Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Criterion to release 'Island of Lost Souls'

Just in time for Halloween, Criterion will be releasing what may be the most demanded horror film yet to be issued on DVD this October 25. Erle C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls is the finest adaptation of what may be H.G. Wells's finest novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Long unavailable for mysterious reasons, Lost Souls should be worth the wait, with the following enticing features slated for the DVD and Blu-ray releases:

-New high-definition digital restoration of the uncut theatrical version (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-Audio commentary by film historian Gregory Mank, author of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and Hollywood’s Maddest Doctors
-New video conversation among filmmaker John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, Videodrome), and genre expert Bob Burns
-New interviews with horror film historian David J. Skal (The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror); filmmaker Richard Stanley (Hardware, original director of the ill-fated 1996 remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau)
-New interviews with Devo founding members Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, whose manifesto is rooted in themes from Island of Lost Souls
-Theatrical trailer
-PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Christine Smallwood

Click the links to pre-order the DVD or Blu-ray disc at Amazon.com.

Here's what Psychobabble had to say about Island of Lost Souls in the 1930s installment of 120 Essential Horror Movies:

Island of Lost Souls (1933- dir. Erle C. Kenton)

Although Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was an Academy Award-winning success for Paramount, the studio was not particularly interested in becoming another horror grindhouse like Universal. A full year passed before the studio released another such picture, and like Jekyll and Hyde—and Freaks, which it resembles in a number of ways—the studio’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau was beset by controversy. In the U.K., where animal cruelty was a big cinematic no-no, Island of Lost Souls was banned for its themes of vivisection, even though we never actually see any such thing in the film. Wells disdained the picture, feeling it degenerated his allegorical novel into a crass monster movie. Actually, Wells’s anti-imperialism message makes the transition from novel to film fairly well, and director Erle C. Kenton doesn’t spend much time ogling his man-beasts. The focus of the piece is Moreau, played with unctuous self-satisfaction by Charles Laughton. Without Frankenstein’s inner-discord or Jekyll’s chemical-induced madness, Moreau is the most unequivocally evil mad scientist of his era. While the monsters in Universal’s films were generally conflicted, none were more inherently sympathetic than the creatures in Lost Souls, brought into pitiful existence by Moreau to be tortured and controlled. Their climactic monster riot is as satisfying as the similar scene in Freaks, and it zaps the film out of its muggy lethargy: Kenton’s camera grows more active, the monsters lunge at the viewer in horrific close-ups, and Moreau is dispatched gruesomely in his own House of Pain.
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