The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

by Adam M. Wilcox

As Jewels described in Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace was in a pilot, and a pilot is what they make when they want to show shows. Some become shows, and some become nothing. Some movies become nothing too, and some movies never even get made. See Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary and you will know what I am talking about. Well my interest was in Richard Stanley who has a fantastic documentary of his own called: Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau and you will see about a movie that was made, but still became nothing. You should definitely check out the documentary, but for this review, let’s just talk about the movie I saw in a theater in 1996.

I had no prior knowledge that Richard Stanley was ever attached to this movie. Back then I didn’t really pay that close of attention to opening credits in movies. I mostly just focused on the actual movies. I was always a fan of H.G. Wells’ story, and the last one I had seen was the 1977 film with Burt Lancaster, and Michael York, which I always felt was kind of just mediocre. I had seen a trailer for this film, and saw Marlon Brando in a ridiculous outfit surrounded by animals, and I immediately got a sort of Apocalypse Now kind of vibe. I saw it, and for the life of me, immediately forgot about it. Well, after watching the Richard Stanley documentary, naturally I wanted to see this movie again, and now I remember why I had forgotten so much. It’s because there is not much going on at all.

Richard Stanley was a huge fan of the story, and wanted to do a dark R rated movie about man playing god on an island, and use a lot of his dark poetry and dystopian visions. Surprisingly his script was green lit, and he was fast tracked to make the movie, but his budget had doubled, and the producers started tinkering with the cast. Eventually he was settled with Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, and Fairuza Balk. Between harsh weather, and the enormous egos of Brando and Kilmer, Stanley was on the verge of a nervous break down, and was eventually fired, and bullied off of his own movie. Then they brought in loud mouth old school megaphone barking John Frankenheimer to clean up the mess. He did so by basically re-writing the script. Sound familiar? That’s what recently happened with the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story.

What happens when you get too many Hollywood cooks in the kitchen? A big old plate of nothing!

The plot is really pretty stupid, and I intend to spoil the shit out of it. An English guy is found floating in a raft in the middle of the ocean. He is picked up by Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer injects him with a syringe full of god knows what. Then they show up on an island, get off the boat. The island is full of animals that have been genetically altered to look like humans. Some are more grotesque than others. Marlon Brando shows up with this goofy faux British accent and looking like a cross between the Pope and the flying nun. He reveals that he is trying to make a perfect human being by splicing the likes of animal DNA with human DNA. He controls his animals with imbedded microchips that cause pain. Eventually the animals overthrow the island, and kill Brando. Kilmer, who has been phoning in his “performance” since the opening credits and spends the last two, acts doing an absurd impression of Brando. He gets killed too and nobody even cares. Fairuza Balk slowly begins to turn into a cat, and she gets killed too, because…reasons. There is a showdown between the first animal that removed his chip and English guy. Then the first animal sets himself on fire. Then English dude builds a raft and leaves the island. That’s. Fucking. It. This movie has no build up of suspense things are introduced and never resolved later. There is barely enough plot to have a beginning, and middle and an end, and more important, this movie has nothing to say. I can give it one star for the amazing make up that Stan Winston and his crew of geniuses did for the animals, but they are featured so briefly in the film that it kind of doesn’t matter. Acting is border line between daytime soap opera, and high school drama club. Frankenheimer also in his infinite wisdom committed another Hollywood sin, by removing a large chunk of content to allow for a PG-13 rating. So what you ended with is a film so far removed from Stanley’s original horrific vision, that now you have a movie that will appeal to no audience what so ever. The make up is fine, but this was 3 years after 1996, that was not enough. A message or some kind of good performance would have helped. Ron Perlman showed up as a character called “Sayer of the Law”, but his character like most of the characters in this film, is just never fleshed out like the rest of this bland boring incoherent mess of a film that deserves to be a lost flick forever. I give this movie 1 out of 5 possible cheese curds for the poor cast and crew, and original director who all suffered from this farce. Even if you’re a fan of Richard Stanley like I am, and curiosity will get the best of you, don’t watch this film. It barely has any of Richard Stanley’s finger prints even left on it. Sadly this movie ruined his career too. Watching this is more of an insult than anything. But if you still want to see how bad it is, you can check it out free with ads on Vudu right now if you dare.

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