Island of Lost Souls


Island of Lost Souls

Critics Consensus

Led by a note-perfect performance from Charles Laughton, Island of Lost Souls remains the definitive film adaptation of its classic source material.



Total Count: 29


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,392
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Movie Info

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.

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Critic Reviews for Island of Lost Souls

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (6)

  • A tight, gruesome shocker, featuring Karl Struss's spooky cinematography and Charles Laughton's creepy portrayal of the mad vivisector Dr. Moreau ...

    Feb 16, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Laughton, as he managed to do in Devil and the Deep and The Sign of the Cross, gives the role of the villain a peculiarly horrifying quality by humanizing it far beyond the demands of the script.

    Oct 17, 2011 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • While the action is not designed to appeal to other than the credulous, there are undoubtedly some horror sequences which are unrivaled.

    Oct 17, 2011 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • It's a grand, hokey chiller, dripping with sex and sadism and photographed in dense, Sternbergian shadows by the great cinematographer Karl Struss.

    Oct 17, 2011 | Full Review…
  • Not a great success at the time, probably because its horror is more intellectual than graphic, this adaptation of HG Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau is nevertheless a remarkably powerful film.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Although the attempt to horrify is not accomplished with any marked degree of subtlety, there is no denying that some of the scenes are ingenously fashioned and are, therefore, interesting.

    Jan 28, 2006 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Island of Lost Souls

  • Dec 01, 2016
    This movie has great casting: Charles Laughton, playing the cruel genius Dr. Moreau who has been experimenting on animals to create a hairy group of man-beasts, Kathleen Burke as the cat-woman Lota, his only beautiful (and only female) creation, and Bela Lugosi as the 'Sayer of the Law', who intones among other things, "Are we not men?" (the line Devo would use in the title of their first album). The aura of the film is chilling as well, set on a tiny tropical island where Moreau carries out vivisections in the 'House of Pain', and eagerly tries to mate Lota with Edward Parker, a newcomer to the island who has been stranded there. Those scenes aren't incredibly erotic, but add some spice and were scandalous for the time. The special effects in 1932 were somewhat limited, but director Erle Kenton's use of shadows, tight shots on the faces of the troglodytes, and scenes were Moreau uses his whip to enforce his will on his creations create an eerie, claustrophobic effect. It's a little slow in getting started but at 71 minutes is otherwise well-paced. Definitely a classic horror film worth watching, if for nothing else, Laughton's brilliant performance.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 17, 2013
    The first and most fortunate adaptation of H.G. Wells' literary work. Released in the same year of Tod Browning's cult film "Freaks", also it does not shy away by showing very realistic and frightening make up effects, even if the former had real actors portraying the creatures, this picture is more elegant and elaborate. A brilliant Charles Laughton not only embodies the blindness and evil caused by hubris, but also humanizes his character.
    Pierluigi P Super Reviewer
  • Sep 02, 2012
    Legendary makeup with a good, but familiar script with a twist.
    ZACHO D Super Reviewer
  • May 05, 2012
    Its a decidedly fun and lurid little film. I love how the brief running time is used to break down the story to its most basic levels. No scene is wasted but it also never feels rushed. While its clearly a pre Hayes Code film (the suggestion of bestiality almost made me faint), its still reserved. Tension is drawn from the constant potential of mayhem and when it finally does unleash, the ending gets fairly disturbing even by today's standards. Oh and Laughton gives a reserved and complex performance that may be a little too good for this movie.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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