The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) – John Frankenheimer


No matter how bad your Monday is, it can’t be as bad as this travesty that I ventured into with the Sci-Fi Chronicles book as I continue to take a look at the cinematic interpretations of the work of HG Wells. A director, who worked on developing the film for four years was replaced days into shooting it (though apparently he was made up in make-up so he could stay on the set and watch his beloved project), and of course the two ridiculous egos in the form of Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando. The stories about the making of this film are legendary and the subject of the documentary Lost Soul.

The entire film was a disaster. Was there anything that could save it? Perhaps the fact that the creature effects were designed by the legendary Stan Winston?

This time around, David Thewlis plays the ship-wrecked Edward Douglas, who is rescued by Kilmer’s Montgomery, a former neurosurgeon now playing second fiddle to Moreau (Brando) on his remote island. There are a couple of other familiar faces that show up as well, Fairuza Balk plays the beguiling Aissa, while Ron Perlman takes on the role of the blind Sayer of the Law.

Douglas is asked to stay within the compound, while Moreau works hard at playing god with genetics. Despite the warnings, he starts investigating, and realizes there is something truly disturbing going on when he comes across a rather disturbing birthing sequence, and he realizes that there are some strange creatures calling the island home.


The manimals are frightening, while Moreau even has a bit of a mini-me following him around, they are smart, educated, and strive to be human, following the law laid down for them by Moreau, the Father.

Speaking of Brando, this interpretation of the character is just bizarre, allergic to the light, he lathers himself in white make-up to protect his skin. He uses a device that triggers an electrical shock from chips implanted under the manimals skin to control them, but soon, one of them, Hyena-Swine (Daniel Rigney) discovers it, removes it, and begins to claim the island and its monstrous inhabitants as his own.

Will Edward survive as it seems revolution is on the horizon for the island inhabitants, and if all the serum is destroyed will the animals begin to regress?

While Winston’s work is amazing, the rest of the film seems uneven, some of it downright goofy. Brando seems like a waste of money in this film, and perhaps it would have been better to go with a different actor. Thewlis had such a negative experience on the film, he never speaks of it, and his performance does seem to be as if he is in a different film than his co-stars, playing everything a little straighter and with more gravitas.

So, as you can see, even with updated effects, and story (such as it is), it doesn’t always mean it’s going to be better…

Lost Soul image



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