Isle of the Dead (1945) - Rotten Tomatoes

Isle of the Dead (1945)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Isle of the Dead Photos

Movie Info

Inspired by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin's famous painting, this seminal horror film marked the first of three collaborations between RKO producer Val Lewton and British genre star Boris Karloff. Set during the 1912 Balkan Wars, Isle of the Death featured Karloff as Greek general Pherides who, along with an American journalist (Marc Cramer), visits the gravesite of his late wife on a deserted island. They find the grave desecrated and a group of travelers held hostage by the superstitious beliefs of Kyra (Helene Thimig). One by one, the inhabitants of the island are felled by what Dr. Drossos (Ernest Dorian aka Ernst Deutsch) terms the plague, but what Kyra insists is the work of Thea (Ellen Drew), a young nurse she believes to be a "varvoloka," an ancient Greek vampire. Thea's patient, Mrs. St. Aubun (Katherine Emery), suffers from death-like trances and, sure enough, during one of her spells, she is pronounced dead by Swiss archeologist Albrecht (Jason Robards Sr. and is interred alive.

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Boris Karloff
as Gen. Nikolas Pherides
Marc Cramer
as Oliver Davis
Helene Thimig
as Madame Kyra
Katherine Emery
as Mrs. St. Aubyn
Alan Napier
as Mr. St. Aubyn
Skelton Knaggs
as Henry Robbins
Sherry Hall
as Colonel
Ernst Deutsch
as Dr. Drossos
Erick Hanson
as Officer
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News & Interviews for Isle of the Dead

Critic Reviews for Isle of the Dead

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (2)

It's better handled and directed than most though thriller fans will still find its lack of action a drag.

November 14, 2007 | Full Review…

The film comes magnificently alive with the burial sequence, and with the zombie-like, white-robed woman roaming through shadowy galleries and shuttered rooms.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A moody and riveting piece of psychological horror that has been lovingly restored to near pristine quality.

April 13, 2021 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The story's on the slender side, but haunting imagery, a few chilling moments, and a typically strong performance from Karloff compensate.

April 2, 2021 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review… otherworldly experience to watch...

February 20, 2021 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The Isle of the Dead reliably delivers the pleasures expected from a Val Lewton film-chief among them psychological terror based on suggestion...

March 26, 2020 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Isle of the Dead


Confused. Some nice plot kernels and plenty of great Lewton atmospherics but ... no. Too much going on here.

Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

This one came as a complete surprise to me. Here I was expecting a schlock horror film and what do I get? A very suspenseful and thought-provoking thriller. Fantastic I say! Like most thrillers, it takes it a bit to get going, but if you perservere with a bit of patience, you'll discover your heart racing while the suspense is wound up slowly over the course of the film. You can cut the tension with a knife when the creeps start creeping in, and surprisingly, none of them from Karloff himself really. I just can't get over how effective this film was. You're bound to find this in a cheap bin at a local K-Mart or Big Lots! (which is where I found it), but it's definitely worth more than its purchase price. Pick this one up and give it a chance if you spot it.

Tim Salmons
Tim Salmons

Super Reviewer

Vampires, plague, zombies, murder? What is this movie about? And why is it so boring? Karloff is good as usual, but the story isn't up to par.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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