The Island of Dr. Moreau Recap

Jamie

When UN negotiator Edward Douglas’ plane crashes in the Pacific he is rescued and taken to the reclusive Island of Dr. Moreau. He soon learns that Dr. Moreau has used his big ol’ brain to create an animal-human tribe that regards him as a god… but not for long. Can Edward escape the island (and purr-haps find love) before it’s too late? Find out in… The Island of Dr. Moreau.

How?! Edward Douglas is in for a house of horrors when his UN plane crashes in the Pacific on its way to peace negotiation. First, his fellow companions fight to the death over the lack of rations on their lifeboat (not ideal), then he gets picked up by a crazy scientist, Mongomery, who looks shockingly like Val Kilmer (crazy, right?), and finally when he is delivered to safety on an island he finds it occupied by horrific animal-human hybrids created by the obviously and completely crazy Dr. Moreau (not the best). Weirdly, Dr. Moreau seems like a comparably normal guy next to Montgomery, who spends his time preventing Edward’s rescue and partying with the animal monsters. From here the film descends into chaos as Edward vacillates between complete horror one moment to almost resignation the next, all while palling around with Dr. Moreau’s cat-human daughter Aissa. When the punishment of one of the animal-humans ends up in death, his hyena-hybrid friend is distraught and on inspection of his corpse discovers the source of their control by Dr. Moreau. He is able to remove it from his own body and thus begins a mutiny against Dr. Moreau. Confronting him in his house they question their own creation at his hands and then subsequent relegation to their distant village. When Dr. Moreau attempts to resort again to punishment they kill him and take over the compound. Montgomery at first attempts to stop them, but then eventually destroys the serum that prevents them from going full animal and implants himself as the god. But the hyena-hybrid is having none of that and has him and Aissa killed and Edward brought to him. Edward is able to trick the animal-humans into fighting amongst themselves, which results in the deaths of the aggressors. The remaining animal-humans let Edward leave on a boat so they can live in peace. THE END. Big Question: Who hurt this film most, Val Kilmer or Marlon Brando (hint: Kilmer).

Why?! Wow, this is certainly an interesting question. Edward is mostly motivated by escape, but he seems incredibly relaxed throughout the film given what is happening. The only explanation is that he is a UN peace negotiator, so perhaps there is a moment where he realizes his only chance of survival is to use his skillz. That probably entails being calm and collected despite any level of pressure. Montgomery and Moreau are just insane and motivated by their own egomania and delusion.

Who?! I feel like every once in a while we make a discovery in one of these categories that I didn’t even know was possible. When they show that Dr. Moreau won a Nobel Prize all of a sudden I’m like, “wait, how many fake Nobel Prize winners have we seen in BMT before?” Well here’s to our first and hopefully not our last (the next will come sooner than you think).

What?! I’m shocked to see that there isn’t a crazy number of props available from this film. I can only find one measly piece of Ron Perlman’s staff, and that ain’t no fun. I literally want a full Dr. Moreau costume and apparently no amount of money can accomplish that for me. Harumph.

Where?! We are on some random island in the Pacific. Presumably it’s under no real jurisdiction considering it’s only inhabited by Dr. Moreau, Montgomery, and their creations. This will almost certainly hold the spot for “Unknown Location in the Pacific” for some future mapl.de.map. I give it a B even though it’s unnamed. They are pretty clear we’re on Dr. Moreau’s island.

When?! Now this was interesting. It’ll end up coming in at a C- at best, but on wikipedia they claim the film takes place in 2010. Which is just bizarre because it is not made clear in any which way. I suspected this was from some version of the script, as this film is a super famous disaster so people would have interest in reading original scripts, and Patrick found one. Weirdly this script actually says the film took place in 2007, but that the story is being recounted in 2010. And yet there it is on Wikipedia.

