Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Island of Dr. Moreau 1996

The Island of Dr. Moreau ~ In prepping to watch Lost Soul, the documentary about writer/director Richard Stanley's aborted attempt to make this very film - I sought out and watched the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau for the first time. I must confess that I have not read the H.G. Wells novel it's based on, one of more than a few holes in my Wells reading, but I have seen the 1977 version, and I know the basic story.

First, this is a period piece that has been updated to modern times, introducing the idea of genetics into simpler concepts of Wells' beast men. Sometimes change is not good. Other than the idea of genetics this updating does little for the story. I was disappointed in the make-up, primitive even for 1996, face masks not much better than the 1977 movie.

With the inclusion of Marlon Brando as the titular role of Dr. Moreau, comparisons can't help but be made with Apocalypse Now, in both character and story. In fact, these similarities drove a wedge between once friends H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad, who wrote Heart of Darkness, on which Apocalypse is based. The presence of Brando, as well as his performance, do not help that situation one bit.

I was also very disappointed in the cast, Val Kilmer and Fairuza Balk simply walk through the film. David Thewlis, so wonderful as Remus in the Harry Potter movies, has no charisma as our POV character, and the great Marlon Brando is... is... I don't know what the hell Brando is in this movie. I never realized until seeing this how dead-on the "South Park" parody of Dr. Mephesto was. Wow.

I was also surprised that I saw nothing special or spectacular here visually. I usually enjoy John Frankenheimer's work, in fact, I think this is the only one of his movies I did not love. Now I can't wait to watch Lost Soul, to see what may or may not have gone wrong. Because this, is so wrong.

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