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'The Island of Doctor Moreau' - the 1996 Film

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The Island of Doctor Moreau
'Island of Lost Souls' | The 1977 Film | The 1996 Film

Nature's Law has been Broken
- Tagline, The Island of Doctor Moreau

The 1996 film version of The Island of Doctor Moreau took HG Wells' satirical novel about the beast that lurks within the heart of mankind and turned it into a film in which a large number of animals run around on two legs, shooting at anyone and anything for no apparent reason while Marlon Brando wears a bucket on his head and Val Kilmer's character eats a flower and wants to go to dog heaven.


I want to go to Dog Heaven

UN Peacekeeper Edward Douglas is the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Java Sea. He is rescued from his life-raft by vet and former neurosurgeon Montgomery who takes him to an island, promising to help him use a radio (which turns out to be broken) so that he can arrange a rescue. On the island, where Doctor Moreau is performing experiments, he meets beautiful Aissa, Moreau's daughter, but is then locked in his room by Montgomery, who has been eating a flower. Escaping, he investigates Moreau's lab where he spies a Beastwoman giving birth to a bonny, bouncing Beastbaby.

Horrified, Douglas flees and is aided by Aissa, and after they find a dead rabbit they head to the manimals' makeshift home in the middle of an abandoned army base, where they meet with the Sayer of the Law. Soon after, Moreau arrives covered in white paint and demonstrates that he has a remote-control device which can inflict pain on his creations, who all have implants embedded in their bodies. As animal/human hybrids, they need to regularly take a serum to prevent their animal nature from dominating. Moreau explains that he is performing research to create a human being free of malice and evil, and on learning of the dead rabbit, decides to hold a trial. At this trial, Lo-Mai the leopard is found guilty of killing the rabbit and is killed by Azazello the dog man, after which his body is cremated. Douglas again tries to escape, but the boat he manages to flee to has a cage full of upright-walking rats on board, some of which escape.

The Hyæna-Swine, after inspecting his dead friend Lo-Mai's remains, discovers the implant. Incredibly, he realises its implications, and being able to identify leopard bones and correlate a leopard's body with his own unique physique, is able to correctly deduce from where he should remove his own. Refusing to take the serum, he confronts the doctor. Moreau, though, ignores his questions, offers him a biscuit, plays the piano for a bit in order to soothe the savage beasts and attempts to restore order by inflicting pain. Apparently no-one told Moreau that Hyæna-Swine has removed his implant, even though Douglas and Montgomery were aware of this. Angry, the Hyæna-Swine kills him and begins a rampage of death and destruction.

During this revolt Montgomery does nothing productive, dressing as and doing impressions of Moreau, and giving away all the remaining serum. He tells Azazello that he wants to go to dog heaven, and at that point Azazello kills him. With Montgomery dead, Azazello feels free to kill Aissa, apparently because Moreau never punished her for anything.

The revolt continues chaotically. Just when Douglas faces certain death, he uses his wits to turn the animals against one another and the leader of the pack, the Hyæna-Swine decides to walk into a burning building – the remains of Moreau's home. By next morning, Douglas has constructed a small raft. The Sayer of the Law wishes him well and tells him not to bring back scientists to his island, allowing the creatures their own existence. The Sayer of the Law confesses that it is difficult to live as men on two legs, and maybe living on four legs is better1. Douglas then reflects that there is not much difference between the Beastmen and mankind.


MenDoctor MoreauMarlon Brando
MontgomeryVal Kilmer
Edward DouglasDavid Thewlis
ManimalsAissa (Cat-girl)Fairuza Balk
Hyæna-SwineDaniel Rigney
Azazello (Dog-man)Temuera Morrison
Majai (Mini-Moreau)Nelson de la Rosa
Assassimon (Ape-man)Peter Elliott
Lo-Mai (Leopard)Mark Dacascos
Sayer of the LawRon Perlman
M'LingMarco Hofschneider
WaggdiMiguel López
Boar ManNeil Young
Bison ManDavid Hudson
KirilWilliam Hootkins

The film starred Marlon Brando as Doctor Moreau. Brando is considered by many to be one of the finest film actors in the history of moving pictures, but by the time The Island of Doctor Moreau was made his greatest roles were long behind him. Val Kilmer, on the other hand, was an actor whose star was rising, appearing in films such as Top Gun, Willow, The Doors, True Romance, Heat and he had recently replaced Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman Forever. Since The Island of Doctor Moreau, however, his career has failed to reach the heights of his earlier successes.

