I thought this day would never come! Erle C. Kenton’s groundbreaking Island Of Lost Souls is finally making its way to Blu-ray and DVD on October 25, courtesy of the fine folks at Criterion. If it’s anything like the last few genre discs they put out (Hausu, Night of the Hunter and Cronos), the release should be nothing short of reference material.
A twisted treasure from Hollywood’s pre-Code horror heyday, Island of Lost Souls is a cautionary tale of science run amok adapted from H. G. Wells’s novel ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’. In one of his first major movie roles, Charles Laughton is a mad doctor conducting ghastly genetic experiments on a remote island in the South Seas, much to the fear and disgust of the shipwrecked sailor (Richard Arlen) who finds himself trapped there. Erle C. Kenton’s touchstone of movie terror is elegantly shot by Karl Struss, features groundbreaking makeup effects that inspired generations of monster-movie artists, and costars Bela Lugosi in one his most gruesome roles.
Features will include:
- 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
As if your wallet isn’t crying hard enough already, Criterion will also be putting out Kuroneko a week earlier on October 18. In this poetic and atmospheric horror fable, set in a village in war-torn medieval Japan, a malevolent spirit has been ripping out the throats of itinerant samurai. When a military hero is sent to dispatch the unseen force, he finds that he must struggle with his own personal demons as well. From Kaneto Shindo, director of the terror classic Onibaba, Kuroneko is a spectacularly eerie twilight tale with a shocking feminist angle, evoked through ghostly special effects and exquisite cinematography.
Features will include:
- New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Video interview with director Kaneto Shindo from the Directors Guild of Japan
- New video interview with critic Tadao Sato
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Maitland McDonagh and an excerpt from film scholar Joan Mellen’s 1972 interview with Shindo
Often times, we think back to our childhood horror memories with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia as we remember our first viewings of staples like A Nightmare On Elm Street orHalloween. But, it’s those few odd ducks- ones that aren’t as mainstream – that really define our palate, and honestly, what would you rather talk about: Michael Myers, or how awesome you remember Chopping Mall being? Night Of The Hunter, while an all-time classic, is one of the more obscure films I picked up on when I was little, all thanks to – believe it or not – a book on horror movies that was at my elementary school’s library. Of course, watching the film at the tender age of ten (also procured from the same library), I had no grasp of the lyrical nature that occupied every frame of acclaimed actor Charles Laughton’s only turn in the director’s chair, nor did I have any idea how much of an influence D.W. Griffith had on the film, let alone who he was. The reason the it did stick with me, whether I realized it at the time or not, was that it’s a southern gothic horror film made from the childrens’ perspective and, in turn, makes it much more identifiable and terrifying to a kid; namely, me. Fifteen years later, it appeals to me on a different level, and that’s really the strength of the film; your perspective and appreciation of it changes with age, something many directors wish their feature could accomplish.
The Night of the Hunter—incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed—is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic—also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil.
Noble-born cad Dennis (Stapley) has been tricked into a forced stay at the eerie manor of the Sire de Maletroit (Laughton), an evil madman who can’t get over the death of his beloved, twenty years after she married his brother (Cavanagh) instead and subsequently passed away during childbirth. Maletroit is determined to have his revenge: the brother has been stowed away in the dungeon for two decades, while he’s convinced his disreputable house guest will make a suitably hellish husband for his niece. As luck would have it, the young couple manage to fall in love, and with the help of manservant Voltan (Karloff), they try to make their escape, but not before a final confrontation with Maletroit in the dungeon’s crushing deathtrap.
After his ship goes down, Edward Parker is rescued at sea. Parker gets into a fight with Captain Davies of the Apia and the Captain tosses him overboard while making a delivery to the tiny tropical island of Dr. Moreau. Parker discovers that Moreau has good reason to be so secretive on his lonely island. The doctor is a whip-cracking task master to a growing population of his own gruesome human/animal experiments. He does have one prize result, Lota the beautiful panther woman. Parker’s fortunes for escape look up after his fiancée Ruth finds him with the help of fearless Captain Donohue. However, when Moreau’s tribe of near-humans rises up to rebel, no one is safe.
A dark, gothic, one-of-a-kind macabre comedy. Directed by James Whale, subject of the acclaimed “Gods and Monsters,” “The Old Dark House” tells the story of three weary travelers who find shelter in a mysterious Welsh manor, soon find themselves in the unwelcoming company of the psychotic Femm family–and never will they be the same!