FERNANDO’s CORNER – Posted October 9th, 2015
I watched another unique, unusual, excellent film from the
Val Lewton Collection: “ISLE OF THE DEAD” (1945) with Boris Karloff playing a Greek General during the 1912 Balkan War, as I (think) I had never seen him before. He was a very good actor and I remember him in many, many films, but in this starring role he lends his character a credibility and multi-dimensional quality that impressed me favorably.
As directed by Mark Robson and produced by the masterful Val Lewton, the film has that eerie, magical atmosphere, essential in all of the films he made at RKO Radio, that I have seen up to this date. The supernatural aspects of the (in this case) Greek folklore and the beliefs of its people are the axis of this wonderful film.
The plot centering on the arrival of the Greek General to the island where his wife is buried, along with a Bostonian journalist and war correspondent is absorbing from the very first minute and the way in which it unfolds is brilliant. The actors are uniformly good, but besides Karloff who is excellent, special praise must be given to Ernest Deutsch as the doctor and Katherine Emery* as the sickly wife of the English Diplomat St. Aubyn, perfectly played by Alan Napier.
Ellen Drew, one of the loveliest sights I have had lately, as the mysterious Thea, looks ravishing; she enthralled me as much as the sight of Hedy Lamarr in “Algiers”, to me one of the greatest beauties of all time. Helene Thimig as the superstitious Madame Kyra is also superb.
In these films, Val Lewton creates a universe of its own, but which balances very well the supernatural aspects and Noir elements of his movies, with an essential honesty and realism in their mise-en-scene. With each and every new Lewton film I get to see, I never cease to be amazed and pleasantly surprised by his immense talent, versatilty and genius. It’s complex to define or express correctly, especially for a non-native English speaker like me, the effect that his movies have on me.
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CineMaven NOTE: The woman above is Rebecca Eaton, Executive Producer of PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre.” Click foto above. Her mother was actress Katherine Emery.
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