Island of Lost Souls is one of the most under-appreciated and least seen of the great 1930's horror movies. Based on a story by H.G. Wells, Island of Lost Souls stars Charles Laughton [The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Spartacus, Mutiny on the Bounty] as Dr. Moreau, a "mad scientist" who conducts evolutionary experiments on animals in order to make them more human. Laughton is terrific as Moreau. His performance is subtle but unnerving. His Moreau is a man with few scruples and no compassion for the victims of his experiments. He also conveys a twisted sense of humor that is seen as a slight smile on his face or a twinkle in his eyes. Furthermore, Laughton also gives off an Oscar Wilde or Dr. Frank-n-furter vibe that's a delight to watch and must have been a bit controversial in the 1930's.
Richard Arlen is also quite good as our hero Edward Parker who gradually uncovers the horrible truth about Dr. Moreau's experiments. He's the perfect counterpoint to Laughton and they play off of each other very well. Bela Lugosi also has a small cameo as one of the lead mutants but his makeup gets in the way of his performance as far as I'm concerned.
Speaking of make-up, Wally Westmore does a really great job in this picture with the exception of Lugosi. The hair work is excellent and in an age where silicone was not available his prosthetic work is very clean and convincing. Erie C. Kenton's direction [House of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein] is also very good and is some of the finest work of his career.
Island of Lost Souls provided the inspiration for so many movies to follow such as The Fly (1958), Swamp Thing (1987), and just about every creature feature in the 1950's. It's a must-see of 1930s horror. Don't miss it.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.