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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
A mad scientist is forced to leave San Francisco when his experiments become known. He lands on a tropical island, takes control and terrorizes the local populace. The survivor of a shipwreck washes ashore on the island, sees what is happening and determines to free the natives from his rule. Written by
This very minor Universal horror film from 1942 is significant for it was the last time Lionel Atwill received a starring role in a film. He was on the outs after this due to the sex scandal that ruined his career and health. He played only minor roles after this and died 4 years later of cancer.
The film is very easy to be hard on and Universal has obviously regarded it so low, that it has never made it to video, despite the millions they still make off their classic horror films. What kills the film is a lack of mood or suspense. It is super-pedestrianly directed by Joseph H. Lewis.
What makes the film are the change-of-pace settings including a doomed cruise ship and an exotic island. The actors are all excellent too, even if Nat Pendelton and Una Merkel get a little tired with their comic relief act.
Ultimately, Atwill rules and is as menacing and sinister as ever. He revives a dead native and is revered as a god by the island tribe. He very selfishly dictates how the other ship survivors will live as only Atwill so slimily could (Sounds like a reality show plot). The other standout is Noble Johnson as the village leader. He is given more dialogue than he ever had in his many previous horror films and he ultimately gives Atwill a run for his money. It was nice to see him in a larger role.
Don't expect too much - this is a B film. Atwill fans will delight in seeing his last great lead performance. Atwill may have never had a definitive mad doctor film, but I've always regarded him as the maddest doctor of them all.
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