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Isle of the Dead

Isle of the Dead (1949) starring Boris Karloff, Ellen Drew

Synopsis of Isle of the Dead

In Isle of the Dead, a group of disparate characters are quarantined on a Greek island during the Balkan Wars of 1912.  Septicemic plague causes the quarantine, and the group’s only hope is for the hot, dry sirocco winds to kill the fleas that cause it.  In addition, one of them suspects another of being the supernatural vorvolaka.

Review of Isle of the Dead

Isle of the Dead is an excellent movie — but not a horror movie in the traditional sense.  It’s more of a character study, with disparate characters thrown together, and how they react.  One additional ingredient is that one of them suspects another of being a vorvolaka.  That’s a vampire-like creature that feeds on the lives of others — without even being aware of it.  The paranoia gets stoked by this irrational fear.  As if the fear of death from the plague isn’t enough.  Boris Karloff does an excellent job here, in a non-horror role as the strict, but protective, general.  All of the cast turn in very good performances, making Isle of the Dead an exceptional movie, that I recommend highly.

Cast of characters in Isle of the Dead

  • Isle of the Dead (1949) starring Boris Karloff, Ellen DrewGeneral Pherides (Boris KarloffSon of FrankensteinThe Raven).  A military man, who originally comes to the Isle of the Dead to pay his respects to his dead wife.  Soon he’s quarantined there with the rest of the group, and strives to protect the other people.
  • Oliver Davis (Marc CramerFirst Yank into Tokyo).  A reporter, accompanying the general, who is quarantined along with the group.
  • Dr. Aubrecht (Jason Robards Sr.BedlamMr. Blandings Builds his Dream House).  A retired Swiss archeologist, part of the quarantined group.
  • Madame Kyra (Helene Thimig, Decision before DawnCloak and Dagger) Dr. Aubrecht’s Greek housekeeper.  A superstitious woman who fears that Thea is a vorvolaka.
  • Dr. Drossos (Ernst DeutschThe GolemThe Third Man).  The doctor who is summoned to the group after the death of Robbins.  He determines the cause to be septicemic plague and quarantines the island. He explains how the plague is passed and how it may be eradicated in one day if the hot, dry sirocco winds arrive.  If they survive that long …
  • St. Aubyn (Alan NapierBatmanThe Mole People).  British diplomat and devoted husband to Mary.
  • Mrs. Mary St. Aubyn (Katherine EmeryEyes in the NightThe Locket).   St. Aubyn’s pale and sickly wife.  She suffers from catalepsy and has a dread of being buried alive prematurely.
  • Thea (Ellen DrewThe Monster and the GirlChristmas in July).  Mary’s youthful Greek companion who sees to her needs, and has a happy, kind personality.
  • Andrew Robbins (Skelton KnaggsHouse of DraculaThe Paleface).  An English tinsmith, who becomes the first victim of the plague.  But not the last.