Other ambient noises of planets growing, insects flying around, and strange forces constantly bring a scary aurora to the film. The bass kicks into high gear towards the climax of the movie and with the shotgun going off with a nice rumble to it. The score always adds to the suspense of the story and the dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with, even when Nic Cage is going berserk. There were no audio issues to speak of.
Ever wonder where Col. Kurtz would've ended up had he survived the end of "Apocalypse Now"? Well, now we know: He exiled himself to a deserted island to create humanimals - the horror, the horror.This 1996 version of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" was such a troubled production that articles, books and documentaries have been made about it, like the 2014 documentary "Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau." Stanley championed the project, wrote the screenplay and was set to direct, but was fired after a few days of filming due to conflicts with Val Kilmer, who wasn't in the best of moods due to being served divorce papers while on set.Actually that wasn't the main reason Stanley was fired. He was fine for small indie productions, but he was out of his league with a blockbuster like this. Veteran filmmaker John Frankenheimer was brought in to save the production from being a complete disaster. He got the job done, but his tyrannical approach didn't help matters.The production was so bad that Fairuza Balk (the cat-lady, Aissa) literally tried to escape the set, but was caught at the airport in the nick of time. Add to this Brando's well-known eccentricities, not helped by the recent suicide of his daughter, Cheyenne, and constant rewrites and you have a formula for a cinematic chaos!In light of the horrible production and the ensuing bad press you would think this would be a lousy movie, but it's actually not THAT bad. I can see why some people don't like it because parts of the third act are pretty crazy and don't flow very well, but if you're a sucker for lost-on-an-island type yarns and appreciate the mood & insanity of films like "Apocalypse Now" and the original "Planet of the Apes" ("It's a madhouse, a MADHOUSE!") you'll probably appreciate some of it. Don't get me wrong, it's nowhere near the caliber of either of those films, but comparisons are inevitable and there are entertaining bits.The main problem is that the story isn't that compelling; the flow of the movie is off, which is mostly apparent in the mounting craziness of the final third, which tempts the viewer to tune out.Thankfully, there are some positives. The title sequence is kinetic and dazzling; the score by Gary Chang is varied and all-around phenomenal; the plot is intriguing; the humanimal make-up and actors are quite good with Daniel Rigney's 'Hyena-Swine' standing out (Rigney would be dead a mere year after the film's release); there's some creative pizazz, like Marlon Brando's 35-minute stint where he's as captivating as always, albeit a fat bastage; the inclusion of Dr. Moreau's "Mini-Me" is hilarious in hindsight of the Austin Powers trilogy; and there are flashes of nigh greatness, like Edward's revelatory talk with Aissa in the third act.Marlon's Dr. Moreau is a variation of Kurtz, i.e. nutjob in the jungle, albeit twenty years later. For Brando fans it's enjoyable seeing him in his old age. This was one of his final films and it shows that he had his magnetic charm 'til the end.Furthermore, there are some interesting themes: The humanimals who get to live in Dr. Moreau's abode are more human-like in appearance than the animals living in the smelly humanimal 'village' in the forest; the most human-like one, Aissa, he even refers to as his daughter. Wouldn't this lead to tensions between the factions? Moreover, while Moreau is a benevolent dictator he's still a dictator and dictators are rarely good. When Hyena-Swine usurps the crown he immediately becomes a malevolent dictator.The original version runs 96 minutes and the DC 99 minutes. The film was shot in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.GRADE: C+
VIDEO and AUDIOCriterion preserves the original formats of Island of Lost Souls in the Blu-ray's 1.33:1 picture and 1.0 monaural sound. Turning eighty next year, this movie will be the oldest thing that some of its viewers have ever seen. It shows its age and the high resolution of 1080p may even call some extra attention to that. The pillarboxed black & white element is reasonably clean, but it is marred by a faint, persistent flicker, some small scratches, specks, and hairs, and the occasional line. A number of shots lack focus, presumably the result of less time and thought going into the technical side of movies back then. The film is preceded here by Criterion's silent logo, current rights owner Universal's 1997-present logo, and its original Paramount Pictures screen.The LPCM mix is all right, with most of the dialogue remaining intelligible and English subtitles stepping up for anything called into question. It is worth mentioning that at one point, the soundtrack hiccups and a Laughton line is delivered unnaturally. In the same vein, there are a couple of jumpy points where a couple of frames appear to be missing. One does not doubt that this is the best the film has looked on home video and the best that modern technology and Criterion's budget currently allow. With reasonable expectations, that is more than good