Before watching this movie, someone told me that it was the worst
film they'd ever seen. Now, when someone tells you that, you just have to watch
it. Don't you? Well, I did, and it's not the worst movie I've ever seen. Not
by a long shot. However, it does include one of the most embarrassing performances
by a well-known actor I've ever witnessed, as well as plenty of odd make-up
effects and strange goings-on.
Island of Dr. Moreau
Starring: Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, and
The story unfolds as such: A United Nations worker named Douglas (David Thewlis)
finds himself adrift in the Java Sea after his plane crashes. He is rescued
by Montgomery (Val Kilmer), who takes Douglas to an island where he promises
to notify the proper authorities of his whereabouts.
Once on land, Montgomery explains that the island is the base of operations
for Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando), who was ostracized
by the scientific community for doing odd experiments on animals. The island
provides Moreau with the perfect place to carry out his experiments without
any outside intervention.
As he's roaming about Moreau's large house, Douglas encounters Aissa (Fairuza
Balk), Moreau's daughter. Douglas seems to fall in love with her, but repeated
meetings with her are discouraged by Montgomery, who locks Douglas into his
bedroom. Douglas escapes and discovers that Moreau is actually cross-breeding
humans and animals.
As frightening as that may sound, it can't hold a candle to Marlon Brando's
absolutely horrid turn as Moreau. Seemingly drugged out of his mind and much
more rotund than alert, Brando mumbles and fumbles his way through some mind-numbingly
dull dialogue concerning chaining the devils in his microscope and other pseudo-scientific-religious
hyperboles. Kilmer, who is ordinarily entertaining and worth watching, comes
across as agitated, arrogant and unpleasant.
One feels more for David Thewlis' real-life struggle in his thankless role
as the relatively unknown actor forced to deal with two ego-centric actors
rather than the fictional one of Douglas, who's forced to deal with two ego-centric
scientists. Fairuza Balk, who looks stunning, is also worth watching as the
daughter with a secret. The script, even though it provides many unintentional
laughs when Brando's delivering his share of the lines, does manage to make
its point about man's tinkering with nature and the dangers of doing so.
The photography and make-up effects are both wonderfully presented by director
John Frankenheimer. Unfortunately, some of the animal people's movements are
depicted with shockingly low-grade computer effects that cheapen the impact
of some their subject's supposed grace.
What ultimately sinks the film, though, isn't Brando, poor computer effects,
or the egos of the two lead actors. No, it's the simple fact that the movie
is put together in such a way that it never dares the audience to care even
the least little bit about what happens to the characters. Even the death of
a rabbit at the hands of Montgomery elicited more emotion than anything that
happens to any of the main characters. Not a good sign when you've got actors
like Brando and Kilmer in the credits.
Still, if you're a horror or sci-fi buff who wants to see some good makeup
effects, The Island of Dr. Moreau might be worth a rental. Just fast-forward
through any scene containing Brando or Kilmer and don't try to figure out why
you don't really care much about who lives or dies by the end of the film.
Brando was reportedly fed his lines through a small radio receiver in his
ear. On at least one occasion, the receiver picked up stray radio broadcasts
and Brando would repeat them, instead of his lines. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)