Island of Doomed Men (1940)

I recently stumbled across Island of Doomed Men (1940), a rare Peter Lorre film that I had not seen.  While I’ve written about Lorre in the Mr. Moto series over the last year, Lorre was more well-known for playing criminals and killers in thrillers such as M (1931) and Stranger on the Third Floor (1940).

In Island of Doomed Men, Lorre returns to his sinister roots as Stephen Danel, who owns an island plantation.  Danel opens his plantation up to convicted murderers ostensibly to provide them a chance to rehabilitate.  In reality, Lorre is using the doomed men paroled to him as slave labor for his diamond mine.


Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto from Thank You, Mr. Moto

Despite the subject manner and cruel treatment used to keep the convicts in line, Director Charles Barton filmed little violence on-screen due to the Production Code.  However, Lorre conveyed such a sinister presence in his role as Danel, the film is truly eery in places.  While he never strikes his wife in the film, you fear for her safety throughout the film.

Undercover Agent Mark Sheldon, played by Robert Wilcox, is on to Danel’s scheme.  Sheldon wants to take over the island and help Mrs. Danel, played by Rochelle Hudson, escape the island.  Stephen Danel knows Sheldon is a government agent.  Danel does not intend to let Sheldon leave the island.

Columbia Pictures released Island of Doomed Men on May 20, 1940.  The film runs about 68 minutes.  You can look for it on streaming services and YouTube.

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