[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
The Island of Dr. Moreau

Those nutty mad scientists are at it again

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

September 14, 1996 -- O.K., we know Hollywood hates scientists, and they hate genetic engineering and they love movies where scientists are the bad guys. It's even better when the scientists are destroyed by their own creations. But did they really need to make "The Island of Dr. Moreau" again?

The answer, of course is yes. Or, as a character in this overwrought, goofy yarn might say, "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Ha ha ha ha ha, hee, hee! (drool, slirp)." Actually, it is rather fun in a demented sort of way.

I went into this film not expecting much, and having seen the first two films based on the same story. I expected more of the same, but this one is quite different, it is downright screwy. It's like everybody involved with this film was on some kind of LSD trip.

The story, for those of you who haven't heard it before, was written about a hundred years ago by the dean of all science fiction writers, H.G. Wells. Earlier this year Wells had a big Hollywood smash with his "War of the Worlds," also known as "Independence Day."

A man named Douglas (David Thewlis) becomes stranded on a remote jungle island controlled by the mad scientist Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando) and his scientist sidekick Montgomery (Val Kilmer). The two have created an assortment of half-animal, half-humans by combining human and animal DNA. The idea is to create a person without the violent tendencies that plague humans. Well, you just know that isn't going to work.

Intentionally, or not, parts of this movie are very funny. The most hilarious scene has Brando playing classical music on a piano accompanied by a tiny, sort of a monkey-like little creature with a face just like Ross Perot, with its own little piano.

There are wacky scenes like that all though the film. Brando is marvelous as he plays a caricature of a mad scientist, oblivious to the fact that his empire is falling about him. Kilmer, playing the demented Montgomery, becomes crazier as the film goes on. He really gets into it, until he runs afoul of a dog who is definitely not man's best friend.

Fairuza Balk also shines as the lovely Aissa. It turns out that cats really are man's best friends. Balk previously stood out in the otherwise lackluster film "The Craft." Ron Perlman, of "Beauty and the Beast" fame (the TV series) has a nice bit part as the Sayer of the Law, a non-devilish goat-man. Thewlis has the worst part of all. He has to play the normal guy in this mess. The crazy people have all the fun.

While I keep saying it is fun, and it is, there is also a lot of violence in this film. People, and creatures alike are slaughtered in significant numbers. There is a lot of blood, including bloody rabbit parts and other gross stuff. If that sort of thing bothers you, beware.

I had to marvel at the makeup used to make the actors look like animals. It is brilliant work. Kudos to Stan Winston for his makeup/creature effects and to Norma Moriceau for her costume design. So what have we got here? The acting isn't bad, the effects are stunning, but so what? It's still just an average C-grade movie. It's too bad Hollywood can't throw this kind of money and talent at an original idea once in a while. Stand by for the ID4 sequel (this time, they're really, really, really mad).

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 1996 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
    [Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)