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"Island Of Lost Souls" - (Criterion) - {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Criterion Collection
Genre:
Sci Fi
Release Date:
October 25, 2011
Special Features:

See Below

Review:

As we age, films age and we become more jaded the line between what can still horrify and what becomes mind numbingly dull thins. Few films at 80 are as spry as "The Island of Lost Souls".***

There's never been a satisfactory version of H.G. Wells' novel The Island of Dr. Moreau but the 1932 version of the story is, perhaps, the most unique and interesting telling of the tale. Wells fascination with evolution and the things that separate humanity from other animals still resonates in the 1932 film directed by Earle C. Kenton from a screenplay by novelist Philip Wylie (co-author of the novel When Worlds Collide).***

Image & Sound:

Does the film look perfect? No. Considering the condition of the nitrate print and the existing prints out there (which has less to choose from--there are less surviving circulating print of a less popular film like this than, say "Frankenstein" or even "Dracula" and "Souls" has been largely neglected all these years) Blu-ray quality varies quite a bit moving from good to fair within the span of a couple of minutes (the DVD is sourced from the same high def restored remaster prepared). Having said that the film looks good but not great in its BD debut especially considering that this was cobbled together from at least three different prints of the film.***

There is some debate about whether or not this film could have been improved using other sources. I'm not going to get into that debate but will note that the UCLA nitrate positive WAS used for much of the film and other sources had to be interpolated as well to assemble the finished product. It IS very grainy. One could always argue with the grain management of a film but having seen grainier finished products and not knowing what ALL the sources look like prior to mastering, I still enjoyed what we got.***

Audio sounds crisp and clear throughout which is the most you can ask for a film this old.***

Special Features:

The special features are quite good. I would have loved to see this combined with the 1996 remake just for comparison sake particularly since we get an interview with writer/director Richard Stanley who was to direct the most ambitious and faithful of the film versions starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer (New Line fired the director when Kilmer became difficult, hired director John Frankenheimer to replace Stanley and had Stanley's script retooled extensively). He provides insight into his childhood fascination with the novel and the difficulties on the film set (including confirming the story that he did sneak on set in make up to see the chaos that had engulfed the project).***

We also get a conversation between director John Landis and make up expert Rick Baker discussing the groundbreaking work that was done in the film. Film historian David Skal appears discussing the impact of the film and why it still resonates today.**

The audio commentary by film historian Gregory Mank focuses much more on the impact of the film but also has plenty on films and trivia of the time.***

We also get a Devo interview and short--as many are aware Devo took the most famous line from the film "Are We Not Men?" and turned it into a hit song.***

As always we get an informative booklet with an essay on the power of the film.***

Final Words:

"Island of Lost Souls" remains remarkably spry and powerful for an 80 year old movie horror movie beating even some contemporary movies for its ability to, well, horrify.

 

 
 
 
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