Clear weather again today, so I venture west and attempt to map my surroundings...
I had been walking for several uneventful hours when it hit me!
I looked around – nothing. So I attempted to carry on walking and it hit me again! Some sort of invisible force field!
I walked as far as I could to the left, and to the right. No way through. Am I trapped? Trapped like an animal? Like an animal in… an arctic force-field?
I find myself pondering upon this question back in the igloo, as the TV flickers on and offers up a melancholy tale of people trapped on an island – is this another message aimed at me? Must… write. Must… record… ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945)
Isle of the Dead - a beautifully subtle and understated horror movie - is one of famed producer Val Lewton’s 9 seminal horror films he made for RKO in the 1940’s. Val Lewton's horrors have a unique style all of their own, as he favours atmosphere and trepidation over shocks and monsters. Brain over brawn, if you will, which makes for a type of film-making that has stood the test of time rather well.
To my mind (semi-frozen in the arctic wasteland as it is), Isle of the Dead has an awful lot in common with Lewton’s 1942 masterpiece ‘Cat People’. In both, superstition plays a central part. In both, a young lady is under suspicion of being some sort of supernatural being. In both, superstition and madness become intertwined…
Several people find themselves quarantined on a Greek Island during The Balkans War. Among them we have a stern General played with magnificent restraint by Boris Karloff. Others present include a British consul and his invalid wife, a military doctor, an attractive young lady, and an incredibly annoying old Greek peasant women.
And so the group find themselves stuck on this island together, as the plague takes hold and they start to die off. And as if this wasn’t enough, the old Greek woman starts ranting about a Vorvolaka (some sort of Greek vampire sort of thing) being in their midst – and she’s pointing her crooked old arthritic Greek finger straight at the attractive young lady! What follows is 90 minutes of a beautifully shot and wonderfully acted (especially Karloff) meditation on superstition, science, mortality, war, disease and madness.
It’s a truly haunting movie (no pun intended) with a foreboding atmosphere throughout, a chilling ending that gets right under your skin, and a premature burial thrown in for good measure. Essential viewing for the Horror connoisseur!