I know this exchange takes place in Island of Lost Souls 1932
Ruth Thomas: [hearing chanting] What’s that?
Dr. Moreau: The natives, they have a curious ceremony. Mr. Parker has witnessed it.
Ruth Thomas: Tell us about it, Edward.
Edward Parker: Oh, it’s… it’s nothing.
Dr. Moreau: They are restless tonight.
Can anyone cite an earlier example?
I know this one isn’t exactly the more common wording.
<The natives are restless tonight>
But it’s very close and pretty early.
Not sure how pop culture-y you want the references to be. Google books turns up earlier uses but I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie ingrained it.
In fiction there’s a 1920 novel called The Yellow Spider by John Charles Beecham:
Non-fiction has this from the March 1900 issue of National Geographic:
Then this from an 1886 book called The Isles of the Sea: Being an Entertaining Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and Embracing Full and Authentic Accounts of the Islands of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia by Edward Walter Dawson. In a section of Isle of Pines he uses it twice:
It also returns a use from an 1805 issue of the Sydney Gazette.
Thanks obfusciatrist. I had been watching my old worn out video tape of that movie. (Sure wish they’d release it on DVD, I believe Universal owns the rights now.) I’ve watched it numerous times and only just caught that phrase. I hadn’t thought of using Google books, but with just a regular google search I found numerous cites all pointing to Island of Lost Souls with nearly identical wording. I realize it’s a pejorative statement, I hope I haven’t put anyone off. It just seemed to me to be one of those common phrases you hear a lot in movies and on TV. Like “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” and “It’s quiet out there. A little too quiet.”
It’s not an early usage, but I can’t resist mentioning it. In a 1965 episode of The Avengers Small Game for Big Hunters, Steed and Mrs. Peel are investigating a walled “tropical” enclave in southern England. At one point the owner’s Asian servants are runnng about frantically and he skewers the cliche by uttering it ultra-dramatically. It’s my all time favorite use of this line.
mild hijack, but there are computer programs that will take the input off a video tape played in a special device that connects to computers and will place it on that shiny DVD disc and allow you to play it in DVD players …
But I agree with you, there are a lot of old movies it would be great to get onto DVD. Have you checked with Turner’s old movie channel catalog, and the AMC movie catalog? They add new old movies to their stocks constantly as they get them onto DVD.
There’s a rare species of bird known as the rative, which likes to build its nest in the top branches of trees, unprotected from high winds. These birds are light in body weight and unable to keep their nests from blowing away during fierce storm conditions. Do you know what the people who live in the area say when the winds are blowing wildly?
“Good heavens, I do believe the ratives are nestless tonight.”