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Island of Lost Souls (Paramount) offers to connoisseurs of acting an opportunity to observe Charles Laughton in the role of a depraved physician who sets up a physiological research station on a remote Pacific isle and comes to a bad end at the claws of a crew of extras made up to resemble subhumans. If the principal role in this garish adaptation of H. G. Wells's Island of Doctor Moreau had been entrusted to some one else, it might very well have emerged as a routine nightmare, notable mainly for the presence of Paramount's highly publicized but not particularly bestial "panther woman" (Kathleen Burke). Miss Burke, a Chicago dentist's assistant whose pointed face, sloping eyes, fuzzy hair and graceful physique won her the part against 60,000 other girls who entered Paramount's contest for it last summer, pads about the island with the dubious manner natural for an inexperienced actress impersonating a heroine who has no soul. Laughton, as he managed to do in Devil and the Deep and The Sign of the Cross, gives the role of the villain a peculiarly horrifying quality by humanizing it far beyond the demands of the script.
Dr. Moreau is engaged in trying, with partial success, to create humans. His more satisfactory experiments he uses as house servants; the others he allows to roam the forests of his island, so long as they refrain from eating one another or gnawing the bark off trees. When a young castaway (Richard Arlen) turns up at the island, Dr. Moreau regards him as a suitable mate for his artfully constructed "panther woman." The romance progresses nicely until the castaway notices that the panther woman's finger nails are claws. Finally the castaway's fiancée comes to rescue him, accompanied by a drunken sea captain.
Island of Lost Souls is worth seeing particularly for the moments in which Dr. Moreau twitches quietly with pleasure as he allows himself to think what he will cause to happen to the castaway's fiancée when she goes to bed. In Hollywood's current cycle of horror pictures, this one deserves to be rated as much more atrocious than The Mummy (TIME, Jan. 16), a shade less discomforting than last year's Freaks.
No Other Woman (RKO). The trouble with most stories which try to dramatize the machine age is that they seem to have been turned out by machinery. This one, even to the detail of its title, is no exception, although there are momentslike the lively ceremony of a Polack wedding in a Pennsylvania steel townin which it comes to life. It is the story of a few crucial years in the life of a steel puddler, Jim Stanley (Charles Bickford), and his loving wife, Anna. Jim starts out as a laborer, becomes, for the purposes of the narrative, a steel tycoon almost overnight. In an addled way, he gets involved with a lecherous blonde girl (Gwili André) in New York and even tries to divorce his wife to marry her. Suddenly, in court, he experiences a change of heart, admits he has bribed witnesses to testify against his wife, goes to jail for perjury. By the time he gets out, Jim is no longer a tycoon but he still has Anna.