Isle Of The Dead (1945)

MARCH 25, 2008


You know, I love TCM, but they gotta start airing movies on a normal schedule. Because of their insistence of showing movies with start times that a DVR doesn’t understand, I missed the ending of Isle Of The Dead. Luckily, a very specific “plot summary” on IMDb told me what happened, but still, I like to see these things for myself. It’s not “Read The Cliff’s Notes For A Horror Movie A Day”, after all.

Based on the writeup, it seems the ending was just as good as the rest of the movie. Boris Karloff is fantastic as the possibly psychotic Army colonel who declares quarantine for the inhabitants of an island after someone falls victim to the Plague (2nd Plague movie this month, wooo!), and the rest of the cast is quite good too (Jason Robards’ dad is in it!). I particularly liked the woman who was susceptible to fainting spells and has premonitions of being buried alive. She reminded me of one of my aunts. Also she totally kills some folks near the end. Like my aunt.

Like all of the Val Lewton movies, Isle is all atmosphere, but it works better here than usual. Even though it’s about 10 minutes longer than the average Lewton flick, and doesn’t have nearly as much “action”, it flies by, mainly on the strength of the mystery (is it the plague or a murderer?) and the acting. Like The Seventh Victim, the horror elements are relatively toned down, but it’s still compelling.

I also like how thorough the movie’s doctor is when someone dies. First he places a feather under the person’s nose, to see if they laugh or sneeze. When that doesn’t work, he places a mirror under their nostrils to see if their breath fogs the glass. And he does it for a few people! If this guy was around for April Fool’s Day or Catacombs, he could have spared me the rest of those god awful movies.

This one’s up for a remake (as are all Lewton films, part of some weird deal with RKO). Hopefully they find a way to make the plague and the vorvolka (sp? – a mythological demon that the Greeks believe in, at any rate) storylines tied together a bit, as it often seems one is forgotten in favor of the other. And it’s not quite as good as the other Lewton movies I’ve seen lately (except maybe Leopard Man). But still, compared to all of the 30s and 40s nonsense I usually watch (via my budget pack), it’s a masterpiece.

What say you?


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