THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996)
Rounding out my “Misuses of Technology” trilogy, I ended with the remake of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. My mini-film festival theme was meant to refer to Dr. Moreau’s use of bioengineering, not the misuse of film, because that’s what this movie is guilty of.
I saw this movie back in 1996 upon its original release and remember thinking that it didn’t work. Well, 17 years later I can re-affirm that. I was hoping that I might gleam some more substance from it during this viewing. Maybe I was being too hard on it or my tastes had changed. Nope. The movie is a mess.
David Thewlis plays UN negotiator Edward Douglas and through a series of unfortunate events, winds up as a prisoner on Dr. Moreau’s (Marlon Brando) titular island. The only other human is Val Kilmer’s Montgomery who competes with Moreau for the prize of who is more bat-shit crazy.
Based on the classic novel by H.G. Wells, the story is about science gone amuck. In an attempt to create the perfect being, Dr. Moreau creates a community of animal-people. But he mistreats them and uses a code of conduct (as well as severe punishments) to keep them in line. He fancies himself a God and it’s this hubris that leads to his downfall. The animal people have had enough and say to hell with the code as they go on a rampage of slaughter.
The film is directed by John Frankenheimer who brought us greats like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) and RONIN (1998) amongst many others. He is a director who seems to have a firm hand and handle on his narratives. Yet DR. MOREAU is so uneven that it feels akin to a ship without a captain.
The most egregious aspect is Brando’s portrayal of the good Doctor. It’s so bizarre that “over the top” doesn’t begin to describe it. The movie is almost worth watching just to experience the lunacy…almost.