Isle of the Dead

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Average Rating: 3.3/5

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Movie Info

Inspired by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin's famous painting, this seminal horror film marked the first of three collaborations between RKO producer Val Lewton and British genre star Boris Karloff. Set during the 1912 Balkan Wars, Isle of the Death featured Karloff as Greek general Pherides who, along with an American journalist (Marc Cramer), visits the gravesite of his late wife on a deserted island. They find the grave desecrated and a group of travelers held hostage by the superstitious beliefs of Kyra (Helene Thimig). One by one, the inhabitants of the island are felled by what Dr. Drossos (Ernest Dorian aka Ernst Deutsch) terms the plague, but what Kyra insists is the work of Thea (Ellen Drew), a young nurse she believes to be a "varvoloka," an ancient Greek vampire. Thea's patient, Mrs. St. Aubun (Katherine Emery), suffers from death-like trances and, sure enough, during one of her spells, she is pronounced dead by Swiss archeologist Albrecht (Jason Robards Sr. and is interred alive.

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Boris Karloff
as Gen. Nikolas Pherides
Marc Cramer
as Oliver Davis
Helene Thimig
as Madame Kyra
Katherine Emery
as Mrs. St. Aubyn
Alan Napier
as Mr. St. Aubyn
Skelton Knaggs
as Henry Robbins
Sherry Hall
as Colonel
Ernst Deutsch
as Dr. Drossos
Erick Hanson
as Officer
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Critic Reviews for Isle of the Dead

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (2)

Audience Reviews for Isle of the Dead


Confused. Some nice plot kernels and plenty of great Lewton atmospherics but ... no. Too much going on here.

Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

This one came as a complete surprise to me. Here I was expecting a schlock horror film and what do I get? A very suspenseful and thought-provoking thriller. Fantastic I say! Like most thrillers, it takes it a bit to get going, but if you perservere with a bit of patience, you'll discover your heart racing while the suspense is wound up slowly over the course of the film. You can cut the tension with a knife when the creeps start creeping in, and surprisingly, none of them from Karloff himself really. I just can't get over how effective this film was. You're bound to find this in a cheap bin at a local K-Mart or Big Lots! (which is where I found it), but it's definitely worth more than its purchase price. Pick this one up and give it a chance if you spot it.

Tim Salmons
Tim Salmons

Super Reviewer

Vampires, plague, zombies, murder? What is this movie about? And why is it so boring? Karloff is good as usual, but the story isn't up to par.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

Isle of the Dead is another great movie in the Val Lewton stable of low budget but obscenely effective suspense/horror movies. It beautifully straddles paranoia, superstition and science in that trademarked Lewton wonderful world of shadows. Boris Karloff is great as a mistrusting general stuck on a Greek island to avoid a plague outbreak amonst his soldiers. The introduction of others on the island plays out almost like an Agatha Christie mystery without the conventions. The cast is great and the last 10 minutes are some of the creepiest I've seen in recent memory. Katherine Emery running around the darkness was magnificently horrifying.

Michael Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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