Having already run through this premise with Charles Laughton in 1933’s Island Of Lost Souls and a bunch of nobodies in 1959’s Terror Is a Man, I wasn’t too excited at the prospect of sitting through some goof in his ape man make-up running down Moreau’s laws whenever Moreau wandered into his cave with a bullwhip and a chip on his shoulder.
I’ve always found the premise of the Dr. Moreau story to be a bit on the stupid side. Although I understand that this is one of those “man shouldn’t play God” bits where the guy with the hubris to try and create life ends up destroyed by his own faulty creation, I just don’t see the point of taking bears, apes, and bulls and turning them into men. Don’t we already have enough human degenerates such that creating new ones is simply unnecessary?
I also have never understood how Moreau could do all this back in the early 1900s while working by lantern light on a island in the Pacific and get all these animals changed so that they looked like stunt men in make up, but couldn’t do a simple nose job on any of them so that they all still ran around with their animal snouts.
Michael York plays Andrew Braddock, a shipwreck victim taken in by Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster) and even though Moreau is hospitable enough, something seems odd about him. Mainly, like what the devil is he doing on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with his mercenary pal Montgomery, ugly man-servant M’Ling, and the sexy Maria?
Moreau tells Braddock that he’s working on something involving cells and stuff, but since I had signed up to watch animal-men go crazy and not for a class called “The Biology of 1905: How To Play God With Morphine, Gauze, and Hired Thugs”, I zoned out, especially when I heard him use the word “eugenics”.
I think there is something that all us aspiring shipwrecked studs can take away from this film. If you are in the mad scientist’s library and he opens up a cabinet to show you his embryo collection then you might want to start hatching some sort of scheme worthy of the Professor from Gilligan’s Island to get your studly behind off that island. Surely you could find a way to tie a few beakers, a gurney, and some coconut shells together to make a jet ski if you put your mind to it.
Along with the doc’s accumulation of abortion left overs, there’s some other things that make Braddock think that maybe something is fishy about Moreau.
Just little things like the fact that Braddock is chased through the jungle by a bunch of creatures, Moreau tells him not to leave the compound after dark, and he hears lots of strange animal noises in the jungle. Oh and there was also the half-man, half-animal thing that he sees Moreau hauling away in chains.
Braddock attempts to escape the island, but Moreau jumps him and injects him with some jungle juice that causes him to turn into a beast! Once he starts turning into a monster and is locked in a cage, this provides Michael York the chance to flash his acting chops.
He has a monologue where he tries to fight off the encroaching effects of the animal serum. It’s causing him to lose his mind and he battles it by recalling his brothers and the good times they had sledding when they were kids. All the while, Lancaster is right next to the cage shouting encouraging things to him like “That’s it! Give in to the animal within you!” and “Can’t you just feel your mind evaporating just like your career!”
About this time all of Moreau’s animal-men decide to go nuts because they discover that Moreau has broken one of the laws that Moreau preached to them. They leave him a bloody mess and then advance on the compound.
Back at the compound, the freaks are running wild and releasing all the regular animals that Moreau had in lockdown. The freaks start fighting the animals resulting in a pretty entertaining finale that has us watching such scenes as guys wrestling tigers, falling off balconies with panthers and crashing through walls with really big goats. I will never get tired of watching a guy in werewolf make up being dragged through a jungle camp by a mountain goat.
I was glad that the end of the movie consisted of Braddock stabbing one of Moreau’s creatures in the eye with an oar instead some sermon from Braddock about how Moreau shouldn’t tamper with anyone’s genes, but things went on way too long and the plot twist where Braddock was injected with the serum unnecessarily prolonged the agony.
I wasn’t too impressed with the make up either – it all pretty much looked the same except with the wigs and noses being changed or someone having a set of horns glued to their head. Everyone looked like some type wolf man or overgrown dog. Where were the panther-men? Or giraffe guys with really long necks? How about some sort of rhino dude? Rickety premise updated with okay results.
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