David Thewlis is best known as Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter series, but he has also starred in Naked, Dragonheart, Seven Years in Tibet and War Horse. Fairuza Balk had starred as Dorothy in Return to Oz and had a starring role in The Craft, and would go on to appear in American History X and The Waterboy.

Peter Elliott, who plays ape-man Assassimon, has made a successful career out of being a monkey. He has played an ape in The Legend of Tarzan, Gorillas in the Mist, Congo and was even the eighth Wonder of the World King Kong in King Kong Lives. He has also performed in television, not only playing apes for Red Dwarf but also for science programme Walking with Cavemen.

William Hootkins has appeared in several other science-fiction films, including the roles of Porkins (Red Six) in Star Wars, Munson in Flash Gordon, Major Eaton in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the corrupt Lieutenant Eckhardt in Batman and Harry Howler in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Successful actor Ron Perlman is perhaps best known for being Hellboy. Temuera Morrison is famous for his role as Jango Fett and various clones in the prequel Star Wars films. Nelson de la Rosa, who played Maijai, was one of the world's smallest men, being 2 feet 4 at the time of filming.

Frankenheimer's Monster: The Making of the Film

Despite director Richard Stanley spending four years preparing the film's creation, The Island of Doctor Moreau had a notoriously difficult production. The trouble began when the two stars of the film, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, took a strong dislike to each other during a holiday before shooting which had been intended to help bring the two together. Both were angry at the world, and inevitably took their frustration out on those around them. Neither was in a happy mood during the filming, which took place in North Queensland, Australia. Marlon Brando was devastated as his daughter Cheyenne had recently committed suicide, and he was also concerned about French nuclear testing near an island that he owned. Kilmer, originally lined up to play Douglas, had just been informed that his wife wanted a divorce. He tried to leave the film, only to be told that he had a contractual obligation and New Line Cinema would not allow it. The studio wished to take advantage of his popularity following the success of Batman Forever, another production on which he had gained a reputation for being difficult.

Sulking, Kilmer did not arrive on set for the first days of filming. He was finally allowed to accept the lesser role of Montgomery, but Richard Stanley was fired by New Line Cinema after only four days for not keeping Kilmer under control. Stanley then reportedly destroyed all the preparation work, schedules and plans he had made to help guide him in making the film, leaving new director John Frankenheimer with nothing except the script.

Frankenheimer wished to change the tone of the film from Stanley's original to give it his own stamp and decided to throw the original script away too. This included additional characters, one of which would have been Doctor Moreau's ex-wife, to have been played by experienced horror actress Barbara Steele.. However, the sets were ready, filming had begun and a crew had been hired – the film needed to be finished, but it now had no script, no plans and was subject to constant last-minute rewrites. Frankenheimer brought in Ron Hutchinson, a writer he had worked with previously, to come up with a new script. There was confusion in the principle cast. Rob Morrow, who had originally been cast to play Montgomery and was then promoted to play Edward Douglas, simply left. David Thewlis was then cast to replace him during a 12-day break from filming, when it was hoped all the problems would be solved.

With the script very much a work-in-progress, the actors involved became highly confused about what they were supposed to be doing. Brando, who had previously found learning lines difficult2, was unable to cope. For his performance, he wore a radio ear-piece so that he could have his line fed to him. As his receiver was on a similar frequency to the local police service, Brando would reportedly interrupt his scenes with stray messages he had picked up such as 'There is a robbery at Woolworths'.

