The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

 (2,503)
4.51 h 35 min1996PG-13
Dr. Moreau uses the key of science to turn animal life forms into human-like beasts who threaten not only Moreau's island laboratory but ultimately all mankind!
Directors
John Frankenheimer
Starring
Marlon BrandoVal KilmerDavid Thewlis
Genres
Science FictionSuspenseHorror
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Supporting actors
Fairuza BalkMarco HofschneiderRon Perlman
Producers
Edward R. Pressman
Studio
New Line
Rating
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Purchase rights
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Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

2503 global ratings

  1. 62% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 16% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 12% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 5% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 5% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

JoshReviewed in the United States on September 19, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
Not the original cut of this movie
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I am referencing the only version of this film you can rent digitally on Amazon (I know it's hard to tell since they mix everything together and attach reviews to it because Amazon is using 20+ year old code despite being one of the richest companies in the world).
It is unclear which cut of Island of Dr Moreau this is, but this is not the original cut of the film. I have that on DVD and it's 1 hour and 40 minutes. I rented this to see it in HD (look I like this movie for various reason- one of which is its a fun riffing party film), because it makes no mention of it being a different cut, and this is not the same movie. Maybe it's the director's cut they put out on Blu Ray. I don't know. If you want to watch this with the rifftrax DO NOT RENT THIS CUT. It's a different film which AMAZON made no attempts to inform you of as made clear by the fact that it does not say it's a different cut of the film (it just says the title, nbo Directors Cut to be found).
Yes, it matters. Amazon treats their employees like trash and then claims its because they want the best. But then they mix reviews for the various releases of films together so they make no sense, and do not tell you the digital version of the movie is a director's cut and not the original release of the film because they've been building on top of the same web site code since 1998 or whatever it was. Ya... you totally treat employees like garbage because you want the best. Sure you do.
13 people found this helpful
Allen Garfield's #1 fan.Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Uncut version. What a strange one....
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I actually re-watched this (morbid curiosity) AFTER the amazing documentary Lost Soul: Richard Stanley's Doomed Island of Dr Moreau It's free on Prime: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B00TTRCTG8/ref=atv_dp_share_r_em_7b8931a8a1cd4 ' also available on bluray - loaded with extras. (ASIN#B00YXRPJUM)

This "director's cut" is certainly more gory than the initial theatrical/home video version. H'wood gave up the ghost PG-13 version (necessary for a boffo box office). While it's Unrated, it'd probably be a soft "R."

The third official adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel arrives with a troubled history. Kilmer, after initially agreeing to star, sidestepped into a supporting role, and was replaced by Rob Morrow. Then, after only four days’ shooting, the film’s original director Richard Stanley (who had toiled away on the project for more than four years) was fired, Morrow walked, the script was rewritten and Thewlis drafted in to replace the Northern Exposure star. The resultant movie is, understandably, something of a mess, as deformed and half-realised as any of the beast-men hybrids it features.

The sole survivor of a plane wreck in the south seas, UN lawyer Edward Douglas (Thewlis) is picked up by a schooner on which Montgomery (Kilmer), a vet, is travelling to the island where the Nobel Prize-winning recluse Dr. Moreau (Brando) has spent more than 17 years working on his “experiments”. Persuaded by Montgomery that he would be safer on the island than continuing on with the ship’s crew, Douglas soon comes to rue his decision as its inhabitants turn out to be beast-men genetically created by Moreau.

Despite Brando’s sad decline into embarrassing cameos, there is still an inherent excitement to any film featuring the great man. But any hope you may have held out for another captivating performance is soon dashed. When we first see him he’s caked in white make-up, and speaking with a weird British lisp that makes him sound like Robert Morley. Later he turns up wearing an ice bucket on his head, and performs a piano duet with a monster midget. It is not a dignified performance.

Frankenheimer ( the veteran director of The Manchurian Candidate, Ronin, 52 pick-up and more) tries to keep things rolling along, but the incoherent script, like many of the characters, swiftly descends into madness, as Montgomery reveals himself to be as insane as the doctor, sitting around, smoking dope, taking potshots at the creatures. Meanwhile, Moreau’s monsters begin to question their maker and strike back, and there’s a subtext to be had involving the nature of God and creation, but it’s better left alone. Frankenheimer has the gall to have Kilmer white himself up and do a parody (voice and all) of Brando, yet this is, ultimately, at the root of the film’s problem: it’s campy when it really should have been scary.

Extras:

Weirdly (or not) enough, the original Frankenheimer commentary (DVD) – in which he repeatedly bashes Kilmer – is missing. Presumably no one at Warner Bros wanted to open old wounds.

There is but one featurette showcasing the better times while filming.  I’m sure they had to edit this one to h*ll in order to get something worthwhile amongst the numerous cast and crew changes.  What we are left with is a short look at what Val Kilmer, David Thewlis and Stan Winston all think about the film.  This has aged quite a bit as it was made for the 1996 DVD release, but still the (then) only look we are likely to get at this oddball film of Hollywood Folly - this bluray release pre-dated the "Lost Soul" doc.

