Review: ‘Isle of the Dead’

Isle of the Dead is a slow conversation piece about plagues and vampires on an eerie Greek island. It's better handled and directed than most though thriller fans will still find its lack of action a drag. Even Boris Karloff fans will note the tired way he rambles through it all.

Isle of the Dead is a slow conversation piece about plagues and vampires on an eerie Greek island. It’s better handled and directed than most though thriller fans will still find its lack of action a drag. Even Boris Karloff fans will note the tired way he rambles through it all.

Yarn is a psychological drama of an assorted group of people gathered on the island, when a plague breaks out and death takes one of them. A doctor is sure only a south wind can blow away the plague; a superstitious native is as positive that one of the guests is a vampire, carrying the plague’s spirit within her. A couple of murders help to decimate the group until only a couple are left when the plague runs its course.

Karloff, as a Greek general trying to keep the plague from reaching his troops, is more paternal than menacing. Ellen Drew lends poignancy as a misunderstood nurse, and she and Marc Cramer present an attractive romantic couple.

Isle of the Dead

Production

RKO. Director Mark Robson; Producer Val Lewton; Screenplay Ardel Wray, Josef Mischel; Camera Jack Mackenzie; Editor Lyle Boyer; Music Leigh Harline; Art Director Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter Keller

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1945. Running time: 72 MIN.

With

Boris Karloff Ellen Drew Marc Cramer Alan Napier Jason Robards
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  1. While I applaud any attention given to classic movies in this era I really can’t figure out why this link appears today as part of Variety’s “other stories”, as this review has historic interest but is incredibly dated considering subsequent critical appreciation of Val Lewton . Are these links randomly selected by computer or what?

    • timgray2013 says:

      We are working to correct this. Yes, this is an extremely abbreviated version of the original review, and this condensed version was done many years ago; and yes, it was randomly selected by computer. We are working to avoid this and to give a proper respect on variety.com to classic movies and filmmakers like Val Lewton. Apologies and thanks for asking! And keep up the good work.
      — Tim Gray

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