As filming continued, it became apparent that plot strands were introduced and never mentioned again, key points went nowhere and the film's underlying themes were getting lost. Fairuza Balk tried unsuccessfully to escape from the film, while the two main stars' behaviour became more and more eccentric. Val Kilmer began dressing in a skirt and doing Marlon Brando impressions, and seemed more interested in posing than his performance, pausing when reciting his lines. Brando began performing wearing a layer of bright white powder for no apparent reason, and even performed one scene with an ice-bucket on his head as he was bored. Stanley, meanwhile, has alleged that he returned to the set pretending to be an actor, just to be able to meet Marlon Brando, and was given a bulldog costume. He apparently also joked with the production designer that he wanted to burn the set down, leading to a tightening of security, but the cast and crew were already managing to destroy the film without his assistance.

After Kilmer filmed his last scene for the film, Frankenheimer bellowed Cut! Now get that bastard off my set! while David Thewlis, who had broken his leg falling off a horse during filming, refused to attend the film's première and has stated that he intends never to watch the film.

The truly impressive creature make-up was by Stan Winston Studios.

TV Edition and Director's Cut

The Island of Doctor Moreau's standard version is a 96-minute long release rated 12 in the UK, however both a TV Edition and Director's Cut have been released. It was standard practice in the 1980s and 1990s that when American television companies purchased the rights to broadcast films, the amount paid was based on the length of the film; the longer the film, the more money charged. Film companies exploited this by, for instance, including deleted scenes, thus making existing films longer in order to get more money from the television companies. The television edition of The Island of Doctor Moreau lasts an extra minute and a half and is rated 15 as it contains two gory scenes. In the first, after Douglas' colleagues in the lifeboat fall overboard, they fight each other with knives, making the water bloody and attracting sharks. In another extended scene, the Hyæna-Swine bites the implant out of Azazello's chest.

A 100-minute-long 15-rated Director's Cut has also been released. In addition to the extra scenes in the TV Edition, there is a longer fight scene in the lifeboat and both Moreau and Montgomery have longer, more horrific deaths. Other violent scenes are also included or extended.

Themes and Symbolism


Religion and religious symbolism play a major part of this film. To start with, the Sayer of the Law acts like a preacher or a John the Baptist character. Doctor Moreau is introduced soon after, appearing like a Pope complete with his very own Popemobile and dressed all in white. Moreau, who like God has given his children commandments to follow, enjoys quoting the Bible at Douglas.

When Douglas describes his experiments as Satanic, Moreau responds with 'Judge not lest ye be judged' and 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone'. A rather odd comment as, unlike Moreau, Douglas hasn't been sinning by experimenting against the laws of nature, and would therefore seem entitled to judge (although by staring at Moreau's children and calling them 'Satanic', he is being rather rude). Moreau informs Douglas that 'The Devil is that element in human nature that compels us to destroy and debase'. He also boasts that he has found the essence of the devil and cut him to pieces. Moreau's arrogance is symbolically punished - he witnesses his creations, the results of his research into creating 'humans without malice' destroy and debase all around them. Finally these essences of the devil cut Moreau to pieces.

Moreau, by boasting that he has chained Lucifer, is comparing himself to a god. From that point onwards he is doomed. He tells Lo-Mai 'I forgive you, my son', absolving his sins. When wearing a bucket, he has water poured on his head. Does this represent baptism or Mary Magdalene washing Jesus' feet? It is not just Moreau who has a religious obsession; as soon as Moreau is dead, Montgomery broadcasts his reading of the Bible to the entire compound. Later, the Sayer of the Law acts as if an appalling blasphemy has taken place when Douglas flatters Hyæna-Swine to save his life and the lives of those around him by telling him that he is a god. The idea of a perverse communion occurs as Douglas asks, 'You all killed the father, you all ate his flesh – who is god number one?' Hyæna-Swine's last words are 'Father, why? Why?', similar to Jesus' words during his crucifixion: 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do' and 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'.

