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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Island of Lost Souls [Blu-ray]

 

(Erle C. Kenton, 1932)

 

 

Also available in a Limited Edition Steelbook:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount Productions, Inc.

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 586 / Masters of Cinema Spine #32

 

Disc:

Region: 'A'-locked / Region 'B'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:10:49.161 / 1:10:36.232

Disc Size: 42,069,914,941 bytes / 28,023,922,719 bytes

Feature Size: 21,145,669,632 bytes / 19,828,633,728 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.45 Mbps / 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 14 / 13

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case / Standard or Steelcase

Release date: October 25th, 2011 / May 28th, 2012

 

Video: (same on both)

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

DTS-HD Master Audio English 656 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 656 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles: (same on both)

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary featuring film historian Gregory Mank, author of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and Hollywood’s Maddest Doctors
• New conversation between filmmaker John Landis, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker, and genre expert Bob Burns (16:53)
• New interviews with horror film historian David J. Skal
(13:04); filmmaker Richard Stanley (14:15), the original director of the ill-fated 1996 adaptation; and Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh (19:44) of the band Devo
The Beginning Was the End: The Complete Truth About De-evolution, a short 1976 film by Devo, featuring the songs “Secret Agent Man” and “Jocko Homo” (9:43)
• Stills gallery
• Theatrical trailer (1:30)
• 16-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by writer Christine Smallwood

 

• Newly restored high-definition digital transfer officially licensed from Universal Pictures
• Newly created SDH subtitles on the feature for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Exclusive video interview with Charles Laughton biographer Simon Callow (12:26 in 1080P)
• Exclusive video interview with film historian Jonathan Rigby (14:30 in 1080P)
• Original theatrical trailer (1:30 in 1080P)
• PLUS: A lavish booklet featuring rare production imagery, and a new essay by Kim Newman

Dual Format has DVD included

 

Bitrate:

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: 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. This touchstone of movie terror, directed by Erle C. Kenton, features expressionistic photography by Karl Struss, groundbreaking makeup effects that have inspired generations of monster-movie artists, and the legendary Bela Lugosi in one of his most gruesome roles.

 

 

The Film:

The pre-production on Island of Lost Souls included a talent search contest for the role of "The Panther Woman." The winner, Kathleen Burke, also received a free five-week stay at the glamorous Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. For the role of Moreau, however, no contest was needed. Charles Laughton, the brilliant and versatile British actor, had already made his mark in Hollywood as Nero in Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross (1932) and Island of Lost Souls, made the same year, was his fifth U.S. production. As Moreau, Laughton created one of the great horror film archetypes, which as the Herald Tribune later described it, was "an engaging combination of child, madman and genius," but his actual appearance was inspired by an unlikely source, according to writer Arthur Lennig. "With his little turf of beard, thin mustache, and soft, almost infantile face, Laughton modeled his makeup on an eye specialist he had visited several times." (from The Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi). As for Moreau's skill at handling a whip, that came from Laughton's training with a London street performer for a previous stage play.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

There's not a wasted frame in this chilling horror film that was banned in England upon its first release. Laughton is Dr. Moreau, a smiling, benign-seeming man who welcomes shipwrecked Edward Parker (Arlen) to his own private island. While waiting for the next passing freighter, Parker learns that the "natives" who serve Moreau are really animals who have been transformed into semi-humans by the doctor's experiments in an area known as "The House of Pain." The only woman around, Lota (Burke), becomes involved with Parker but she too conceals a terrible secret. When Edward's fiancee Ruth (Hyams) arrives with a search expedition, the two women vie for his affections while Moreau makes his own attempts to deal with the new intruders. Unfortunately for him he makes a crucial error which goes against the lessons in "humanity" and "civility" he has browbeaten into his creations. The famous, controversial climax is still a shocker.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The 1932 version of Island of Lost Souls via Criterion Blu-ray looks splendid. It appears as though they have procured their exceptional digital restoration with elevated black levels. The image quality is rich with grain - there are, less-consequential, vertical surface scratches. This is dual-layered and the hour-10-minute feature is supported with a very high bitrate. Contrast is at Criterion's usual strong levels. There is, surprisingly, some depth but the film textures are the most appealing factor. You really get the sense that this Blu-ray is representative of an authentic, film-like, presentation. No doubt the best we are ever likely to get digitally. Top marks.

