The Island of Dr. Moreau
Directed by John Frankenheimer and Richard Stanley
Starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk, David Thewlis and Ron Perlman
A shipwrecked sailor stumbles upon a mysterious island and is shocked to discover that a brilliant scientist and his lab assistant have found a way to combine human and animal DNA with horrific results.
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★★★★★ review by nathaxnne walker on Letterboxd
If there is an omnipotent god who has made us more or less in their own image must we listen to them, must we obey, must we accept pain and coercion, must we accept their word as law? Can we ignore the word and the law of this god or must we live with the knowledge of their reality and the knowledge of the reality of how we have been made? Can we not rebel? Can we not seek to throw off our bondage, even if by necessity we will fail in our efforts? Such a god has made us capable of rebellion, made us capable of rejection of the law, capable of refusal of rule, of rejection of the goodness and rightness of submission. We are told we must obey, that it is up to us to obey, that it is our freely made decision yet when we exercise this refusal we are punished, threatened with the possibility of eternal everlasting torment. We cannot know if there is any way to overthrow universal law, but we know for a fact there is a way to say no, to make decisions under our own volition or the appearance of our own volition. If we are ever truly to be free we must be free on our own terms, able to speak to our deities and interact with them as beings among beings. Can a love which is coerced truly be love at all?
★★★½ review by Lencho of the Apes on Letterboxd
Erle Kenton's 1932 adaptation of Wells did a remarkable job of dramatizing a lot of the allegorical content that was barely visible in the source novel; Frankenheimer updates Kenton's version brilliantly (while rearranging the narrative into something a bit closer to Wells' original), allowing a much more modern and detailed critique of -- for example -- Empire and of colonialism to inform his horror/adventure story. Cargo Cults find their way into this version, the psychology of House Servants, granted the privilege of feeling superior to Field Servants by virtue of their proximity to the ruling class... even the famous Brando character design that everyone bags relentlessly on serves the overall concept: his character has seized the role of Great White Father as his raison d'etre, and he enacts that role in his daily life as a performative choice; the sunscreen he smears on to proclaim his Godhood is the same stuff that characters in Genet's The Blacks used when they acted-out in the persona of ruling-class white folk.
Glorious, Luciferian moment of revolt when Hyena-Swine inverts all of God The Brando Father's teachings and announces the birth of a new Symbolic Order...
Everything got a little haphazard toward the end, and I lost the plot, at least regarding the intersecting allegories. It's possible that was my fault; I didn't take notes, and toward the end I was suffering a bit from Beast Fatigue... but if it had kept a firm grasp on all its ideas through to the end, this would have been SUCH a four-star movie! I have to watch it again someday, now that I know the kind of brilliance that awaits me here.
PS: The primitive CGI aren't a good look, but I'm sure they didn't have better...
★★★½ review by Zak on Letterboxd
This film is so aggressively strange in pacing, performance, tone, and even camera movements that it's hard not to be really entertained. It's not a very good film, but it's too genuinely fascinating to dislike at all.
One thing that stood out on rewatch was how much of a wet fish Thewlis is. He ultimately fails in holding together the insanity around him as a performer... much in the way his character does.
But the animalistic brutality here is appropriately disturbing and effective. Daniel Rigney is especially adept at giving his character a disgustingly magnetic physical presence as well as an emotional arc.
★★★½ review by Kevin Clarke on Letterboxd
Subtlety and nuance have their place, as do insanity and unchecked ego.
★★★★★ review by Krevlorn_Swath on Letterboxd
I love every frame of it.
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