Rabbit relevance

Unless you know the original story well, the importance of rabbits in causing the revolt and rebellion which later consumes Moreau's island is unclear. The sailing ship Ombak Penari that rescues Douglas is carrying a puma and some rabbits. On arrival Montgomery takes the rabbits to a cage on the island where they are kept, and after, apparently, affectionately petting one kills it, intending to have it cooked despite a strict vegetarian diet imposed to prevent the manimals tasting flesh. Montgomery's killing of a rabbit is witnessed by Lo-Mai the Leopard, who promptly kills another rabbit, eats it and is corrupted by the taste of blood. Hyæna-Swine shares this rabbit and is also corrupted. He later kills more rabbits, doing so in remembrance of Lo-Mai.

Over dinner, the rabbit that Montgomery killed is cooked (despite no-one on the island being allowed to eat meat, it is cooked to perfection) and tasted by Azazello the dog-man. He too is corrupted, becoming a bloodthirsty beast, so that when Moreau holds a trial to punish Lo-Mai for killing the rabbit, Azazello responds by killing Lo-Mai. Azazello later kills Montgomery and Aissa, joining the revolt, yet his betrayal can all be traced back to his taste of flesh. The eating of animal flesh is almost a symbolic communion similar to eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, which resulted in Man's expulsion from Paradise.

Law and Order

Law is a key theme. The Sayer of the Law, a character dedicated to representing it, is blind. Does this represent the ideal of justice? Statues of justice are frequently portrayed as being blindfolded and therefore unbiased. Or does it mean that the Law is blind and unaware of what is really happening?

One key event in the film is Lo-Mai's trial. A rabbit has been killed and so Moreau orders the proceedings, in which the Sayer of the Law states the Law, which is not to kill for pleasure, hatred, or to kill anything at any time. Lo-Mai, suitably chastised for killing and eating a rabbit, is then promptly shot in cold blood by Azazello. Yet despite the laws regarding killing things having been prominently stated, Azazello receives no punishment for his actions. This, understandably, leads Hyæna-Swine to question Moreau's rule.

Hyæna-Swine becomes a tragic figure, with a scene in which he holds Lo-Mai's skull in a manner similar to the 'Yorrick' speech in Hamlet; Alas poor Lo-Mai, I knew him, Moreau, a leopard of infinite jest. With these questions he asks Moreau to explain, 'Tell me why you make the pain if we are your children?' Moreau, unaware that Hyæna-Swine has removed his implant, states that pain is a necessary part of maintaining law, and that law is merely the application of pain, not an ideal. Hyæna-Swine responds with the challenge 'No more pain, then no more law?' and with Moreau unable to answer, triumphantly pronounces 'Pain no more, law no more' and proceeds to list all the opposites of the laws imposed by Moreau. Moreau's charade is revealed; he does not believe in the unbiased application of Law, merely the imposition of order.

Differences from the Novel

The 1996 film version of The Island of Dr Moreau does bear a slight resemblance to the book; some of the characters and the plot are almost the same, but several minor changes were made. The novel's Edward Prendick has been renamed Edward Douglas, and rather than being a biologist found after his ship sank in the South Pacific, he is a UN Peacekeeper whose aircraft has crash-landed in the Java Sea while he was flying to Jakarta. Doctor Moreau is said to have been driven out of America, rather than London, by animal rights activists and has been on the island doing animal research for 17 years, with Montgomery only present on the island for ten. Though these changes do not make a big difference to the plot they are, unfortunately, not the only changes. In many ways the film can be considered an awful mocking of HG Wells' classic novel.

The Half-Full Monty?

Compared to the novel, Montgomery's personality has completely changed. In the film, he is portrayed as creepy, often up to something that Moreau does not want him to be, almost going out of his way to disobey Moreau. Instead of being an alcoholic, Montgomery is presented as the modern equivalent; a drug pusher and addict. While Montgomery is supposed to give the creatures a serum to stop them from regressing, he adds morphine and hallucinogenic substances to it to keep the manimals docile, and so they 'keep coming back'. Montgomery's ultimate goal seems to be to replace Moreau in the creatures' affections, and be followed and worshipped. In the book Montgomery was more occupied with helping Moreau's studies and befriending the creatures, turning to drink to help cope with the horrors of the surgery.

