Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Doctor Moreau

Last weekend I got a chance to see the 1932, Erle C. Kenton directed fillm, Island of Lost Souls, an early adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau. The film stars Charles Laughton as the good doctor himself and it is AMAZING!
Seriously, I got it from my local library, so it cost me nothing but 70 minutes of my time and this film was just great.  The version I saw was the recent Criterion Collection edition and you could definitely see that the folks who handled the sound and digital transfers really knew what they were doing.
I could go on about how good the makeup was (this film had so much and varied make-up pieces featured throughout it wasn’t eclipsed in this regard until The Wizard of Oz nearly nine years later), and how terrifying the ideas shown were (torture, man playing God, etc.), but in the end this film comes down, almost entirely to the portrayal of the main character by Charles Laughton.
The character is horrifying – honestly he is consistently amused at his genius and his ability to follow a sort of ends-justifying-the-means mentality means the entire film is spent with the audience (or at least me) in constant shock at just how far this guy will go.
Is he the kind of genre character I’d like to hang out with?  No.  Was his performance so good I couldn’t look away from the screen?
Although I might not buy this new, if I came across it in a used-DVD store it would definitely get added to my collection.

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