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Island of Lost Souls, September 4

Genetic Screenings

Thursday, September 4, 2003
7:30 a.m. ISLAND OF LOST SOULS
Erle C. Kenton (U.S., 1932)

Introduced by Dale Hoyt


Dale Hoyt is a well-known Bay Area visual artist, as well as the founding director of CALF (Coalition of Artists and Lifeforms).

When the SS Covena sets sail, its course leads to "an island not on the charts"—unmapped, like the genome itself. The freighter's cargo consists of more animals for the grotesque experiments of the mad Dr. Moreau (a chillingly cherubic Charles Laughton). This whip-cracking brute with a God complex has turned his devious eye toward new "bioanthropological research," the failed products of which wander the island in their mutated horror, functioning as a workforce of chimerae. Based on the 1896 novel by H. G. Wells, Kenton's grandly atmospheric adaptation, though conceived of well before there was the scientific vocabulary, nevertheless hints at a eugenic impulse behind more extreme versions of genomic experimentation. In the foreboding House of Pain, using plastic surgery, gland extracts, X-ray baths, and the scalpel, Moreau has tried to help along a tendency "toward the human form." What distinguishes Island of Lost Souls from other science-based horror films of the time is its compassion for the queer creatures roaming the jungle and their pitiful grasping towards humanity. Years later, the eighties band Devo would adapt their ritual cry for their own "Are we not men? We are Devo."

— Steve Seid

• Written by Waldemar Young, Philip Wylie, from the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells. Photographed by Karl Struss. With Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Kathleen Burke, and Randolph Scott, Buster Crabbe, Alan Ladd as Ape Men. (72 mins, B&W, 16mm, From Universal Pictures)

Preceded by short:
Transgenic Hairshirt
(Dale Hoyt, U.S., 2001). In an act of cross-genus sympathy, Hoyt has his head shaved for the construction of a protective vest for his sphinx cat, a hairless feline. Ironically, the bald pate seems to suggest a new vulnerability. (4:20 mins, Color, Video, From the artist)

(Total running time: 77 mins)