It is difficult to discern Montgomery's motives in this film. Montgomery, an American, does not rescue Douglas for the same reason his character did in the book3. Montgomery discovers that Douglas' body contains DNA that would prevent pretty Aissa from regressing, though his motives for this are unclear as he all-but ignores Aissa throughout the film. If Montgomery was interested in Aissa himself it would at least create some drama even if in the form of a clichéd love triangle.

Much of Montgomery's role in the film is to prevent Douglas communicating with the outside world. We first see Montgomery when he is using a radio to contact someone (presumably Moreau) while Douglas is unconscious, and he then denies that there is a radio on the boat. He later steals a circuit from the communication equipment, which he puts on his head shortly before chucking it out of the window. Whenever he is asked a straight question, he delights in providing a flippant answer, or not answering at all. He tells Douglas that there was blood on his raft, when there wasn't, and that Moreau won the Nobel Prize for inventing Velcro. Montgomery wears a flower in his hair and a skirt which, if not a typical leading man's attire, both do at least help set the film on a remote tropical island.

Montgomery is described in the film as the gaoler of both the animals and Douglas, yet the only person he locks up is Douglas, and allows the animals a free rein. He does not even seem to have a pain-inflicting remote control device like the one that Moreau carries and Majai has access to. Is Montgomery trying to sabotage Moreau's work? Moreau complains that Montgomery never seems to fix anything. Montgomery brings rabbits to the island, kills them and has them cooked, thus corrupting Moreau's vegetarian ethos. Montgomery arms Assassimon behind Moreau's back and as soon as Moreau is dead, Montgomery destroys the serum and all of Moreau's notes.

Curiosity killed the Cat-woman

Aissa, the pretty cat girl, is another factor that never existed in the book. She is originally presented as Moreau's daughter, but every one of Moreau's creatures calls him 'father'. She was included in this script as a potential love interest for Edward – the blurb on the back of the video tells us that Douglas becomes 'infatuated by her animal sensuality'. The relationship between Douglas and Aissa is only briefly hinted at and explored. Clearly the film-makers believed that the audience, seeing a man and a woman spend more than a minute together, would conclude that the two are deeply attracted to each other without them having to actually say so, especially as they had previously shown those signs of true love; Douglas watching her dance and Aissa admiring his hands. Letting the audience see them kiss, hold hands or show any other sign of affection would be superfluous. We also learn that only Douglas is able to save Aissa from regressing into an animal. Yet other than Douglas admiring her dancing skills, looking at her teeth and hunting for the serum which he believes will stop her from changing, this sub-plot does not really lead anywhere.

Although having a pretty, female character is a standard component in film versions of The Island of Doctor Moreau, Moreau's successful creation of such a creature detracts from the idea that he completely failed.

Moreau's Revolting Creatures

In the film we see briefly Moreau's lab staffed by the Beastmen. When Edward walks in they are delivering a baby creature, and their familiarity with the lab takes a little fear out of the beast people long before the revolt even begins, rather than their dread of the 'House of Pain' that appears in the novel. It seems strange that the work-obsessed Doctor Moreau, who won't allow his creatures to cook a rabbit4 and implants his children with pain-emitting devices allows his creatures to do his work for him in the lab.

Instead of whips, Moreau punishes his 'children' by using a device that can activate an implant placed in their bodies. Pressing the buttons sends shocks through the animal, or animals, connected with that button. After the Hyæna-Swine discovers and removes his implant and kills the Doctor, the worst part of the film begins.

In the novel, the dog-man was the creature most loyal to Prendick. In the film, however, Azazello is a bloodthirsty murderer who takes a leading part in the revolt and arms the predators with weapons. During this revolt Montgomery does nothing productive, and begins by throwing away a component from the radio that hasn't been working anyway, just so M'Ling can't fix it and Douglas can't go home. He responds to the revolt by doing Moreau impressions and giving away all the remaining serum. He tells Azazello that he wants to go to dog heaven and so Azazello kills him. It is unclear why Montgomery makes this statement, whether it is a request to be killed, or merely a bizarre and rather random statement that results in his death.

