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Devil's Island (1939 film)

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Devil's Island
Film poster
Directed byWilliam Clemens
Written byAnthony Coldeway
Raymond L. Schrock
Kenneth Gamet
Don Ryan
Produced byBryan Foy
StarringBoris Karloff
Nedda Harrigan
CinematographyGeorge Barnes
Edited byFrank Magee
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • January 7, 1939 (1939-01-07)
Running time
62 minutes
CountryUnited States

Devil's Island is a 1939 American prison film directed by William Clemens and starring Boris Karloff. This film is notable for Karloff in a then-rare sympathetic role, as opposed to his usual antagonistic characters in horror films.[1] The plot appears to have been recycled from John Ford's The Prisoner of Shark Island, which depicted the true story of doctor Samuel Mudd, who treated the injury of John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated Lincoln.


For upholding his medical oath in treating a wounded revolutionary, respected surgeon Dr. Charles Gaudet (Boris Karloff) is sentenced to ten years imprisonment to the infamous French penal colony on Devil's Island. It isn't long before he speaks out against the inhuman conditions and incurs the anger of the brutal prison commander, Colonel Armand Lucien (James Stephenson). But when Lucien's daughter Collette receives life-threatening wounds in an accident, the only person on Devil's Island who can save her is Gaudet.



The film depicts the French judicial system as antiquated, unfair, and biased. The depiction of Devil's Island upset the French government. Fear of something similar happening resulted in a proposed 1947 film from Columbia, The End of Devil's Island, being cancelled.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomahawk Press 2011 p 221-223
  2. ^ THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. (April 11, 1947). "STUDIO DROPS FILM ON DEVIL'S ISLAND: Columbia Abandons Project in Line With Industry Policy on Foreign Markets". New York Times. p. 30.
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Devil's Island (1939 film)
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