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The Island of Dr. Moreau Movie Review

brando kilmer john david

The Hawaiian island antics in the lightweight A Very Brady Sequel are far more cerebral than anything I saw in the 1996 remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau, directed by John Frankenheimer. Although Burt Lancaster and Michael York did their best in 1977 to re-create the terror of H.G. Wells’ 1896 novel, nothing since 1933 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 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 Fairuza 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 Nobel Prize winner chafing in the island heat, Montgomery is a brilliant neurosurgeon gone to seed on drugs, but they're both such dim bulbs that you wonder how either of them managed to pass Surgery 101. A crash course 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 20 minutes before it's over, although Ron Perlman does get to wave to David Thewlis and spout something philosophical before the credits. Buy the book. Rent the earlier videos. This Moreau is for Brando and Kilmer completists only. woof!

1996 (PG-13) 91m/C Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Marco Hofschneider, Temuera Morrison, Ron Perlman; D: John Frankenheimer; W: Richard Stanley, Ron Hutchinson; C: William A. Fraker. Nominations: Golden Raspberry Awards ‘96: Best Director (Frankenheimer), Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actor (Kilmer, Brando), Worst Screenplay. VHS, LV, Closed Caption, DVD

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