The Island of Dr. Moreau Preview

“A clue!” exclaims Detective Cross (a.k.a. Poe) looking closely at a shrub. The goblins, Sorsaron, and Brawl all gasp as they too notice the map hanging in the branches. A map that appears to show the exact burial spot of the Crown of Blizarion. “Hmmm, convenient,” concurs Detective Criss (a.k.a. Rich). Everything seems to have lined up quite nicely for the detectives. They didn’t have to break out even one patented Twin Chop or standing backflip… suspiciously convenient. As they make their way to the supposed hiding spot of the crown Rich has a sudden realization. “What if, my dear Cross, the crown was never stolen at all?” Everyone is puzzled at the theory, but Poe is picking up what he’s putting down, “Ah, you mean…” suddenly he whirls on Sorsaron and Brawln, “they were the culprits in the first place!” (what a twist!) Sorsaron gulp and babble nervously but break under the drop-dead gorgeous minds of the detectives. “Stupendous,” Brawln marvels, “and exactly what we hoped would happen.” Rich and Poe are confused and only become more bewildered as Brawln unburies the Crown and easily snaps it in half. “A mere bauble,” he explains, “but necessary to prove to the goblins that you were capable of the real task.” (what a double twist!) “You see,” he continues, “long ago the gamemaster stole something from the goblins, something that would close the well worn path that brought us here. This something would return us to our world and defeat the gamemaster, thus saving your world as well. It’s what we in the biz call a… win-win.” Rich and Poe are intrigued. “What and where?” they ask. “The Staff of Gabragorn,” Sorsaron explains, “the Isle of Killmore. But be careful, the Honorable Dr. Killmore… is quite insane.” That’s right! We are watching a true classic in The Island of Dr. Moreau. I remember watching this as a kid and finding it pretty creepy. I’m sure I’ll be less creeped out now that I’m older. *Takes a looks at some screenshots of the animal-humans* Nevermind. This is based on the book by H. G. Wells, which has been adapted a couple of times for film. It also feels like we’re getting close to someone thinking it’ll be a good idea to adapt again… excellent. Let’s go!

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) – BMeTric: 73.1; Notability: 47 

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(It is actually a bit confusing that it is arriving significantly above the low-4.0s. That is obviously insanely bad. But this film is insanely bad. I’ve seen it multiple times in pieces on cable. It is so weird and bad.)

Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars –  Heavy-handed retelling of H.G. Wells’ novel, as Thewlis is rescued at sea and brought to Dr. Moreau’s island, where he’s horrified to discover experiments turning animals into humans. Grotesque in the extreme, obvious, and ultimately pointless, but Brando devotees will want to check out his flamboyantly silly performance, and makeup buffs should admire Stan Winston’s remarkable creations.

(I enjoy that Leonard managed to find the good among the bad here. Obviously 1.5 stars is very bad, but there are absurdly amusing things to see in the film.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJP3cb2RcII/

(Holy shit! We’ve been having a debate for like four days about what year this takes place. The Wikipedia page suggested 2010, but nowhere in the actual movie did it seem to say it. The script, which you can find online (I have no idea if it is real) suggests the year is 2007. But then, here it is. This trailer says 2010. As the only explicitly public mention of a date I would assume the 2010 date it thus canon. Wild.)

Directors – John Frankenheimer – (Known For: Ronin; The Manchurian Candidate; Seconds; Seven Days in May; The Train; Grand Prix; Birdman of Alcatraz; Black Sunday; 52 Pick-Up; French Connection II; The Iceman Cometh; The Challenge; All Fall Down; The Fixer; The Young Savages; The Fourth War; Future BMT: Reindeer Games; Prophecy; Year of the Gun; Dead Bang; BMT: The Island of Dr. Moreau; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Director for The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1997; Notes: A good friend of RFK, he was originally reported to have also been shot at the Ambassador Hotel the night RFK was assassinated.)

Richard Stanley – (Known For: Color Out of Space; Hardware; The Theatre Bizarre; Future BMT: Dust Devil; BMT: The Island of Dr. Moreau; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay for The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1997; Notes: Was fired four days into production, the details of which is described in the documentary about the making of this film.)

Writers – H.G. Wells (novel) – (Known For: War of the Worlds; The Time Machine; The Island of Dr. Moreau; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds; Dead of Night; Island of Lost Souls; First Men in the Moon; Things to Come; The Invisible Man Returns; The Invisible Man’s Revenge; Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man; The Passionate Friends; The Man Who Could Work Miracles; Future BMT: Empire of the Ants; The Food of the Gods; Village of the Giants; The Time Machine; War of the Worlds: Goliath; BMT: The Island of Dr. Moreau; Notes: Y’all know H.G. Wells, a quintessential voice in science fiction literature. His grandson, Simon Wells, directed The Time Machine.)

