Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

"The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1977, Don Taylor, American International Pictures) is one of the film adaptations of H.G. Wells' famous novel.

Andrew Braddock (Michael York) survives a shipwreck and eventually lands on an unknown island after 17 days at sea. He finds himself the welcomed guest of honour at the island's leader's house, that of Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster); a mysterious and unusual scientist who has been living on the island for some time.

Moreau is joined by a mercenary called Montgomery (Nigel Davenport) who serves Moreau as his associate, but does not like the man, and a beautiful young woman called Maria (Barbara Carrera). There are natives on the island, too, who are very odd-looking, they almost do not look like men at all. Moreau's personal servant is one such native called M'Ling (Nick Cravat).

Braddock becomes intrigued by Moreau's experiments and learns, to his horror, that the 'natives' are not in fact human at all, but man-beasts: the results of Moreau's twisted experiments to make humans from wild animals....

Although key aspects of the story were changed for the screen, and Moreau's experiments lose some of their shocking awfulness by being entirely serum based, instead of part vivisection, the film still packs a cold, dreadful punch.

Michael York is always so upstanding and polite. His portrayal of Braddock is good, however, and his anguish is quite disturbing. Lancaster portrays an excellent Moreau. His menacing intellect and his obsessive control over the island are unsettling. The makeup and effects are really impressive, but then, John Chambers was the makeup designer (Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and other such impressive credits) so it could not be anything but.

It's a relatively tame flick, considering the subject matter, but this is in most part due to the era in which it was made. But it is still an enjoyable film with some solid performances, but not as much mystery as I would like.

[Image: American International Pictures]

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