- Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Subtitles Color: White
- Region: B (Region-Locked)
- Certification: PG
- Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
- Run time: 71 Mins.
- Studio: Eureka Entertainment [Masters of Cinema]
- Blu-ray Release Date: May 28, 2012
- RRP: £20.42; £30.63
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(All Blu-rayDefinition.com screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Director Erle C. Kenton’s pre-code era adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic gothic horror novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, inexplicably renamed Island of Lost Souls, is still considered by many to be the greatest big screen interpretation of the Wells story. Island of Lost Souls is an innovative “talkie” era horror film with memorable performances by the inimitable Charles Laughton as the protagonist Dr. Moreau and cameo by Bela Lugosi as the “sayer of the law,” this jungle-themed film, pregnant controversial, more-pushing interpretations of Darwinism. Lush jungle cinematography from Karl Struss (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) also helps evoke the often horrific and sometimes sensuous mood of Island of Lost Souls, aided in no small part by the natural fog of Catalina Island and the seething sexuality in front of the the lens by Kathleen Burke as Lota the Panther woman.
The story follows an unfortunate man, Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) sailing back to his fiancée, Ruth (Leila Hyams) who has a mishap at sea, is rescued, but dumped by a less than heroic captain on the boat of one Dr. Moreau (Laughton). Taken back to Moreau’s island, Parker finds himself trapped on the island where the doctor, he soon discovers, is involved in cruel and profane experiments in genetics and evolution, creating half-human, half-beast creatures from animals. One such creature, the doctor’s most successful to date, the beautiful and innocent Lota (Burke) who is instantly attracted to Parker. Parker must find a way to escape from the megalomaniacal Moreau’s lair before he and Ruth, who arrives looking for him, become a part of the doctor’s plans.
A film of 1932 vintage, this 1.37:1-framed AVC 1080p/24 encodement will likely never look spectacular by today’s standards. Heavily grained, soft, of wavering contrast and of an obviously deteriorating source, only so much can be done to bring this image back to life, which is sad given the historic and artistic value here. Unfortunately, 2K, 4K, 8K and beyond digital masters were not available in those days and, also, many people just didn’t realize the value that many of these films would hold so far into the future. As such, poor storage and handling, poor tracking of original sources, and other varying woes means that this very delicate medium, prone to rapid deterioration, can only today provide a glimpse of what this film once may have looked like in its original run. With that being said, Eureka has done as well as they can to present an authentic looking transfer free from any obvious digital scars.
By 1932, some five-years after the first major commercially successful “talkie” The Jazz Singer, there were already some major advances in the technology involved in both recording and projecting these films. Still, one shouldn’t expect much from this very limited DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack. The vintage sound has narrow dynamic range, little low frequencies and some very audible hiss. These things are no consequence of the work of Eureka, but, rather, the technology of the day.
The on-disc extras for this one are a bit thinner than usual for the Masters of Cinema Series, however, the two interviews provided are incredibly interesting, informative, and definitely worth watching.
- Simon Callow (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:12:26) – This interview with Charles Laughton biographer Simon Callow (Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor) was filmed in London in February 2012 exclusively for The Masters of Cinema Series.
- Jonathan Rigby (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:14:30) – This interview with film critic and historian Jonathan Rigby (American Gothic: Sixty Years of Horror Cinema) was filmed in February 2012 exclusively for The Masters of Cinema Series.
- Trailer (1.37:1; 1080p/24)
- Booklet: Booklet contains rare images and more.
The Definitive Word
Even eighty-years after originally being released, The Island of Lost Souls is still a haunting and thought provoking horror film. Charles Laughton’s performance here has to rank as one of best among big screen villains of all time and visually, despite the warts and wrinkles of age, the film stands out among its peers. This is another must-have classic from The Masters of Cinema Series.
Additional Screen Captures