In mortal danger, Edward uses his wits to turn the animals against one another. Soon, the leader of the pack, the injured Hyæna-Swine, decides to walk into the burning building that is all that remains of Moreau's house. In the novel Prendick also uses his wits, trying to convince the Beastmen that Moreau is still watching, but in the film this is stated by the Sayer of the Law, which has less impact.

In the novel, all the creatures slowly regress into beasts until a boat serendipitously turns up, allowing Prendick to escape. In the film, although the regression is often discussed, the audience does not see it beyond Aissa's teeth growing a bit pointy. We therefore do not know the beasts' final fate.

Modern Moreau

This version of The Island of Doctor Moreau is an attempt to modernise the story, with genetic engineering and animal rights protesters replacing vivisection and the National Anti-Vivisection League. Yet somewhere in the process of updating the tale, several important plot points and the message behind the story were lost.

The Island of Dr Moreau was an attempt to tell a great story to a new generation. However, instead of the original messages of not interfering with nature and the bestial nature of human existence, the film has descended into a chaotic action horror film and an excuse to play with explosions and special effects. It merely touches on the message that mankind is only civilised on the surface, with animal instincts threatening to erupt at any moment; the only time an animal to human comparison is made is at the start when Edward says the two men who shared his life-raft fought like animals over the last of the food. In a review of the film The Pittsburg Post stated on 3 September, 1996 that 'By borrowing only the simple plot line and not the real content of Wells' work, we get a hackneyed horror movie that blunts the point of Wells' speculation.'

Review: The Island of Doctor Moron?

Well, things didn't work…
- Montgomery, The Island of Doctor Moreau

The film is a fascinating failure. It is such an incoherent mess that it is hard to resist trying to analyse the plot strands that go nowhere and to piece together some meaning from the nonsense.

Several plot points start, but never get anywhere. We learn that Edward Douglas is a UN Peace Envoy needed urgently in Jakarta because of a war, but before his job can symbolise the war between our civilised and bestial natures, this is never mentioned again. We later learn that his body contains DNA that can prevent Aissa from regressing into a beast, but then she dies. Montgomery declares, 'I want to go to Dog Heaven' for no apparent reason, and is promptly shot.

The modern setting of the film seems confused and ill-thought out. The manimals are apparently a result of DNA experiments to create a human being free of malice, not an attempt to turn animals into people. In that case, why has Moreau experimented with predatory animals such as leopards and hyenas, rather than more tame and placid creatures? Why is Moreau trying to create perfect humans by experimenting on animals, not humans? Also, if their appearance is a result of genetic engineering rather than vivisection, why is the serum necessary to stabilise their DNA? And what is the point of the mutant rat-people, who are left in cages on the boat?

The first we learn of the island is Montgomery's description of it as being 'a little Jimi Hendrix'. Eh? What on earth does that mean? Is it a reference to Hendrix's appearance at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, shortly before he died, and therefore a premonition of death? Or is one of his popular songs symbolic – maybe 'Foxy Lady' refers to Aissa, who is a cat not a vixen. Or 'Voodoo Child'? Perhaps 'Machine Gun' is more relevant considering that machine guns provide the best performance in the last third of the film? Or maybe 'All Along the Watchtower', as The Watchtower is a Jehovah's Witnesses publication that portrays fierce animals such as lions playing with children?

The script is full of moments like that; whenever someone asks a question they never get a straight answer, nor does the audience receive answers to their questions or a pay-off for established plot points. When Douglas tries to use the communication equipment, Montgomery reveals that he has sabotaged it and waves a squeaky toy around, as if to imply that that's what he sabotaged the radio with. Douglas is locked in a room that has bars on the windows, and then escapes incredibly easily. But why are there bars on the window? Was that a feature of when the island was a Japanese hotel? When Hyæna-Swine attacks, the house itself is insecure and easily infiltrated (not to mention highly flammable), which makes having bars on one bedroom's window rather redundant.

