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.