The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) – Don Taylor 

 

The journey into the Sc-Fi Chronicles continues as we move onto the cinematic interpretation of the work of  H.G. Wells. A prolific author who has created some amazing tales, the next one that we take a look at is The Island of Dr. Moreau , I’d previously taken a look at the Island of Lost Souls from 1932, and now we move into the 70s with the Don Taylor version of the film.

Michael York stars in this adaptation alongside Barbara Carrera and Burt Lancaster, who takes on the role as the titular doctor. Ship-wrecked on an island, Andrew Braddock (York) finds his surrounding environment a strange place, filled with frightening animal men, I like to call them manimals, that have been created by Moreau.

Bringing him safely to his home, Moreau warms Braddock not to leave the compound, but when he is bewitched by Maria (Carrera), and as they wander, he can’t quite explain the strange-looking people he’s seeing that populate the island.

When his questions are ignored, Braddock goes out to check out the island, and discovers, before he’s caught by Moreau and his right-hand man, Montgomery (Nigel Davenport), a culture of manimals, living by a set of laws handed down by Moreau, and seen over by the Sayer of the Law (Richard Basehart).

Using the argument that he’s doing this to improve humanity, Moreau reveals that he has been exploiting the genetics of animals and man, combining them, evolving them, and giving them a measure of culture and society.

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However, when Moreau breaks one of the laws he’s laid down for the manimals, dissension begins to grow amongst them. Ignoring them, and finding Braddock to be an increasing thorn in his side, Moreau decides to work on regressing Braddock to an animal state and document the occurrence.

As the effects begin to take effect, the manimals rise up and fight for the island, and their existence. And if Braddock survives, will fate have one last card to play for him before he finally escapes the island?

This ends up feeling like a rather gentle, kind of small interpretation of the tale, and it plays almost like a Saturday afternoon matinée, filled with more adventure than horror. It feels almost like B-movie pulp, but with an A-list cast.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful practical and make-up effects that helped transform the actors into their animal alter-egos.

In the end, the film was enjoyably paced and strongly acted, the effects far outshone any of the performers in the film, it just feels like a smaller film. Lancaster plays Moreau with a reserved, educated patience, even when he’s driven to obsession – I rather liked his interpretation,

Unfortunately, as we’ll see, modern updates, and bigger budgets aren’t always an improvement.

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