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8/23/14

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU - REVIEW


Where to start, where to start...

So The Island Of Dr. Moreau was a movie and it happened.

Actually, it was several movies and, originally, an H. G. Wells novel but we're looking at the 1996 Marlon Brando/Val Kilmer effort for now, a film only half as entertaining as what happened behind the scenes during the making of it but wildly insane and therefore totally worth seeing nonetheless.

As you probably already know, the film sees some guy find his way onto an island where a mad scientist called Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando) has conducted a whole bunch of morally despicable experiments thereby making an entire community of half-man half-animal people. David Thewlis is Edward Douglas, the unlucky fellow Val Kilmer's dodgy geezer Montgomery introduces to the island. What follows is basically The Wicker Man except with animal/man hybrids and... whatever Brando's doing. Actually, you couldn't have cast the role of Moreau better. I mean, who else but an ageing, portly, batshit insane Marlon Brando could portray the eccentric Dr. Moreau? It's like Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka: it just makes sense. Splash the guy with tons of ridiculous make-up, dress him up like a giant bonbon, feed him the most random lines directly into his left ear and make him play the piano with his very own mini-me and you've got yourself one magical character.

The animals in the film aren't CGI, which is good, they are people in animal make-up with prosthetics and artificially moving lips, which is weird. Ron Perlman even plays one of the manimals in a plot which bizarrely mirrors Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes as one of them leads some kind of man-animal uprising against the titular doctor who eventually loses control of his own freakish creations. You can tell there's a fascinating, really cool story behind this movie but the way the film is made is so messy that it loses a lot of the impact it was looking for. The editing is choppy and frankly confusing with scenes moving from one to the other in a heartbeat, without logic and completely uneven pacing throughout. Some things happen way too fast, other things remain stagnant and never develop. Fairuza Balk is a bit of a wasted opportunity by the end of the film and losing Dr. Moreau about halfway through is nothing short of devastating. That said, Val Kilmer's already out-of-his-mind character is then allowed to go all-out and even provide us with a surprisingly insulting Marlon Brando impression.

As clunky as the film's execution is, it includes so many eyebrow-raising moments that it ends up being pretty fun. Whether it's Kilmer snapping a rabbit's neck or getting turned on by pig ladies or Brando offering biscuits to cat people while wearing a moo moo, it's hard to resist just how random this movie is. Funnily enough, it could and probably should have been much darker and more messed-up but its R rating was sadly brought down to a PG-13, which might explain some of the unfocused editing.

As a whole, The Island Of Dr. Moreau certainly doesn't use its material to its fullest potential and, as a film, it's all over the place, but it's also oddly fascinating and memorable. It's just a shame that a more polished and better paced version of the film doesn't exist out there.

That Director's Cut with 4 extra minutes added on doesn't count.

Likeable, head-scratching madness.

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