Isle of the Dead (1945)

ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945)
Article #81 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 6-5-2001
Posting date: 10-19-2001

A Greek general visits and stays overnight in an inn on an island. When a man is found dead of the plague the next morning, he puts a quarantine on the island and calls in a doctor to help. However, some of the residents do not believe it is the plague, but rather that the death was caused by a Greek vampire known as a vorvolaka.

This Val Lewton film is generally not held up as one of his best, and it was hampered by an uneven production schedule, partially as a result of the hospitilization of Boris Karloff in the middle of the filming, causing production to be held up for several months. The various story elements don’t mesh as well as they could, but there is still much to recommend in this movie; there is a haunting, stark, poetic atmosphere, and the science vs. superstition theme is reminiscent of the one in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. I think Karloff does a great job in this, and he’s playing a very interesting character; though the Greek general Pherides is by and for the most vocal exponent of science towards the beginning of the movie, he is the one who most totally gives in to superstition as time passes. The movie also features Ellen Drew, Alan Napier, Jason Robards Sr., and the always unsettling Skelton Knaggs as the first victim of the plague. Certainly not a perfect movie, but worthwhile. Incidentally, this film was base on a painting, Bocklin’s “Isle of the Dead.”

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