Isle of the Dead (1945)

Director: Mark Robson

Conversely, this felt like one of the least interesting of the Lewton films; I don’t think I cared for it much when I first saw it however many years ago, and I didn’t care an awful lot for it tonight. This was actually the first film starring Karloff to go into production, but it shut down after just a few days owing to Karloff’s back problems; while he was recuperating, Lewton set up The Body Snatcher instead and returned to Isle once the other film was done. It’s a semi-period film again, being specifically set during the Balkan War of 1912, although that setting is essentially just background; Karloff is General Pherides, one of the leaders of the Greek army fighting for independence from the Ottomans. He, an American journalist covering the conflict, and a group of English travellers become stranded on a tiny island near the conflict when one of the English people is found to be carrying plague. Or is it something far more mythological and sinister? The DVD Verdict review hilariously observes that the film “spent its 72-minute run time looking for something scary to spook us with, and came up with some folderol about a woman in a crypt at about the 168-minute mark”; harsh, but not entirely unfair. Said review also notes that the characters are the film’s real problem, though, which is also about right; Karloff does what he can with his increasingly paranoid general but there’s not much for him to work with, and none of the other actors fare much better (though I did like one scene with Ernst Deutsch as the army doctor who confesses his medical science appears unable to beat the plague). Nothing much else really to say about this one.

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