I’m fairly certain that without Kilmer and some obvious and unnecessary Producer meddling, this film could have been a success. The costumes are pretty incredible and the (original) director, Richard Stanley, certainly had a vision that he set up and then almost immediately couldn’t put to screen. Watching the documentary about the film, it seemed like the producers panicked after Brando took a shine to Stanley and began the process of destroying the film. Once he was fired you get the sense that they just wanted to finish the film ASAP and as a result it’s just a super rushed mess of a narrative. They also don’t really take advantage of Brando, who is off the wall, but in a way that could have been interesting if used better. Same for Kilmer, except he seems the more destructive of the two given his role in the film. David Thewlis just seems sad to be there. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! If I made this movie I would call it The Island of Dr. Moreau … because it is based on a book. What else could I call it? The Island of Creepy Half-Animal People? I guess that does explain what it is about a bit better. Whatever, Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I had definitely seen this film before, but all I could really remember was being supremely creeped out by the animal people … which was probably the point. Other than that, Marlon Brando’s performance is legendary, although prior to this viewing I didn’t quite realize that Val Kilmer was considered the real problem actor on set. Makes sense his career started to tumble in the 2000s. What were my expectations? Off the wall b-b-b-b-bonker shit. That’s about it, this is considered one of the more confounding and strange bad movies ever made. So much so, they made a whole documentary about the making of the film.

The Good – The film has a lot of interesting ideas, as do most adaptations of The Island of Dr. Moreau (obviously). They transition quite seamlessly from the original concept of the book (something like a elixir that allows transitions between animals and humans … a very pre-genetics idea) to the much more scientifically motivated animal-human hybrid idea (which reeks of eugenics debates essentially). The adaptation doesn’t really suffer from the modernization of ideas, it is just that the movie around it is a complete mess. 

The Bad – Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando are competing on who can chew up the scenery faster. The animal costumes are so disturbing (especially in the odd shanty town set) that it makes the film almost impossible to enjoy. The film devolves into darkness so quickly that in the back half it is almost impossible to see what is really happening or where anyone is. Ultimately the film sinks under the weight of the botched production, a mishmash of ideas all spliced together in some gross adaptation-original hybrid … man I wish I was a reviewer in 1996, that is a bomb closing line for a review.

The BMT – It’s a classic for a reason. This is likely one of the quintessential troubled production bad movies. Brando’s performance is a legend, and it is the peak of managing to try both practical (the costuming) and CGI (… some disturbing shots of the animals jumping around) and getting both profoundly incorrect. It is actually a little better than you might think though, just because the ideas themselves are solid. If not for the production difficulties it might have met some mixed reviews. Did it meet my expectations? Certainly. It was b-b-b-b-bonkers shit, and is a confounding and strange bad movie. I was surprised at how much sense it made though, that made it all the more pleasant to watch.

Roast-radamus – Oddly this film gets almost no award consideration. There is no product placement, there is no secret holiday or coherent setting. No one really has a direct and clear motivation even (!). I’ll give it a small Worst Twist (How?) for the obvious combo-twist of Thewlis finding out he was brought to the island intentionally so that his genetic code could be used, and the obvious and inevitable reveal that Fairuza Balk is part cat. It is going to get closest to BMT in the end as a supremely entertaining bad movie.

StreetCreditReport.com – This film came out in a month that has been written about as one of the worst ever … well it has by another blog. Surprisingly, Siskel and Ebert didn’t put it in their worst ten of 1996. But when you have a documentary made about how troubled the production is that is credit enough. This could very well be the worst animal-human creepfest ever … wait, nope, we just watched Cats didn’t we? So this could be the second creepiest animal-human hybrid film.

You Just Got Schooled – For this I had a few choices. I could read the book, but I already had at some point, plus it takes too long. I could have watched one of the original old adaptations, but those would be hard to find. There is also a making of documentary, but I didn’t want to watch that before watching the actual film. So naturally I went for the 1977 adaptation with Burt Lancaster as Dr. Moreau, and Michael York (whom you might know as Basil from the Austin Powers series) in the lead role. The film is quite good, if very old fashioned for the time. With Close Encounters and Star Wars coming out the same year, this film comes across as more of a 60s film than anything else. The ideas are excellent though, and it was interesting to watch both adaptations back to back. I’m convinced at least two sets in the 1996 film are homages to the 1977 film (the staircase up to Thewlis’ room, and a creek looking out to the ocean near where Thewlis arrives on the island). Being able to possibly recognize that makes watching the film worthwhile. B- adaptation of the story. Closer to the original vision, but old-fashioned and thus a bit boring for modern tastes.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

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