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October 17, 2011


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Shawn Stone

Great points.

Part of the problem in general is that SOULS was such an outlier for Paramount and Kenton. True, he did those horror films at Universal a decade later, but his best known films from the SOULS period are a W.C. Fields comedy and that unclassifiable, precode excuse to show off healthy young bodies, SEARCH FOR BEAUTY. After Paramount, Kenton went to Columbia and made more comedies and melodramas--the bulk of his work at Paramount, too--before moving on to Universal.

Stephen Whitty

Bestiality, sadism, vivisection -- yes, I remember first seeing this on TV's Creature Features at 10 or so and realizing this was not the sort of cozy monster film I was used to, all dry-ice fog and gypsy-woman warnings.

And the climax? The "Freaks" like parade of dog-faced, pig-feeted monsters stalking through the jungle? The storm-the-Bastille takeover of "the House of Pain," the shot of those hairy hands breaking into the cases of medical instruments, and Laughton's final screams?

I'd be shocked by anyone who wasn't still shocked by this film -- and, frankly, a little leery...


I'd never seen it before this weekend, and I loved it. Laughton is tremendous, and yes, weirdly (under the circumstances, and given that he's Charles Laughton) understated. The ending, as Stephen notes, is *crazy*. Not that some version of it has never been done since, but that makes it no less crazy in the context of this film from that era.

And the poor comic relief captain...merciless!


It certainly feels as if it has that off-kilter, twisted feel of something like The Most Dangerous Game, although perhaps it is just the island setting and sadistic villain driven by strangely sexual compulsions that suggests the connection.

Paul Duane

I am pleased to report that I spent a fair chunk of this weekend in conversation with the extremely knowledgable David Cairns, and that part of this conversation was an eye-opening discussion on the oeuvre of Erle C Kenton. There aren't many cineastes I know who could name, let alone discuss in detail, four ECK movies. I bow to his superior judgment when he says ECK is a subject for further research - I'd earlier rashly said that the auteur theory crumbles when it confronts his work - and I very much want to see his nudie work now.

Oh yeah, by the way - Devo, Pere Ubu, but also these guys:


How a bunch of Boston Irish chancers coalesced around Island of Lost Souls is a question for the ages.

David Ehrenstein

"Island of Lost Souls" has an atmospheric intensity that none of the subsequent adaptations of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (especially Frankenheimer's sad curtain call of a film starring Brando and Val Kilmer) come near.

Kenton is definitely a "subject for further reasearch" as Sarris would say. But a lot of cret must go to DP Karl Struss. And then there's Laughton -- lolling cross-legged on a dissection table in jodphurs, toying wiht the whip he carries everywhere. "Sheer camp," doesn't being to describe it.
And speaking of "camp" leaven us not forget the late and much-missed Cahr;es Ludlam whose "Bluebeard" is an adaptation of "Island of Lost Souls" in which the mad doctor (who he of course played himself) was undertaking these "experiments" in order to create "A Third Sex."

And as the"Panther Woman"? Who else but Mario Montez of Jack Smith and Andy Warhol fame.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Devo, Pere Ubu, House of Pain, *and* Oingo Boingo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRljdzY3dXs

My theory is that it's just super-fun to chant.

D Cairns

Erle C Kenton had some mania for the grubby and thrusting. It finds perfect expression, along with so much else, in Island of Lost Souls, but punches through the screen into Search for Beauty also, and this horrible, stupid, glorious thing: http://dcairns.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/fatheads/

Paul Duane

Apologies, David - that makes five.

Andrew Wyatt

I'm 35. I first encountered this film on VHS as an undergraduate, and while it didn't exactly scare me, but it *creeped me the hell out* real good and left an enduring impression on it. I'm overjoyed that it's finally seeing the light of day again on DVD.

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