Blu-ray Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

The Island of Dr. Moreau BR CoverDistributor: 101 Films

BBFC Classification: 15

Director: Don Taylor

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera, Richard Basehart

Naval crewman Andrew Braddock (Michael York – Austin Powers trilogy) abandons his sinking ship along with two other sailors and drifts across the ocean, eventually arriving on an island owned by scientist Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster – Brute Force). With both of his colleagues dead, Braddock is nursed back to health and introduced to Moreau’s assistant Montgomery (Nigel Davenport – Chariots of Fire) and the beautiful Maria (Barbara Carrera – Never Say Never Again), but it isn’t long before he begins to notice the other people that inhabit the island and how disfigured they are. Braddock learns that Moreau has been experimenting on animals with a serum that turns any living creature into a human being and is using these hybrid creatures as servants, but although Moreau tries to convince Braddock of the benefits of his ideas, Braddock thinks differently and plans to escape the island with Maria. But can he escape the increasingly desperate Moreau before the doctor finds a way to keep him on the island permanently?

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, this 1977 adaptation bears an uncanny resemblance to the original Planet of the Apes movie, helped in no small part by the creature effects make-up courtesy of John Chambers, who handled the award-winning ape make-up back in 1968. The creatures here mostly resemble something somewhere between an wolf and something simeon, and they look pretty good – certainly a lot more convincing than the masks that were used in the Planet of the Apes sequels – and have a bit of a threatening edge to them, despite Dr. Moreau’s law that blood will not be shed.

Performances on the whole are pretty good, with Burt Lancaster giving just the right amount of subdued insanity rather than going full-on mad scientist, and adding some much-needed gravitas. Nigel Davenport is fine as Montgomery and Barbara Carrera adds some feminine charm with her stunning looks but doesn’t do a great deal, leaving most of the action to Michael York, the weakest link in the cast as he comes across as quite unlikeable and unsympathetic, except for the scene where he is injected with a serum that turns him into a beast and the changes he goes through as he tries to hang on to his humanity exert more emotion than when he was just acting like a stiff upper lipped Englishman.

Overall, The Island of Dr. Moreau is a solid, if unremarkable, film ideal for watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s not as groundbreaking or terrifying as the 1932 Island of Lost Souls adaptation but it’s a lot better than the 1996 Marlon Brando film, the mere mention of which sends many a movie fan into a blind rage. As far as the actual release goes the disc is totally bare-bones but the HD print is clean and looks pretty good – or as good as a 37-year-old film can look – so for fans of 1970s sci-fi looking to upgrade their old DVD copy it’s worth a go but there may not be much to recommend it to casual viewers aside from killing time on a rainy day.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

Special Features: None

UK Release Date: 6th October 2014

101 Films – Website


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