This first film version of H.G. Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau stars Charles Laughton as Dr.Moreau, a dedicated but sadly misguided scientist who rules the roost on a remote island. Shipwrecked sailor Edward Parker Richard Arlen finds himself on Moreau's island, agreeing to stick around until another boat can come along and take him home. But that's not quite what Moreau has in mind: he'd rather Parker stay on the island and marry the exotic Lota (Kathleen Burke), who curiously possesses the characteristics of the panther. In fact, all the island's natives seem more animal than human, especially the hirsute Bela Lugosi. And why not? They are animals who've been transformed by Moreau into humanlike creatures via surgery. Moreau's plans to mate Parker and Lota are complicated by the arrival of Parker's fiancee Leila Hyams, who has been brought to the island by ship's captain Stanley Fields, one of Moreau's flunkies. When Moreau kills Fields for this insubordination, he makes the mistake of breaking one of the rules he himself has imposed on the island: That no creature shall kill another. Island of Lost Souls does its job of inducing goosebumps so well that one can forgive the cherubic excesses of Charles Laughton in his portrayal of Dr. Moreau. The film would be remade under Wells' original title in 1978, with Burt Lancaster in the Laughton role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Don't watch this film the night before going into surgery. I did for a Lithotripsy and woke up from my anesthesia screaming at my doctor, calling him "Dr. Laughton" with absurd accusations they found amusing. Finally, this film gets the Criterion treatment with loads of extras, including retired band DEVO--Are We Not Men?Entertaining commentary that isn't dry, reveals the making of film and the actors. Laughton may not be the best mad doctor on film, but he is perhaps the creepiest! He plays Dr. Moreau with his little devil beard, lips sucking, eyes gleaming, effeminate manner, and expert command of his whip he loves to show off. So sick, depraved, masochistic, hedonistic and beyond redemption, Edward tells him "you don't deserve to live." His assistant Montgomery, played by Arthur Hohl, looks at Laughton thru out the film with disgust and disdain that's so real, it's hard to tell if it's great acting or genuine. Rent and "don't look back."