

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Ashirg
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#11 Post by Ashirg » Fri Sep 08, 2006 6:40 pm

It's owned by Universal, so Paramount's plans don't matter.

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tryavna
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#12 Post by tryavna » Fri Sep 08, 2006 6:41 pm

Paramount no longer owns it. It's the property of Universal -- along with all the other pre-1948 Paramount titles. I assume we'll see an eventual Universal release. Maybe next Halloween?

EDIT: We were thinking the same thing at the same time, apparently.

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#13 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:55 am

My lament for this film is scattered around on this site. One of the most genuinely haunting horror films from any era, and certainly going to find a spot on my 30's list.

Yes it's owned by Universal, like all all the Paramounts up to the latter part of the 40's. I have the old MCA Universal VHS which is gorgeous-- the film is in excellent condition and well cared for. It just blows my mind that this hasn't found it's way out on DVD via some kind of horror collection... they could even sneak it onto a Bela Lugosi collection ("Are We Not Men?").

The use of the mentally & physically handicapped, war-disfigured, plus Laughton's chilling performance as Moreau (you want an illustration of versatility, watch two of his films from the same year: the goodly, guffawing, gregarious Sir William Porterhouse in OLD DARK HOUSE-- another shoe-in for my 30's list-- contrasted against his portrayal of the low-keyed, yet dominant & sinister Moreau... the USA's Emil Jannings of the era)... ah all this stuff, along with the gloomy, overgrown, superexotic sets, Erle Kenton's tight direction, and the great Karl Struss (SUNRISE, SIGN OF THE CROSS, THE GREAT DICTATOR, DR JEKYLL & MR HYDE Mamoulian version, plus silent greats SPARROWS & the stunning silent BEN HUR, among many others) make this a total masterpiece of classic 30's gothic horror.

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#14 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:35 pm

I have it on laser, and it's one of the greatest horror films ever made -- right up there with Franju's Les yeux sans visage

Karl Freud's cinematography is amazing, and Laughton's performance beyond outrageous.

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#15 Post by Cinephrenic » Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:56 pm

Karl Freud's cinematography is amazing
Little correction: Karl Struss. I think you confused him with the director.

Well, i'm glad it's Universal than Paramount. They're lashing out with great sets soon (Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Complete Movie Collection (9/19), Boris Karloff Collection (9/19). Perhaps a release will follow soon. It would be wonderful if they had Criterion doing this.

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#16 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Sep 10, 2006 12:55 am

Cinephrenic wrote:
Karl Freud's cinematography is amazing
Little correction: Karl Struss. I think you confused him with the director.
Which was Erle Kenton. And I think he confused Papa Freund with Grampa Sigmund.

But Dave is right on the money with this film. It is so much more than even your typical excellent 30's A-list horror film (distinguishing from some of the second string programmers that Kenton directed for Universal slightly later in his career, some of the Frankenstein & Dracula monster mashups.. i e the two HOUSE OF..'s each of which is a hoot by the way, and very elegantly shot & directed considering the silliness of the material). In terms of giving one the genuine creeps, it exceeds the work of Whale & Browning... both of whom of course infused a sense of comedic grotesquerie which this film does not go lightly over. It's a genuinely eerie film, one which disturbed viewers upon release (leading to it being banned in areas) and continues to do so today.

Couldn't resist:
Image

...I can just hear him groaning with outstretched arm: "His is the House... of.. PAINNNN!"
Image

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#17 Post by david hare » Sun Sep 10, 2006 2:20 am

Yes the laser print is gorgeous. And Laughton is a mean hand with a whip.

And it is Karl Struss. I love Freundianisms, make them all the time when I feel Jung and easily Freudened (sorry, groan...)

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#18 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sun Sep 10, 2006 9:19 am

There's a wonderful moment where Laughton (wearing jodpurs for some reason) lolls against an operating room table while toying with his whip that is beyond camp.

And needless to say none of the subsequent versions of The Island of Dr. Moreau have come within shouting distance of Island of Lost Souls.

Also worth mentioning is Charles Ludlam's Bluebeard -- which ran well over a year off-broadway -- in which the tale of the famous "ladykiller" is cross-bred with Island of Lost Souls As the Panther Woman, Mario Montez (of Jack Smith and Andy Warhol fame) had the role of a lifetime. A shame it wasn't filmed.

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david hare
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#19 Post by david hare » Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:28 pm

The Ludlum/Ridiculous Theatrical Company shows were a good reason to travel half way around the world back then.

I missed Irma Vep but managed to see Stage Blood, Camille (" Nanine, throw another faggot on the fire"...) and several others.

I've only seen him on the screen in two movies - the Big Easy (as the lawyer) and Rappaport's Imposters. I was astonished to read in the imdb entry he has a bit (bits) in Pink Narcissus and a number of TV shows. Have you seen any of these?

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#20 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sun Sep 10, 2006 10:50 pm

He may have been someone in a crowd scene in Pink Narcissus. If so he's unrecognizable. As a working actor he probably did bit parts on many TV shows.

I saw his Camille twice.

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david hare
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#21 Post by david hare » Sun Sep 10, 2006 11:59 pm

Some years after he died the old troupe regrouped under Everett Quinton back in either 94 or 95 (during one of our then annual trips) to do a show called "Brother Truckers", based on They Drive by Night. In the same old theatre off Sheridan Square with those ass-busting concrete seats.

Everett played the Ida Lupino role (plus a jigger of Eve Arden), Black Eyed Susan was Ann Sheridan, a lesbian acqaintance of ours called Moe did Bogart. Plus a terrific Steiner medley score. It was great but that element of magic was missing.

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Re: 586 Island of Lost Souls

#22 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:50 pm

Amazing to see Richard Stanley getting interviewed on the disc. Criterion are really covering all the bases in terms of contributors!

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 586 Island of Lost Souls

#23 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:53 pm

I think this one has more features than every other new release for October put together. I wonder if they were just readier to hand, of if this is a real labor of love for some of the Criterion people.

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knives
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Re: 586 Island of Lost Souls

#24 Post by knives » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:57 pm

This definitely is a labour of love sort of thing. I can't imagine they think it has the same sort of cred as Antonioni or the money prowess of Dazed and Confused.

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Re: 586 Island of Lost Souls

#25 Post by bigP » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:58 pm

colinr0380 wrote:Amazing to see Richard Stanley getting interviewed on the disc. Criterion are really covering all the bases in terms of contributors!
I was just thinking the same thing. I'm sure he will have alot to say given the legend of his dismissal from the remake. I'd equally love to hear him discuss how he was planning to approach the film and how The Island of Lost Souls may have influenced his vision.

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