Richard Stanley (screenplay) – (Known For: Color Out of Space; Hardware; The Theatre Bizarre; Future BMT: The Abandoned; Dust Devil; BMT: The Island of Dr. Moreau; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay for The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1997; Notes: Color Out of Space is the adaptation of the story by notorious racist H.P. Lovecraft which stars Nic Cage. It is supposed to be quite good, and that it likely the kind of crazy visuals Stanley wanted to bring to this film which got him fired.)

Ron Hutchinson (screenplay) – (BMT: The Island of Dr. Moreau; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay for The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1997; Notes: He’s written a crazy amount of television. I think he was a producer who was probably brought in to adapt Stanley’s script on the fly after he got fired. Just a guess.)

Actors – David Thewlis – (Known For: Legend; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; Wonder Woman; The Big Lebowski; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1; The New World; The Theory of Everything; Seven Years in Tibet; War Horse; RED 2; DragonHeart; Macbeth; Naked; James And The Giant Peach; The Zero Theorem; Anomalisa; Future BMT: The Omen; Regression; London Boulevard; The Fifth Estate; Justice League; Total Eclipse; The Trial; The Inner Life of Martin Frost; BMT: Basic Instinct 2; The Island of Dr. Moreau; Timeline; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor in 2007 for Basic Instinct 2, and The Omen; Notes: )

Marlon Brando – (Known For: The Godfather; Apocalypse Now; Superman; Last Tango in Paris; The Score; A Streetcar Named Desire; On the Waterfront; Guys and Dolls; Candy; One-Eyed Jacks; Don Juan DeMarco; The Missouri Breaks; Mutiny on the Bounty; The Wild One; The Freshman; The Chase; Sayonara; A Countess from Hong Kong; Viva Zapata!; Julius Caesar; Future BMT: Christopher Columbus: The Discovery; Free Money; The Formula; The Brave; BMT: The Island of Dr. Moreau; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Supporting Actor for The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1997; Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor in 1981 for The Formula; and in 1993 for Christopher Columbus: The Discovery; and Nominee for Worst Screen Couple for The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1997; Notes: )

Val Kilmer – (Known For: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot; Heat; Top Gun; True Romance; Willow; Real Genius; Tombstone; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; Top Secret!; The Prince of Egypt; Song to Song; Deja Vu; Kill the Irishman; The Doors; The Ghost and the Darkness; MacGruber; Bad Lieutenant; The Missing; The Super; Palo Alto; Future BMT: Twixt; The Traveler; Alexander; Red Planet; Planes; Delgo; 5 Days of War; Hard Ca$h; The Real McCoy; Masked and Anonymous; The Saint; At First Sight; Mindhunters; 10th & Wolf; Wonderland; Stateside; Summer Love; BMT: The Love Guru; The Island of Dr. Moreau; The Snowman; Batman Forever; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actor for The Saint in 1998; and Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor in 1997 for The Ghost and the Darkness, and The Island of Dr. Moreau; and in 2005 for Alexander; Notes: )

Budget/Gross – $40,000,000 / Domestic: $27,663,982 (Worldwide: $49,627,779)

(Unmitigated disaster. I’m actually a bit surprised they managed to make the film for less than $50 million, this has a Cutthroat Island level disaster vibe to me, but it is only a modest financial disaster.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 24% (8/33): Timid and unfocused in its storytelling, The Island Of Dr. Moreau is more lackluster misfire than morbid curiosity.

(Rotten Tomatoes trying to make clear this film is not so bad it’s good. I’m pretty happy with a misfire honestly, the disastrous production is funny in itself. Reviewer Highlight: )

Poster – The Island of Dr. Sklogenstein (C+)

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(I like the green. Very Rosemary’s Baby. Needed better font and probably needs to do a bit more to convey what the audience is in for (hint: it’s a wild ride). But have to give Brando props. Always impressive when an actor manages to be on the poster twice.)

Tagline(s) – Through DNA experimentation Dr. Moreau has upset the balance of nature. By turning animals into humans, he’s turned heaven into hell. (D-)

(I can actually imagine that Brando wrote this himself. That’s not a good thing. It’s insane. Bumped it from an F just because it does have strange mesmerizing cadance to it.)

