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REVIEW – The Island of Lost Souls (1932)

June 1, 2012

FilmJuice have my review of Erle C. Kenton’s much under-loved The Island of Lost Souls starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi.

The film is a product of the 1930s Golden Age in American horror that produced many of the great American movie monsters. Based on H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Island of Lost Souls was banned in the UK because of its tendency to deny God and play with the idea of inter-racial and inter-species sex. Indeed, to say that this film is racist would be something of an understatement as it represents an almost flawless articulation of White America’s fear that non-whites will someday rise-up and, in the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, savagely penetrate every orifice in their bodies with their throbbing, uncircumcised members:

The film’s use of the word ‘native’ to denote the man-beasts is hardly accidental as it panders to double-edged racist fantasies about non-white people being more animalistic than American Christians. I use the word ‘fantasies’ advisedly as this belief in the passionate nature of non-white people extends not just to their perceived capacity for violence but also to their atavistic sexualities. Thus, when Parker kisses Lota and recoils in disgust, his disgust is born not only of inter-racial and inter-species revulsion but also from the realisation that he enjoyed kissing the savage far more than he did his immaculate groomed white fiancée.

Interestingly, the film is currently considered to be out of copyright meaning that you can watch it for free on Youtube. However, the good folks at Eureka have done a fantastic job of packaging the film up with a series of interviews and essays and the print used for their release is fantastically clear so I definitely recommend picking up their edition rather than watching it for free on the internet.

2 Comments
  1. June 1, 2012 10:26 am

    What an awful looking woman on the cover :P Gotta love the tag line though -)

  2. June 1, 2012 10:29 am

    Evidently they had a national competition to find the Island’s ‘Panther Woman’ and tens of thousands of people entered. The eventual winner has these amazing almond-shaped eyes but admittedly you’re right… that poster does not do her justice.

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