The Island of Dr. Moreau

Theater of Pain

Why remake Island of Lost Souls, one of the most chilling horror classics of the ‘30s, which has already been remade at least twice? Two possibilities: public domain source material and modern creature f/x.

David Thewlis plays a shipwreck survivor who finds himself stranded on the title Pacific anti-paradise of experimental animal men. Though director John Frankenheimer provides some tense moments and nice images, this is a mess of a movie, lacking in pace, atmosphere, structure, and vision. The aforementioned makeup is the best that money can buy, but the accompanying CGI f/x are disappointing.

Marlon Brando surely recognized Charles Laughton’s brilliance in the role of Moreau, and does his best to imitate that performance, but he’s wasted and abandoned too early. Fairuza Balk’s panther woman is similarly ignored. Thewlis is another good actor, but he’s totally incapable of gaining audience sympathy. This leaves Val Kilmer’s psycho junky version of Moreau’s senselessly treacherous assistant Montgomery as the centerpiece of the film, but nothing he does seems to have any motivation (other than “he’s crazy!”). Lacking Brando’s presence, Kilmer settles for ad libbing a weak imitation.

After seeing a lengthy early trailer this spring (which desperately used the Doors “The End” as an attempt to describe the film by connecting it to Brando’s Apocalypse Now), I had this movie pegged as the dog of the summer. By the time it opened, I was hoping I might be wrong. I wasn’t. Guess more than one good adaptation of HG Wells in one year (Independence Day) is more than you can ask for.

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