Keyword – mutant

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Top 10: Suicide Squad (2016), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), Deadpool 2 (2018), Deadpool (2016), Logan (2017), Annihilation (2018), Toy Story (1995), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Overlord (2018)

Future BMT: 88.2 Street Fighter (1994), 87.9 BloodRayne (2005), 84.5 The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D (2005), 78.6 Superhero Movie (2008), 66.2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), 62.4 The Hills Have Eyes II (2007), 57.6 The Fly II (1989), 54.8 Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), 50.0 Graveyard Shift (1990), 50.0 Masters of the Universe (1987);

BMT: X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Super Mario Bros. (1993), I Am Number Four (2011), Epic Movie (2007), Judge Dredd (1995), Double Dragon (1994), Chernobyl Diaries (2012), Troll (1986), A Sound of Thunder (2005)

(This is a really fun plot. You can see how mutant films prior to 2000 were like this. The Fly, Double Dragon, Judge Dredd. The mutants are kind of monster bad guys. And then in 2000 you get X-Men and all of the comic book films where they are the good guys in much larger films. I’m skeptical Honey, I Shrunk the Kids has a “mutant” in it though.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 15) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Val Kilmer is No. 2 billed in The Island of Dr. Moreau and No. 1 billed in Batman Forever, which also stars Tommy Lee Jones (No. 2 billed) who is in Mechanic: Resurrection (No. 3 billed), which also stars Jason Statham (No. 1 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 2 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 15. If we were to watch At First Sight, and The Replacement Killers we can get the HoE Number down to 14.

Notes – After being fired by the studio, original director Richard Stanley was rumored to have prevailed upon the makeup crew to turn him into one of the background mutants, so that he could at least keep tabs on the making of his dream project. He supposedly did not unmask himself until the wrap party. (That’s insane)

Marlon Brando wore a small radio receiver to aid him remembering his lines. Co-star David Thewlis claimed “He’d be in the middle of a scene and suddenly he’d be picking up police messages and Marlon would repeat, ‘There’s a robbery at Woolworths’.” (A British joke BTW. There was surely filmed in some remote jungle somewhere, right?)

Val Kilmer described the shoot as “crazy”. Marlon Brando was still recovering from his daughter’s suicide. The day production started, the French government set off an underwater atomic bomb near Tahiti, where Brando owned an atoll. Kilmer turned on the TV and learned that he was getting divorced. Two days later, the studio fired director Richard Stanley due to their concerns over the film’s direction. John Frankenheimer who was hired to replace Stanley, clashed with Brando, Kilmer, and studio executives from the start about the film’s direction. (This is all in the documentary I’m going to eventually watch about this film)

When Val Kilmer encountered Richard Stanley during the wrap-party, he apologised for costing the director his job. Marlon Brando later offered to compensate Stanley. To his regret, he didn’t take it.

Richard Stanley had spent four years developing the project, only to be fired after four days.

Richard Stanley had been offered his full fee on condition that he left the production quietly and did not speak about his sacking, so his disappearance caused consternation at New Line, who feared he might try to sabotage the filming. His removal also predictably sent shock waves through the cast and crew. An outraged Fairuza Balk stormed off the set after a heated exchange with the New Line executives, and then reportedly had a production assistant drive her all the way from Cairns to Sydney – a distance of some 2500 km- in a rented limousine. However, by her own account, Balk’s agent then warned her in blunt terms that the studio would ruin her, and that she would never work in films again if she broke her contract, so she was soon forced to return to the set.

Richard Stanley said of Val Kilmer: “He’d do [the lines] but he’d throw it all away. And he kept insisting on odd bits and pieces of his wardrobe that didn’t make sense, like a piece of blue material wrapped around his arm. It was like, ‘Why is that around his arm, and will he take it off?'” (It is crazy that these notes seem to suggest Kilmer was worse than Brando during the shoot)

Marco Hofschneider’s part was originally much bigger. His role was cut down because Val Kilmer didn’t want to be upstaged by him. Then Marlon Brando became obsessed with Nelson de la Rosa, the world’s smallest man, and insisted the script be revised. Some of Hofschneider’s scenes were given to De La Rosa. (WTF!)

Due to the many problems with the production, and the evident ongoing attempts by both Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer to sabotage it, the location shooting eventually stretched from a scheduled six weeks to almost six months, and the atmosphere on the production became almost a mirror of the plot of the movie, with the long-suffering cast and crew becoming more and more alienated by and hostile towards its megalomaniacal co-stars and their tyrannical director.

Rob Morrow spent a couple days on set to shoot his scenes as Edward Douglas but became unhappy with the production and its increasing lack of direction. Wanting to get back home to Los Angeles for his family, Morrow called New Line Cinema chairman Bob Shaye and pleaded to be released from the role, which Shaye honoured.

When David Thewlis arrived onset, Marlon Brando said to him, “Go home, David. This is not a good film to work on. It’s cursed”.

Val Kilmer felt obligated to ask Marlon Brando’s permission to “impersonate” him for the scenes where Montgomery imitates Moreau.

Awards – Winner for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor (Marlon Brando, 1997)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Picture (Edward R. Pressman, 1997)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor (Val Kilmer, 1997)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Director (John Frankenheimer, 1997)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Screenplay (Richard Stanley, Ron Hutchinson, 1997)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Screen Couple (Marlon Brando, Nelson de la Rosa, 1997)