The Movie Waffler Pre-Code Retrospective - Island Of Lost Souls (1932) | The Movie Waffler

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Pre-Code Retrospective - Island Of Lost Souls (1932)

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton
Starring: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Bela Lugosi

Kenton's adaptation of HG Wells' "Island of Doctor Moreau" has been an unfairly forgotten work of pre-code horror.
Until it's bluray release late in 2011 it was unavailable on DVD, possibly due to it being a Paramount release. The Universal horrors of the era are widely available but those of other studios haven't received the same attention.
If you're unaware, the term "pre-code" refers to those movies made before the introduction of the Hays code in the thirties. For the first thirty-plus years of cinema it was "anything goes" as far as content was concerned. Traditionally with so many unconnected sects of Protestantism no single religious group had the power to challenge Hollywood on it's morality, or perceived lack thereof. At the start of the twentieth century however mass immigration from Italy, Poland, and Ireland led to Catholicism becoming America's single biggest religion. At first, partly due to widespread anti-Catholicism, Hollywood turned a blind eye to the fact that a huge group of potential cinemagoers were avoiding the "palaces of sin" on the advice of their priest. With the coming of the depression in the thirties Hollywood realised it was no longer viable to ignore such a huge audience and film-makers were forced to play by a set of rules imposed by religious leaders and overseen by former Postmaster General Will Hays. Had Kenton made "IOLS" a couple of years later he would have had to seriously tone things down.
When Arlen finds himself on a strange island after being shipwrecked he encounters the mad Doctor Moreau, played with manic relish by Laughton, and the natives who have fallen victim to his experimenting. Moreau has been creating a race of "Manimals", including a panther woman who he hopes will mate with Arlen. This kind of implied bestiality could only have come pre-code. Arlen almost does the deed but then notices the claws on the hands of his feline lover.
This movie features some fantastic make-up work, the manimals are downright gruesome. I can only imagine how audiences must have reacted to such sights in 1932. Bela Lugosi is hidden under a face of fur as the leader of the natives who ultimately turn on Laughton.
If you're a fan of classic horror or even "Planet of the Apes" then this has to go on your to-watch list.
7/10

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