Isle of the Dead (1945) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • On a Greek island during the 1912 war, several people are trapped by quarantine for the plague. If that isn't enough worry, one of the people, a superstitious old peasant woman, suspects one young girl of being a vampiric kind of demon called a vorvolaka.

  • On a lonely Greek island, a disparate group of people are in fear. Plague has come to the island making them virtual prisoners and then there is talk of the vorvolakas, a vampire-like creature that preys on the living. Among those trapped there is General Nikolas Pherides, nicknamed the Watchdog, who is taken aback when he is visits his wife's mausoleum only to find her grave empty. As several of those quarantined die from the plague, paranoia sets in creating a tense, fear-filled atmosphere.

  • In 1912, during the First Balkan War, the cruel, heartless and superstitious Greek General Nikolas Pherides rows a boat to a small island with the American Boston Star journalist Oliver Davis to visit his wife's grave. They find it destroyed and the body missing and they overhear a woman singing. Soon they learn that the archaeologist Albrecht lives in the island with his servant Madame Kyra and is welcoming his friends St. Aubyn, his wife Mrs. Mary St. Aubyn and their servant Thea; and Andrew Robbins. Albrecht invites General Pherides and Oliver to spend the night with them but during the night, Andrew dies. General Pherides summons Dr. Drossos that informs that Andrew died of pestilence and advises that they have to stay quarantined in the spot for the plague until the warm and dry Sirocco wind blows in the island. Otherwise it might happen an outbreak in the continent. The superstitious Kyra convinces General Pherides that Thea is the evil demon Vorvolaka and Mrs. St. Aubyn and Oliver need to protect her against the ignorance.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • While his troops are burying their dead, General Pherides [Boris Karloff] (known throughout Greece as 'The Watchdog') and American reporter Oliver Davis [Marc Cramer] visit the Isle of the Dead to pay their respects to the grave of the general's long-dead wife. When they discover the crypt despoiled and hear a woman singing on the supposed uninhabitedly island, they set out to find her. They also find retired Swiss archeologist Dr Aubrecht [Jason Robards, Sr], his Greek housekeeper Madame Kyra [Helen Thimig], and four British guests--Mr St Aubyn [Alan Napier] of the British consulate, his pale and sickly wife [Katherine Emery], her youthful companion Thea [Ellen Drew] (the singer), and an English tinsmith.

    While Aubrecht apologizes for his part 15 years ago in inspiring local peasants into robbing graves for valuable Greek artifacts, Mme Kyra whispers to the general that a vorvolaka, in the guise of the red and rosy Thea, is in their midst. The general laughs at such superstition and accepts Aubrecht's invitation to spend the night as his guest.

    The next morning, however, the tinsmith is dead. Dr Drossos [Ernst Deutsch] is summoned; he determines the cause to be septicemic plague and quarantines the island. The doctor explains how plague is passed and how it may be eradicated in one day by the hot dry sirocco winds. The archeologist says that Mme Kyra's explanation -- that God sends the plague to punish them for harboring a vorvolaka -- makes just as much sense. Is the plague a disease or a curse from the gods? When Mr St Aubyn dies, the general demands that his body be buried immediately...to the dismay of Mrs St Aubyn who suffers from catalepsy and fears premature burial.

    Next to die is Dr Drossos, disproving the idea that following the advice of modern science can prevent the disease. Suspicion refocuses onto Thea. Mme Kyra begins to harass Thea with taunts and threats. The general vows that he will kill Thea if evidence keeps mounting to show that she is vorvolaka. Fearing for Thea's life, Oliver plans to escape with her, but the general destroys the only boat. Mrs St Aubyn falls into a cataleptic trance; everyone (except Thea) believes her to be dead, and they entomb her. Oliver and Aubrecht believe the cause to be plague but Kyra and the general believe it to be the vorvolaka's doing. Thea is more in danger than before, and Oliver advises her to stay away from the general.

    Suddenly the winds change. The sirocco has arrived. Mrs St Aubyn awakens from her catalepsy but does not recognize anyone. She kills Mme Kyra, stabs the general, and then runs off a nearby cliff. As the general lay dying, he swears that he has seen the vorvolaka and warns that she must be killed. "It is done," says Oliver, sympathetic to the general's peculiar madness. "The general was simply a man who was trying to protect us," he says in eulogy. [Original synopsis by bj_kuehl.]

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