Directed by Erle C. Kenton [Other horror films: The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), The Cat Creeps (1946)]
This is one of those classics that I enjoy, but don’t absolutely love. I’d say, though, if you’re a fan of 30’s horror, then this is one that you should definitely give a go, as it certainly hovers around average, if not a bit better.
Based off a novel by H.G. Wells, the story here is pretty interesting, and the film has some ominous undertones due to it. The setting, a house in the middle of a jungle, on an uncharted island, was suitably insular, and it had a pretty creepy vibe to it. The ‘natives’ and their restlessness, too, enhanced the film’s tension, boiling over at the end in a fantastic finale.
It’s a great cast all-around. Charles Laughton does amazing as the smooth-talking, suave mad scientist. Absolutely loved his performance here. Richard Arlen was your generic 30’s protagonist, but got along just fine. Leila Hyams (also in the classic Freaks from the same year), Kathleen Burke (also in Murders in the Zoo from 1933), and Arthur Hohl were all good additions also. Lastly, Bela Lugosi, though it’s a bit hard to tell it’s him, does pretty good also, as you can imagine.
This movie is darker than you might expect from the 30’s, and the ending is downright brutal, which only makes it better. That said, I don’t love the movie – it’s a good way to spend some time, and it certainly is a classic of the genre, but there are plenty of other early 30’s horror films I’d rather watch. Still, it’s certainly worth at least one watch, and having seen it twice or three times now, it’s still easy to attain enjoyment from it.