The Island of Dr Moreau (1977) starring Michael York, Burt Lancaster, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera, Richard Basehart
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The Island of Dr Moreau [1977]

The Island of Dr Moreau (1977) starring Michael York, Burt Lancaster, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera, Richard Basehart

The Island of Dr Moreau begins with a shipwreck. Crewman Andrew Braddock (Michael York) washes up on a mysterious island ruled by the seemingly benevolent Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster). Braddock will learn that this “man of science” has been testing a serum on the island animals. A serum that’s able to transform them into near-human beings.

Review of The Island of Dr Moreau

I have to say, I truly enjoyed The Island of Dr Moreau. The acting is excellent, as is the makeup, costuming, and sets. Burt Lancaster plays Dr. Moreau very well. He portrays him as a brilliant, amoral man. A man who doesn’t care about consequences, or other people. Michael York also turns in an excellent performance, as the everyman who lands on Moreau’s island after a shipwreck. Bit by bit, he learns that something is going on, Eventually he becomes an unwilling victim of Moreau’s experiments.

This leads to two significant changes from H. G. Welles’ original novel. The first is quite interesting, and totally in character for Moreau. Moreau’s been trying to artificially “evolve” animals into humans. But, over time, they revert back to bestiality. And Moreau doesn’t know why. So, he decides to de-volve Braddock, to observe. It’s one of the most riveting parts of the film, as Braddock stubbornly refuses to give up his humanity, despite his appearance.

Andrew Braddock: [to Moreau] No, no! You’re the animal!

Michael York to Burt Lancaster, in The Island of Dr Moreau

One other change is the fate of Maria (Barbara Carrera). It’s revealed over the course of the film that she’s Moreau’s most successful experiment. At the end, she escapes the island with the mutated Braddock. They’re both rescued by another ship, with Braddock having returned to normal.

In the original novel, all of the man/animals revers slowly to bestiality — including the Panther Woman. This change gives the expected happy ending. I have to admit, I keep thinking that it would have been more interesting to have the restored Braddock awake … with a panther in the boat with him. But, that’s just me.

In all, I’ve truly enjoyed The Island of Dr Moreau, and recommend it highly.

Cast of characters

Moreau

Burt Lancaster as Dr Moreau

Dr. Paul Moreau (Burt Lancaster, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral). The amoral genius who uses chemistry and surgery to attempt to turn animals into men. He values scientific knowledge above all. He considers his fellow human beings to be little more than lab animals. A fascinating portrayal.

Dr. Paul Moreau: If one is to study nature, one must become as remorseless as nature. You should know that!

Montgomery: Who’s next? Me?

Burt Lancaster and Michael York, foreshadowing in The Island of Dr Moreau

Braddock

Michael York as the shipwrecked Braddock in The Island of Doctor Moreau

Andrew Braddock (Michael York, Cabaret). The seaman who lands on Moreau’s island after a shipwreck. His fellow survivor is killed shortly after, and he’s rescued by the “kindly” Dr. Moreau. An intelligent man, who asks Moreau the moral questions that Moreau ignores.

Dr. Paul Moreau: How does a cell become enslaved to a form, to a destiny it can never change? Can we change that destiny?

Andrew Braddock: Should we?

The Island of Dr. Moreau

Montgomery

Nigel Davenport as Montgomery, Moreau's abused & alcoholic assistant

Montgomery (Nigel Davenport, Chariots of Fire). Moreau’s assistant. He’s an alcoholic. It’s unclear if he was one before working for Moreau, or if the things that he’s seen has driven him to it. A character that the audience comes to feel sorry for.

Andrew Braddock: [to Moreau] What in the name of God are you doing?

Montgomery: Don’t worry, Braddock. You’ll get over it – just like I did!

Maria

Maria (Barbera Carrera) in The Island of Dr Moreau

Maria (Barbara Carrera, Lone Wolf McQuade). The beautiful woman on the island. She falls in love with Braddock, even entering his room to have sexual intercourse with him. Clearly, a deviation from Welles’ novel. But it’s implied that Moreau not only approves, but manipulated it. It turns out that Maria is Moreau’s most perfect creation – a panther woman. And Moreau wants to use Braddock as a test, to see if he considers her a real woman. Braddock falls in love with her, even after discovering her true origin.

Sayer of the Law

Richard Basehart as the Sayer of the Law

Sayer of the Law (Richard Basehart, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV series). The leader of Moreau’s animal men. He’s the most intelligent of them, and loyal to Moreau. Until Moreau breaks his own law …

[about Moreau] His is the hand that makes, his is the hand that hurts, his is the hand that heals. His is the House of Pain, his is the House of Pain, his is the House of Pain. He who breaks the law shall be punished back to the House of Pain.

Sayer of the Law:

Editorial review of The Island of Dr Moreau courtesy of Amazon.com

The Doctor Is Insane! Animals become monsters – and a man becomes part animal; Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) and Michael York (Logan’s Run) co-star in this sci-fi shocker based on a novel by the great H.G. Wells (The Time Machine). On a tropical Pacific island, the mad Dr. Moreau (Lancaster) has set out to fool Mother Nature, conducting nightmarish genetic experiments that have resulted in Lionmen, Tigermen, Bearmen and other marauding monstrosities. But when a storm at sea washes shipwreck survivor Braddock (York) ashore, the sinister surgeon devises a diabolical plan to dispose of his meddling and uninvited guest.

Partially transformed into one of Moreau’s monstrosities, Braddock must escape from this tropical hell before the mad surgeon can finish the job… of bringing out the best in him! Two of the film’s best features are wonderful direction by Don Taylor (Damien: Omen II) and a galaxy of mutant monsters created by some of the make-up legends behind Planet of the Apes. The stellar supporting cast includes Nigel Davenport (No Blade of Grass), Richard Basehart (The Satan Bug) and the beautiful Barbara Carrera (Never Say Never Again).