Lost Souls Review (2011 Criterion Blue-ray)
Island of Lost Souls (1932, Paramount) is one of the finest horror films ever made, and for good reason —Bela Lugosi’s performance as The Sayer of the Law; Charles Lawton’s creepy and evil performance as Moreau; unusual and unique makeup; Karl Struss’s expressionist photography; weird and elaborate sets; and one humdinger of a script based on H.G. Wells’ novel. For many years, this was the top requested horror film amongst genre fans, and this new Criterion Blue-ray delivers. For many years the only copy I had was a ripped-off and decent laserdisc print which had a short lifespan. Back in the day those laserdiscs were pressed and released, the fans bought them, and that was the end of them. (Fortunately, I grabbed Criterion’s “Cat People” when I did. It’s a collectable now and a superb print.) Lost Souls deserved the treatment from Criterion, and although the source material was terribly aged, the resultant restored disc is clearly the best available print for home-viewing pleasure. It looks terrific, down to the strands of yak hair on Lugosi’s mug.
I have heard that some angry birds are out there and are complaining about the transfer (I confess I bitched about the Lord of the Rings BR), and some of the footage at Moreau’s plantation does look over-exposed. I can’t tell if it is due to Struss’s use of diffuse lighting or if it is due to the restoration. It’s nothing to quibble about! Go buy this film and keep it in your collection and watch it ever year at Halloween until you die.
Lost Souls offers some grisly material dealing with vivisection of beasts. I can see why it was banned in several countries. In Australia is was tagged as NEN —not for aboriginal eyes. I showed the film to my girlfriend. She lasted until the first moans originating from “The House of Pain”. After that she was off reading a magazine (and it wasn’t Rue Morgue). The makeup and Lugosi’s performance are not to be missed by horror fans (I wonder what animal The Sayer of the Law was?).
The extras include an interview hosted by John Landis with Rick Baker (who seems bored) and the informative Bob Burns. It’s worth watching, especially for comments regarding makeup, Lugosi and Burn’s mentor Charles Gemora (who appears as a gorilla in the film). I also like the interview with DEVO’s Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh (there are horror fans everywhere so watch out!). Also check out the image files, which offers a macro-glimpse of some mighty inspired makeup.
Island of Lost Souls. 5/5. Horror Masterpiece restored by folks at Criterion. Top DVD of 2011.