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The Island of Dr. Moreau: -Ho-Ho

a film review by Joe Parra

Rating: 2 out of 4

In 1898, the father of science fiction, H.G. Wells, wrote a cautionary fable about the danger of science playing God. The Island of Dr. Moreau was well-received in its heyday. With its tale of a vivisectionist grafting human and animal parts together, it sent a chill up Victorian spines. In 1932, Paramount Pictures made the classic film version, entitled Island of Lost Souls, with Charles laughton as the mad scientist extraordinaire and Bela Lugosi as the "Sayer of the Law," the most erudite of Moreau's creatures. Wally Westmore, of the famed Westmore make-up clan, designed the monsters. 1977 saw American International's Island of Dr. Moreau remake, with Burt Lancaster as the doctor and Richard Basehart as "Sayer of the Law" - with John Chambers (Oscar-winning make-up designer of Planet of the Apes) providing the exacting details of the "manimal's" anatomies. Despite the magic of make-up and the infusion of genetics to make the tale topical - and the interesting, yet bizarre, performances - this version did not live up to expectations.

1995 - New Line Cinema announces the definitive version of the Wells classic, directed by John Frankenheimer and boasting make-up by Stan Winston. What a cast! Marlon Brando as Dr. Moreau; Val Kilmer as Montgomery, his wrangler/neuro-surgeon; Ron Perlman (Vincent the lion-man from TV's Beauty and the Beast series) as the rebellious hyena-man. The story has been updated to modern times, with David Thewlis as a shipwrecked sailor rescued by Kilmer and brought to the titular atoll. There, he meets the bizarre and eccentric Dr. Moreau and his "children" - animals brought to a near-human existence by genetic surgery. Thewlis falls for Moreau's "daughter" (here, kitty-kitty!), which invites Moreau to exploit the possibilities...

It is inconceiveable (almost) just how rotten this movie is. Granted, there are good things about it, such as the incredible make-up and animal special effects by Stan Winston and the performances of Thewlis and Fairuza Balk (the feline daughter). Brando is magnificent for all the wrong reasons. When we first see him, he looks like an Edward Gorey version of Mother Theresa, with an odd British accent. He next gets a new outfit that makes him look like Peggy Lee - and then a final one that cries "Shelley Winters." God only knows just what statement is trying to be made here. If this "Grand Stinkeroo" doesn't drive the stake through the heart of Val ("my ego is bigger than my talent ever could be") Kilmer's career, then I don't know what will. He achieves a new low in acting and lousy drag that is only surpassed by the worst Marlon Brando impression in the world. Better than three-fourths of the novel has been chucked into the trash compactor and replaced with a Grade Z scenario that even a wonderful director like Frankenheimer couldn't make sense of - which should have told the producers to reshoot or shut down production. New Line Cinema pushed up the release date of this "day at the zoo" from October to August - in other words, from Halloween to vacation month. Next time try Gound Hog Day!

You won't enjoy much!

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