Island of Doomed Men

Screening on Film
Directed by Charles Barton.
With Peter Lorre, Rochelle Hudson, Robert Wilcox.
US, 1940, 35mm, black & white, 68 min.
Print source: Swank

Freed from his Fox contract as the popular Mr. Moto, Peter Lorre leapt to Columbia to release his darkest demons into this standout performance as the sadistic owner of a remote penal colony off the Florida coast. A white slaver who delights in delivering equally ruthless punishment to both his prisoner subjects and poor domestic pets, he reserves a stranger, psychosexual torture for his long-suffering wife. With Island of Doomed Men, Columbia pushed hard against the Hays Code with a seedy and deliberately perverse portrait of criminal injustice embodied by Lorre’s twisted despot and highlighted by suggestive-yet-indelible images of savage violence. Abbott and Costello director Charles Barton gives free reign to Lorre’s unhinged screen presence, which almost overwhelms the film, relegating all other characters to second tier, including Thirties starlet Rochelle Hudson in the difficult role of a fragile Beauty held in the grip of Lorre’s suavely menacing Beast.

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