I have heard that MoC was able to obtain superior source material for their Blu-ray release of Island of Lost Souls. But I see the same marks and scratches as on the Criterion. It is, however, visually, slightly, different. I find the UK 1080P brighter which shows more background detail in a few scenes - and some of the scratches can be slightly more prominent. That is always the trade-off but it is quite inconsequential. It is equally as competent technically with a very high bitrate. Generally speaking, I think few would find enough significant differences between the two HD transfers to sway them to pick one over the other in regards to video. To be fair - for my praise for the Criterion - I am also extremely impressed with the Masters of Cinema. It looks absolutely fabulous. I was, again, just blown away by how this film looks with the wonderful textured grain.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

Criterion remain faithful with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. The audio is predictably imperfect but is reasonably consistent considering the age of the film and level of the source. In fact - it may not have sounded much better theatrically. We can trust the lossless rendition is about as strong as we can get and it is without major hiss, dropouts or similar flaws. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked disc despite the film, presumably, being in the public domain.

The Criterion may be technically more robust but my ears couldn't distinguish much of a difference in playing the same scenes back-to-back. MoC offer a DTS-HD Master monoaural 2.0 channel at 656 kbps and optional HoH English subtitles. The Masters of Cinema Blu-ray disc is region-locked to 'B'.

 

Extras :

Criterion supply an excellent audio commentary featuring film historian Gregory Mank, author of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and Hollywood’s Maddest Doctors. It is filled with rare information about the stars and production details. Vintage film fans will relish the professional soliloquy on Island of t Lost Souls. Included is a new (2011) video conversation between filmmaker John Landis, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker, and genre expert Bob Burns for 17-minutes. There are also new interviews with horror film historian and documentary filmmaker David J. Skal for 13-minutes; writer and filmmaker Richard Stanley the original director of the ill-fated 1996 adaptation, The Island of Dr. Moreau, for 14-minutes plus Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh founding members of the band Devo - who were heavily influenced by the film Island of Lost Souls, lasting almost 20-minutes. Also included is their 1976 10-minute film In the Beginning Was the End: The Complete Truth About De-evolution. It features the songs “Secret Agent Man” and “Jocko Homo”. There is a Stills gallery, Theatrical trailer in HD and the package contains a 16-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by writer Christine Smallwood.

We get a 12-minute interview with Charles Laughton biographer (Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor) Simon Callow filmed in London in February 2012, exclusively for The Masters of Cinema Series. Also there is another exclusive video interview with film historian Jonathan Rigby (American Gothic: Sixty Years of Horror Cinema) for about 15-minute sharing some tidbits and factoids on his area of expertise. We get the original theatrical trailer - as found on the Criterion - and like the interviews is also in 1080P. Included is a lavish booklet featuring rare production imagery, and a new essay by the knowledgeable Kim Newman and being Dual Format (The Steelbook edition is as well) - a DVD is included with the feature and extras.

 

 
 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I was centered in the perfect mood for Island of Lost Souls and the presentation was an extremely positive one. The thick grittiness of the appearance establishes the moods and auras exceptionally well. This is a film that still 'works' almost 80-years old and the Criterion Blu-ray is an easy recommendation that will probably be prominently represented at our Year-End Poll. Buy with confidence!

Certainly not enough difference in a/v to make issue and Criterion eclipses with the commentary and additional extras. Still the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray is one to be reckoned with. A beautiful package primed for region 'B'-locked cinema fans. Island of Lost Souls is totally addictive. Steeped in history this is a must-own for every digital library. The LE Steelbook has a very cool cover (see below) - fans may wish to grab that while they can. Our highest recommendation.

Gary Tooze

October 12th, 2011

May 8th, 2012

 

Also available in a Limited Edition Steelbook:

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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