enough. BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGNThis is yet another solid Criterion effort in the supplements department. Extras begin with an audio commentary by film historian Gregory Mank. He is very animated, his screen-specific remarks emerging like they would from an enthusiastic, untiring tour guide. He is full of valuable information, dispensing facts about the project's development, fall production, cast, casting (which included a Panther Woman contest), international bannings and censorship battles. He also talks about other horror movies from the time and an assortment of Hollywood lore. It's an unusually pleasant listen.Kicking off the all-HD video extras slate is "Landis, Baker, and Burns" (16:53), a 2011 conversation between director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Michael Jackson's Thriller), make-up effects artist Rick Baker, and horror aficionado Bob Burns. They sing the praises of Island of Lost Souls, paying special notice to the hair and make-up work and lamenting the present state of monster movies.Next, there is a new interview of cultural historian David J. Skal (13:04). His comments place Island and the book that inspired it in the context of its mediums and release. It adds more good information to the mix.Providing a different perspective is an interview with Richard Stanley (14:15), the South African original director of the 1996 Marlon Brando-Val Kilmer adaptation, who ended up being replaced by John Frankenheimer. In the first half, he comments on Wells' novel and its themes. Then, he turns to his career-killing version, explaining the updates his script made that were ultimately discarded and how the doomed production was shut down. "Casale and Mothersbaugh" edits together separate new interviews with Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, two of the founding members of Devo, (19:48) on Island's influence on the band's music and de-evolution manifesto. It overstates the connection, but offers good insight into Devo's origins.Another bone is thrown in Devo fans' direction with the inclusion of the 1976 short film In the Beginning Was the End: The Truth About De-evolution (9:43), the music videos for the band's "Secret Agent Man" cover and "Jocko Homo." You could question the relevance, or you could just enjoy the entertainment value, which is above and beyond that of most bonus features. You're probably familiar with the band's "Whip It" music video; these ones are comparably weird and creative. The first dresses the band in jumpsuits, hard hats, and masks (they come straight from a work day at the factory). The second has them repeating their Island-inspired, album-naming credo in some kind of medical school classroom with surgical masks, caps, and rubber gloves abound.A stills gallery consists of 53 black and white publicity photos, capturing make-up work, scenes, and some staged behind the scenes. Last but not least, we get Island's original theatrical trailer (1:30), which credits Kathleen Burke as "The Panther Woman" and Bela Lugosi as Bela "Dracula" Lugosi.Inaccessible by menu but found in disc exploration is a brief, goofy television interview (1:43) from Cleveland's WJW. By the magic of split-screen effects, Ernie Anderson chats with Ghoulardi, his alter ego who hosted the station's local late night "Shock Theater" program from 1963 to 1966. An opening caption explains this is where Casale and Mothersbaugh discovered Island. Criterion doesn't really do Easter eggs, so I don't know why this fun treat is hidden or how you can access it without a BD-ROM drive and time on your hands.The menu presents a scratchy graphic hybrid montage in the vein of the cover art that is set to the film's opening/only music. As always, Criterion's masterful disc authoring skills support bookmarks and resuming.Though that covers everything on the disc, we must take note of something next to the disc: yet another one of Criterion's fine companion booklets. This one numbers 16 pages and serves up all the transfer, disc, and film information you could want along with more nice illustrations. The booklet's center and centerpiece is "The Beast Flesh Creeping Back", a 6-page essay by Christine Smallwood. With straightforward prose, she views the film through modern eyes, noting its influences and its casualties. The article offers a good mix of production information and critical analysis. The appealing booklet is held in a clear Blu-ray-sized, DVD-style case, which uses its transparency to display inside the animal-men's repeated laws. CLOSING THOUGHTSBy today's standards, Island of Lost Souls is a tame B-movie and its artistry truly is limited. That doesn't, however, render this old horror flick any less than engrossing, fascinatingly distant from modern fare but also entirely entertaining in the narrative way intended. Criterion's Blu-ray does not surmount all the obstacles an 80-year-old movie presents, but this long overdue official disc debut highly satisfies with its nice, dramatic restoration and a sturdy two hours of bonus features highlighted by an excellent commentary and the delicious eccentricity of a Devo music video. I can't imagine anyone not getting some enjoyment out of this fine set; whether or not 1930s genre films are your cup of tea, an occasional taste is most pleasing to one's palate.Support this site when you buy Island of Lost Souls: Criterion Collection now from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD 2b1af7f3a8