The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977 film)
|The Island of Dr. Moreau|
Original theatrical poster
|Directed by||Don Taylor|
|Produced by||Skip Steloff
|Written by||Al Ramrus
John Herman Shaner
|Based on||The Island of Doctor Moreau
by H. G. Wells
|Music by||Laurence Rosenthal|
|Edited by||Marion Rothman|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
The Island of Dr. Moreau is a 1977 science fiction film, and is the second English-language adaptation of the H. G. Wells novel of the same name, a story of a scientist who attempts to convert animals into human beings. The film stars Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera, and Richard Basehart, and is directed by Don Taylor.
Ship's engineer Andrew Braddock (York) survives the wreck of the sailing ship The Lady Vain. After seventeen days at sea in a lifeboat, he reaches the shores of an island governed by the mysterious scientist "Dr. Moreau" (Lancaster). Besides Moreau, the inhabitants of the island include Moreau's associate, Montgomery (Davenport), a mercenary; his misshapen servant, M'Ling (Cravat); and a ravishing young woman named Maria (Carrera).
Though welcomed as an honored guest by Moreau, Braddock finds his contact with the natives increasingly disturbing, for they are not like any men he has ever seen before. Eventually, it becomes apparent that these "men" are, in fact, the hybrid products of Moreau's experiments upon various species of wild animals. Braddock becomes so shocked and curious that Moreau explains to him that he has invented a serum with a genetic human gene that can transform many wild animals into human beings giving them human characteristics. At times the part human/part animal hybrids still have their animal instincts and don't quite behave like a human which sometimes enrages Moreau feeling that his experiments haven't worked successfully. Braddock finds himself threatened by both the "manimals" and their sinister creator.
Moreau has established rules for his creations, including the rule not to kill. The man-beasts adopt these rules as their own. After one of the man-beasts, (the Bull man) kills a tiger, Moreau intends to take it to the "house of pain", his laboratory, as punishment. The man-beast panics and runs. Braddock finds it in the jungle, badly injured, where it begs him to kill it rather than return it to the lab. Braddock shoots it, angering the man-beasts, as Braddock has broken the law of killing.
Convinced that Moreau is insane, Braddock plans to leave the island with Maria, with whom he has developed a mutual attraction. They are caught however, and Moreau straps Braddock in his lab. When Montgomery objects to this Moreau shoots him in cold blood.
The man-beasts become angry because Moreau has broken the very rule he expected them to follow. Moreau injects Braddock with a serum that gives him animal characteristics. Braddock becomes more animalistic yet struggles to maintain his humanity. The man-beasts storm the compound and Moreau is killed trying to whip his attackers into submission. The man-beasts, now overpowered by their primitive natures, ravenously attack the compound. Braddock, Maria, and M'Ling engineer an escape, but the compound is burned and most of the man-beasts are killed by the wild animals which Moreau kept for his experiments. During the final escape, M'Ling risks his life to save his companions from a lion by leading it away in another direction.
Braddock and Maria manage to sail away in the lifeboat that Braddock arrived in, but only after a bloody battle with one of the last man-beasts. Braddock kills it with a broken oar. Some time later, they are rescued by a passing ship, and the serum has worn off, returning Braddock to his full human state.
|Burt Lancaster||Dr. Paul Moreau|
|Michael York||Andrew Braddock|
|Richard Basehart||Sayer of the Law|
In terms of casting, Lancaster has been described as perfectly matching Wells' description of Moreau's physical appearance, unlike the other two actors to play the role on screen, Charles Laughton in 1932's Island of Lost Souls and Marlon Brando in 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau, both of whom were more portly and with receding hair.
Actress Barbara Carrera claims there were 3 or 4 different endings imagined, including one in which her character gave birth to a kitten. That version was favored by Producer John Temple-Smith, which actor Michael York flatly refused to do. Director Don Taylor said that he didn't take it seriously and the footage was never shot.
Upon its original release, the film received mixed reviews, though the performances, including those of Lancaster and York, were praised. It currently holds a 50% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.9 on the Internet Movie Database.
The film premiered on 13 July 1977 in the United States. In June 2015 Lorber Films will release the film under its Kino Lorber Studio Classics imprint available for the first time on Blu-ray in the U.S.
The other film versions of the novel:
- 1932's Island of Lost Souls starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi.
- 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. This was the least commercially and critically successful adaptation of the three with a notorious production history. This 1996 film would spawn a 2014 documentary called Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, documenting the film's turbulent film production.
- 'Dr. Moreau' tops trio of chillers for summer: Also--monster ants; a lost continent 'Empire of the Ants' 'The People That Time Forgot' By David Sterritt. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 27 July 1977: 22.
- He's a Stranger in Paradise: H. G. Wells Meets AIP and DNA (PG) Movies Going to the Wells One More Time Hall, William. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Feb 1977: s1.
- Fishgall, Gary (1995). Against Type. Scribner. pp. 320–321. ISBN 0-684-80705-X.
- Vintage Visions: Essays on Early Science Fiction
- Kino Travels Back to the Seventies Island of Dr. Moreau