Film: Island of Lost Souls

Island of Lost Souls (1932) is the first film adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau. It stars Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau and Richard Arlen as the protagonist, Edward Parker. Bela Lugosi features as one of Dr. Moreau's creatures.

Edward Parker is the sole survivor of a mysterious shipwreck. He awakens to find himself aboard a cargo ship called the Covena, nursed back to health by Montgomery, who is overseeing the shipment of various animals to an uncharted island. He persuades Montgomery to send a cable to his fiancee Ruth in Apia, letting her know he survived.

When they arrive at the island, Edward runs afoul of Captain Davies, the drunken, perpetually pissed off captain of the Covena, who tosses the castaway overboard onto the launch belonging to Montgomery’s employer, reclusive surgeon Dr. Moreau. Moreau protests but the Covena sails away.

On the island, Edward discovers that the apparent natives are all extremely bestial people. A beautiful woman named Lota takes an instant liking to the newcomer. Moreau finds the budding relationship between the two very interesting indeed. As Edward eventually discovers, the "natives" are actually various animals he has surgically evolved into humans. This includes Lota, but Moreau doesn’t tell Edward that, because he’s hoping Lota will mate with him, and produce offspring...

Meanwhile, the Covena docks in Apia without Edward. Ruth, having gotten her fiance’s cable Montgomery sent, confronts Captain Davies. When he finally confesses to Edward’s location, giving the the latitude and longitude of Moreau’s island. Ruth immediately hires Captain Donahue, a hard-drinking but far friendlier seaman, to take her to the island to retrieve her wayward boyfriend.

Neither of them suspect what horrors await them...

The film was banned in several countries and also heavily edited following its release, because much of its subject matter was deemed inappropriate. It remained unreleased on home video for years except for an edited copy released by Universal as part of The Classic Collection in the 90s, before the Criterion Collection finally released it uncut on DVD and Blu-Ray.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Edward Prendick is now Edward Parker.
    • The schooner captain, named Davis in the novel, is (slightly) renamed as "Davies".
  • The Alcoholic: Captain Donahue is a cheery and likable example. Captain Davies not so much.
  • Attempted Rape: In a very daring move for a movie of this era, Moreau actually tries to arrange things so that Ruth is raped by Ouran. However she screams, and he's driven away by Edward and Donahue.
  • Beard of Evil: Moreau sports a positively (intentionally) Satanic one.
  • Beast Man: Dr. Moreau's subjects.
  • Broken Pedestal: The Beast-Men lose their belief in Dr. Moreau's "godhood" when he orders one them to kill Donahue, directly going against the law he has put in place. And since Donahue is a man like Moreau, they come to conclusion that "the Law is no more" and revolt against him.
  • Canon Foreigner: Lota, Ruth and Donahue.
  • Cat Girl: Lota comes from a feline animal (dialogue in the movie itself is not specific, but she is called "The Panther Woman" in the credits).
  • Character as Himself: Top billing in the opening titles and the movie posters went to Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi and "the Panther Woman".
  • The Commandments: The Beast-Men live by a set of rules they refer to as "The Law." Moreau eventually breaks it, whereupon they revolt.
  • Danger Deadpan: When Edward fiercely tells him, "Moreau, you don't deserve to live!" the good Doctor's only reaction is a bemused, "I beg your pardon?" Later during the Beast-Men's revolt, he seems completely unconcerned - "I'm going out to meet them," he says casually. It's not until the very, very end he finally loses his cool.
  • Deserted Island: Moreau's island is emphatically not found on any modern sea charts.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Lota dies in Edward's arms.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Moreso than in the novel.
  • A God Am I: "Mr. Parker, do you know what it's like to feel like God?"
  • Ocean Madness: When first picked up, Edward is delirious and can only scream Ruth's name a lot.
  • Phallic Weapon: Moreau wears his revolver holstered at the front so that the barrel is somewhat tucked between his thighs, the butt jutting outwards from his groin. A reversed example of the trope, but a deliberate choice by Charles Laughton.
  • Pig Man: One of the smallest of Moreau's creations.
  • Rape as Drama: Moreau wants to crossbreed his creations with ordinary humans, and so after Edward refuses to sleep with Beast-Woman Lota, he decides to try it the other way around with a human female and a male Beast-Person. This of course means having Ouran attempt to rape Ruth in her bedroom.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: It is the incident with Ouran and Ruth, perpetrated at Moreau's instigation, that finally drives Montgomery to fully turn against his employer.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Montgomery survives, and even rows Edward and Ruth away from the island.
    • Captain Davies. In the novel, he is found dead by Prendick in a lifeboat.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: After abandoning the Law, the Beast-Men swarm their former master's home with torches at hand.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Several of the Beast-Men, but the beefy Ouran and Gola in particular.
  • Whip It Good: Dr. Moreau enforces his authority with a whip. It proves to be useless when the Beast-Men revolt.
  • Wicked Cultured: Moreau is one of the suavest and classiest mad scientists ever.
  • You No Take Candle: The Beast-People, even educated ones like Lota and the Sayer of the Law, tend to talk like this.