Movie Review: The Island of Lost Souls (1932)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1932 movie starring Bela Lugosi and Charles Laughton.

Synopsis: A shipwreck survivor is rescued at sea only to be left stranded on a remote island under the control of a mysterious scientist. While spending the night waiting for a ship home, he discovers the island is filled with half-human, half animal creatures that were created by ongoing scientific experimentation.


My daughter recently started reading H. G. Wells’ stories and, since this is based on one of his books, “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” I figured it would be a good choice when she wanted to watch a movie with me.

Ultimately, I think the thing that made this movie worth our time was the surprisingly creepy human/animal hybrids that inhabited the island. Mostly because of when the movie was made, I was expecting the makeup to be somewhat weak compared to today. But, overall, I thought the characters were pretty menacing looking.

I’m a huge Bela Lugosi fan and did enjoy watching him in his “Sayer of the Law” beast man character. At first, I was a little disappointed he had that role and figured he would make a better Dr. Moreau (not that Laughton didn’t do a good job as that character). However, as it turns out, he was a pretty decent fit, though, admittedly, he was a little hard to understand at times.

Another thing I did enjoy was the fact Arlen’s character, Edward, had a somewhat interesting (and even difficult) decision to make when he had an opportunity to be unfaithful with the Panther Woman (Burke). Burke was pretty darn hot in that role but, at the same time, his fiancée (Hyams) was pretty easy on the eyes too and scored some points with me by being somewhat brave rather than the typical screaming and crying female I’m used to seeing from movies made in this time period. Yes, she would occasionally scream when startled (a common thing with movies like this). But, at the same time, she wasn’t afraid to brave a strange jungle to find the man she was going to marry.

I think my biggest complaint about this movie had to be the fact it takes what seems like forever to get started. This, in itself, probably wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. However, considering the entire movie isn’t much more than an hour in length, it does leave very little room for action. Since it is such a short film, cutting out some of the slower scenes probably wouldn’t have been a good choice. However, the filmmakers could have balanced things out a bit by extending the action.

Island Of Lost Souls Movie Poster 1932

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Final Opinion

This is an OK movie and, as I said, I thought Lugosi and Burke did decent jobs in their prominent roles. However, mostly because the film does take so long to get going with very little in terms of a reward at the end, I do have to say I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

My Grade: C 

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Updated: 04/25/2017, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/01/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does have Island of Lost Souls amongst its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I expect to watch this film sometime in the near future, shortly after Lent ends.

In a somewhat related direction since it deals with islands with nefarious scientific projects inflicted upon guests and natives, would you all happen to have seen Old by M. Night Shyamalan?

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