The Island Of Dr. Moreau (1996)

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 8/21/96)

By Monica Sullivan

Even though I've yet to observe the Hawaiian Island antics in "A Very Brady Sequel", I suspect that they would have to be far more cerebral than anything I saw in the latest remake of "The Island Of Dr. Moreau", directed by John Frankenheimer. Although Burt Lancaster and Michael York did their best twenty years back to recreate the terror of H. G. Wells' 1896 novel, nothing in the last 63 years has come along to surpass or even equal the chills in "Island Of Lost Souls" starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi.

The stars this time around are Marlon Brando as Dr. Moreau (who gets a laugh every time he tries on a new costume designed by Norma Moriceau, complete with hair styling by Vera Mitchell and chalky makeup by Philip Rhodes) and Val Kilmer as Dr. Montgomery (who gets a laugh when he tries to imitate Brando, complete with a Norma Moriceau creation of his very own and the obligatory chalky makeup by John Elliott and Leonard Engleman). Both actors dabble with British accents, Brando all the time and Kilmer when he's aping Brando. With David Thewlis in the film as castaway Edward Douglas, why did they even bother?

Fetching Feruza Balk is on hand as Aissa, the most successful of Moreau's experiments in gene splicing. (She's unhappy with her looks, though: "I want to look like you!" she wails on Brando's shoulder, supplying the narrative with yet another laugh.) Moreau is a Noble Prize Winner chafing in the island heat. Kilmer is a brilliant neurosurgeon gone to seed on drugs, but they're both such dim bulbs that you do wonder how either of them managed to pass Surgery 101 once upon a time. A course or two in Systems Analysis might have helped, too.

As it is, when Moreau's experiments turn on their master, he tries to soothe them with a few bars of Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue" on the piano. Most of the principals are out of the picture twenty minutes before it's over, although Ron Perlman does get to wave to Thewlis & say something philosophical before the credits. Buy the book. Rent the earlier videos. This Moreau is for Brando and Kilmer completists only.

Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan

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