Set during the Balkan War of 1912, this film has Boris Karloff as a Greek general, Nikolas Pherides, who, after leading his troops in a victorious battle, travels to a nearby island to visit the grave of his wife. He finds that the body has been exhumed and, along with American reporter

Oliver Davis (Marc Cramer), begins a search for the remains. The two are aided by Albrecht (Jason Robards, Sr.) who provides a place for them to stay and explains that some locals have taken to grave robbing. Pherides decides to go after the culprits, dismissing fellow houseguest Kyra's (Helene

Thimig) peasant superstitions of vrykolakas--Greek vampires. Members of the household are stricken with deadly plague caused by the hundreds of corpses that litter the nearby battlefield. As the disease spreads, madness begins to grip the island, culminating in a premature burial. At this point

Pherides has become deranged, believes Kyra's stories and vows to kill the "vampire" Thea (Ellen Drew). As with BEDLAM, producer Val Lewton based this film on a painting, this time a work by Swiss painter Arnold Boecklin. Claustrophobic and nightmarishly atmospheric, ISLE OF THE DEAD is kept

moving along by director Mark Robson at a deliberate pace which becomes more and more creepy until the moment of the premature burial. The audience knows that the woman is alive, and, as the camera pulls away from the wooden coffin with no sound other than that of dripping water, the suspense

becomes almost unbearable. At last a terrible scream is heard, followed by desperate scratching. For this scene alone, ISLE OF THE DEAD deserves an exalted place in the history of horror: it is one of the most frightening moments in any Lewton film. Karloff was physically stricken during the

production; having aggravated an old back injury, he was rushed to the hospital for an emergency spinal operation.