Saturday, October 03, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 3 - Movie

As an eleven year old I was completely won over by "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1977). I often find that revisiting movies that you loved as a kid is a really bad idea. They almost never hold up when viewed through adult eyes. I managed to go through a lot of time before finally breaking down to watch this again. The verdict? It was much better than I expected it would be. It's no "Island of Lost Souls" , but it was an entertaining, loose adaptation of the novel by H.G. Wells starring Michael York as the shipwrecked sailor, Burt Lancaster as Dr. Moreau, Richard Basehart as the Sayer of the Law, and Barbera Carrera as the babe. The real star though are the humanimals. In the movie, they are creations of Moreau, but their make-ups were created by Daniel C. Striepeke, John Chambers, and Tom Burman witha slew of assistants. The actors playing the humanimals also did a good job channeling the animal they were meant to be genetically developed from.

The movie develops nicely, maintaining the mystery of what's on the island and what Moreau is up to, with a slow build to the reveal of the humanimals. Unfortunately, the movie comes to a pretty sudden stop with the climactic fire, with York and Carrera witnessing the action from a safe distance. Lancaster, usually an outstanding actor, doesn't convey the drive and madness required. He's too matter of fact. They also seem to ignore Maria's origin, while alluding to it. If you're familiar with the story it seems obvious what it is, but since it never actually comes out in this movie, it's possible it was dropped altogether. I've heard there was an alternate ending filmed, which may have contained the payoff for this character's story, but in the version as is, it's as if it were never meant to be there at all.


Steve said...

Yeah, the Island of Lost Souls nails it but I had never seen that as a kid. Instead I'd seen this version and I thought it was super keen back then. Now when I watch it a sense of awkwardness seems to permeate every scene that has the mutants in it. They're all a little too reminiscent of the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. They're just too visible too early and a lot of the actors look like they feel kind of silly. It's not terrible like the more recent remake, though. The key actors and the art direction were all good. But it's never as chilling as IOLS.

I remember that the comic book version when this came out had the darker ending that the moviemakers copped out on. That would have made the movie a little better right there.

Michael Jones said...

It's still better than the '96 version where Brando portrays the Island!