Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Peter Lorre owns an island on which he operates a secret diamond mine; his workers are ex-cons and parolees to whom he promises good, rehabilitating work, but who become virtual slaves. G-man Robert Wilcox agrees to take on a "Mission: Impossible"-type case to catch Lorre, but as he’s getting briefed on the facts of the case by a fellow agent, the agent is killed and Wilcox is arrested and sent to prison, insisting he's innocent but refusing to mount a defense, obviously hoping to get inside Lorre's operation. Sure enough, Lorre, who was behind the killing, knows Wilcox is an agent and, when he comes up for parole, Lorre takes him to the island as a worker. Wilcox, told by a fellow slave that there's no escape until you die and "get paroled in a pine box," tries to get the prisoners on his side for a revolt, but the presence of Lorre's unhappy wife (Rochelle Hudson), who is also being held prisoner, complicates matters.

This Columbia B-thriller is a kind of cross between a Devil's Island penal colony melodrama and H.G. Wells' "Island of Dr. Moreau"--the title is a steal from the 1932 Island of Lost Souls, an early version of Moreau. The best thing about the movie is Lorre as the slimy sadist who enjoys seeing his men get whipped (and who also seems to get a sexual charge out of threatening to whip his wife). Wilcox is handsome and capable as the hero, with Hudson fine as the lovely, scared heroine. There are a handful of familiar supporting faces, best of whom is George E. Stone (Runt, the sidekick in the Boston Blackie movies) as the houseboy who has a pet monkey which comes to an unfortunate end via Lorre; Stone's desire for revenge plays a crucial role in the climax. If this had been a Warner Brothers B-movie, it would have been a bit glossier and better paced, but Lorre, Wilcox, and Hudson make it worth watching. [TCM]

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

Sounds like I'd enjoy it just for Lorre's performance!