Island of Lost Souls (1932)

island of lost souls poster 1932 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Best version of Island of Dr. Moreau

Interesting for its time but hasn't aged well at points

Movie Info

Movie Name: Island of Lost Souls

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror

Release Date(s): December 1932

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

island of lost souls bela lugosi

How do I keep my whites so white in the jungle?

A sinking ship and a disagreement with the rescuing captain leaves Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) stranded on the island run by Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton).  With Moreau’s man Montgomery (Arthur Hohl), Edward is about to discover what Moreau is doing in his isolated world.  Moreau is creating men, and these men aren’t like other men…and Moreau is their god!

Directed by Eric C. Kenton, Island of Lost Souls adapts H.G. Wells science-fiction 1896 classic The Island of Dr. Moreau.  The film was released in December of 1932 with a larger release the next year.  The film’s content caused bans including in the United Kingdom until 1958 due to animal cruelty.  H.G. Wells who was alive at the time of the release did not approve of the horror aspect of the film.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #586).

island of lost souls ape man criterion

Me want me a woman!

Island of Lost Souls was one of those “horror” classics that didn’t get much play.  I remember having a book with pictures of the film and an early exposure to The Island of Dr. Moreau from 1977 left me always wanting to see it.  It wasn’t until Criterion released their copy of the film that I finally got to see Island of Lost Souls…and it was worth the wait.

The plot of the film is a bit closer to the novel than other adaptations.  The movie of course brings in Parker’s love to be more of a damsel in distress, but the themes are generally true.  The themes helped cause part of the objections from critics since Moreau sees himself as a god (and says it…much like in Frankenstein).  Everything happens pretty quickly and feels a little rushed, but it still tells the story.

Laughton does add a lot to Moreau.  He was just a strange guy and actor and he seems like a realistic Moreau.  Much of the core cast is rather bland and typical of dashing leads of the time.  Kathleen Burke is interesting as Lola the Panther Woman, but I find the ape man Ouran played by Hans Steinke particularly frightening.  Bela Lugosi plays the Sayer of the Law and often falls into his typical role.

island of lost souls charles laughton dr moreau

I’m your god!!!

The visuals are quite strong for the film.  While it is obvious that the actors are wearing costumes, they are decent costumes for the time.  The film is largely set at night which means it is sometimes difficult to see the action, but it also helps make the visuals of the costumes less of a problem.

Island of Lost Souls feels a bit more dangerous than a lot of the other Universal horror movies.  The horror really gets amplified and many of the man-beasts are pretty menacing (especially the scary ape one).  If Wells wasn’t happy with this version of the movie, he would have really been upset but later adaptations of his story.  Of the Island of Dr. Moreau adaptation, this is probably the best, but it still isn’t perfect…much like Moreau’s creations.

Related Links:

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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