One thing that the film does quite well is give the island a quick history. It used to be a Dutch coffee plantation, was used as a US airbase in Second World War and then was a failed Japanese hotel5. One of the Nissen huts has been adapted to form a silver, padded laboratory in which Moreau and his manimals can conduct their research. Second World War army vehicles are used to get around the island, giving it a greater sense of scale than in previous films. These touches perhaps make the island seem more realistic then an island which had been previously unknown to man.

Two of the main flaws in the film can be attributed to the poor performances by Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, yet both actors were undergoing traumatic, life-changing experiences – the suicide of Brando's daughter and Kilmer's divorce. Under those circumstances, would anyone be at the top of their game?

Val Kilmer has been heavily criticised, with comments such as 'He'd much rather go into a pose than give a performance, and his job in this movie makes Brando's [as Moreau] look sane' by Steven Whitty6 on 23 August, 1996. Kilmer had attempted to openly and honestly leave the film and was forced to remain; in effect he told his boss that he was in the early stages of divorce and needed some time off, which his unsympathetic employer denied. Can he really be blamed for the fact that he appears distracted, with his mind elsewhere in this film?

A bigger problem to affect the film would be its script, which promises much and delivers little, and the film's chaotic climax in which narrative and resolving plot points are ignored in favour of explosions and confusing action.

Much of the tension in the final part of the film is the last-minute hunt for some serum with which to cure Aissa. Yet the film never answers the question, why didn't Aissa get the vital serum earlier, such as when it was being freely distributed to one and all? Why didn't she look for some when Moreau was still alive? At the time we saw her upset about needing the serum. Instead of actually taking the medicine then, Aissa decided to bursts into tears which seems at odds with her portrayal at all other times in the films as someone who takes action and decides her own destiny.

After Aissa announces that she needs some serum after all, Douglas discovers that he had been subjected to secret testing and that there is something in his DNA that can prevent Aissa regressing. This apparently means that Douglas has to die. Why? If Douglas has unique DNA, killing him would be like killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. By keeping him alive, surely he could keep growing skin, hair or blood cells etc, whereas if he was dead, he couldn't. Yet after establishing tension over this crucial plot point of Aissa's potential regression and Douglas' possible sacrifice so that Aissa can live, Aissa just simply dies. After the build-up, the audience cannot help but be disappointed and frustrated at its empty resolution.

Island of Doctor Moreau, for all its good points, will be remembered as the film in which Marlon Brando wears a bucket on his head, Kilmer wears a skirt and Thewlis wears the same clothes throughout, but spends much of the last third of the film – such as in the lab, or at the climax when he is brought in front of Hyæna-Swine – lying down, presumably as a result of his broken leg.

Legacy: Dr Evil, International Moreau of Mystery

This film version of The Island of Doctor Moreau was heavily influential when Mike Myers created his Austin Powers film series7. Dr Evil, whose appearance is most clearly based on Blofeld from You Only Live Twice, also resembles Brando's bald Doctor Moreau and shares many of Moreau's hobbies. Just as Moreau believes in genetic mutation, animal experimentation and vivisection, Dr Evil's hobbies include owning ill-tempered mutated sea bass and sharks with laser beams attached to their heads.

The biggest influence is that of Marlon Brando's silent clone Majai, who would later be the basis for Mini-Me. Doctor Moreau and Majai wear matching clothes and both perform a piano duet with Majai playing a small grand piano on top of Moreau's own grand piano. Mini-Me would also wear matching clothes with Doctor Evil and also performs a joint piano rendition of 'One of Us'.

The Island of Doctor Moreau
'Island of Lost Souls' | The 1977 Film | The 1996 Film
1Possibly getting confused with George Orwell's Animal Farm?2On Superman he had his lines written around the set, including on the back of a nappy.3In the novel, as both Montgomery and Prendick are British biologists, they have an occupation and a knowledge of London in common.4This is one of the few points that remains the same in both the novel and film.5Possibly as few former Second World War airbases get 5-star ratings.6Stephen Whitty's review "'The Island of Doctor Moreau' is a classic novel, awful film" published in Knight-Ridder News Service Greensboro News & Record.7The Austin Powers films all feature Michael York as Basil Exposition. York had starred in the 1977 version of The Island of Doctor Moreau.

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