The theatrical trailer is included.
9 people found this helpful
Simon MagusReviewed in the United States on May 19, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Weird: not bad, not great
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This is a movie that people like to point to as being terrible and a disaster, because of the lore surrounding it, during the production. There's a documentary about it, if you're interested (Lost Soul). But, I don't think it's as terrible as people make it out to me. It's certainly strange, but a lot of that is the subject matter and probably the remnants of the first director, before he was replaced. It certainly doesn't feel like a single person's vision. Brando was great, in a terrible way, but his screen time isn't extensive. There's some gore-lite (as in, not particularly gory) scenes, but it's nothing over-the-top *visually*, they are just more over-the-top concept-wise, I suppose, like the animal rave party with an implied pseudo-orgy. Val Kilmer was terrible and certainly is responsible for lowering the quality of this movie. Still, if you're looking for an interesting creature, sci-fi, mystery-thriller type of movie, it's worth a watch.
6 people found this helpful
Steve_MReviewed in the United States on December 2, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Decent movie, but could have been better.
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I've had a copy of this particular version ever since it came out. The first time I saw it, I enjoyed it enough to watch it twice in two days. I eventually got the Blu-Ray because I wanted the best version that I could have.

I find the movie entertaining mostly because of the creatures. I have liked monsters and creature make-up in movies for a very long time so I'm always pulled towards any that are well realized. The late great Stan Winston and his team were responsible for the creature make-up and he doesn't disappoint here. They even made use of amputees and primordial dwarfs to add some extra "inhuman" touches. I also really liked the music and cinematography. The music is moody and haunting at times and frantic and suspenseful at others. Long shots of the island and the compound are well done.

That's about where it ends. I think casting Marlon Brando as Dr. Moreau was a big mistake as his acting approach did not mesh well. While Brando has been hailed as a great actor when he was in his prime, he is somewhat at the end of his career here, so the performance is not good. He flubs lines, mispronounces words and gives a really fake "piano" performance where you can tell he has no idea how to actually play the instrument. Plus, even though he's the title character, he only appears in about a third of the film. Val Kilmer gives a somewhat erratic performance as well. Later on, I heard about the difficulties in production and some personal issues that the actors were going through at this time, so that probably accounts for the less-than-perfect performances.

This Blu-Ray release is good. Good picture and sound and the overall quality is acceptable. Only the Director's Cut version is available on this release, however. While the Director's Cut is good and somewhat better than the Theatrical version, I usually prefer to have both versions available in the same package for comparison viewing. What can be said is that the Director's Cut is Unrated and more violent than the PG-13 rated Theatrical version. It could *probably* be given an "R" rating if this version were in theaters, but not sure.

Overall, If you are a fan of monsters and creatures, you will probably enjoy this film as a good diversion.
One person found this helpful
M. OlesonReviewed in the United States on March 8, 2015
2.0 out of 5 stars
(BLU RAY REVIEW) 2 1/2 stars for a bad translation of a great novel
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NOTE: THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE 1996 FILM. I was recently reading an article about Richard Stanley who has a screenwriter credit for this movie. He was also the director until he was eventually fired (replaced by John Frankenheimer), essentially for not being able to corral a couple of his cast members (Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer) and who was forever dickering with the screenplay. From what I recall, Stanley went into seclusion and never really made another major film. I have a vague memory of seeing the film years ago and thought it might be fun taking another look.

The movie is based on H. G. Wells's 19th Century novel of the same name. This is actually the 3rd film taken from the book. The first is a brilliant adaptation called "The Island of Lost Souls" from 1932 starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi. The second reverts to the original title and was released in 1977 starring Burt Lancaster and Michael York. It's actually pretty good. This film is best known perhaps as the film featuring two ridiculous performances, those of Brando and Kilmer. The original novel and/or films may have been an inspiration for the punk/pop band Devo who use a line from the film ("Are we not men?") as their first album title, which included the second line, "we are Devo."

The story has to do with Dr. Moreau (Brando), a former Nobel Prize winner, who has moved to an obscure Pacific island to experiment with animal mutations. Essentially he has found some success in gene manipulation that gives animals, human-like abilities including communication and walking upright. His masterpiece is his "daughter," Aissa (Fairuza Balk) who is totally convincing as a woman. In order to keep his subjects in their "advanced" form, Moreau must give them a serum regularly, otherwise they will revert to their animal states. Killing is forbidden which becomes a plot point in the film.

Moreau's experiment begins to unravel when Montgomery (Kilmer) rescues an Englishman named Douglas (David Thewlis) who has survived a shipwreck and brings him back to Moreau's island. Douglas has a lot of questions and after a chance meeting with the sultry Aissa, gets his horny on. Thewlis is terribly miscast in this role. He's not the hunky, take-charge guy that the character requires. Still he does what he can with the crappy script. A bloated Brando finally shows up well into the film caked in white greasepaint and what appears to be a white tent with mosquito netting. OK, a slight exaggeration. He's very sensitive to the sun, doncha' know. Even inside however, he's a building of his own. His lines are nonsensical as they relate to the story. It's like he just makes up a monologue and spurts it out. In one scene, perhaps in his own tribute to Devo, Moreau dons a towering, flower-pot looking hat similar to the one Devo is known for. His aides put ice into the top to keep him cool. Hilarious.

Kilmer must have been watching this so once Moreau is out of the picture, Montgomery takes on the persona of Moreau, including Brando's take on the character. Kilmer provides and even better Brando than Brando. It is actually kind of funny to watch him imitate the lispy speech pattern and effete mannerisms. I'll give credit to Rick Baker for some excellent costume work on the animal-hybrids and to Ron Perlman as their leader. Still this is actually a very bad movie. I can't recommend it unless you want to see a couple of former film greats destroy their careers. And some unintentional laughs.

If you chose to watch the Blu ray version you will get a very good 1080p picture with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It is very clear with excellent detail and great colors. This is a significant improvement over previous versions. The audio comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and is also very good. There is nothing really special in terms of the surrounds but dialog is clear and well placed. Extras include a short making of piece and a couple trailers.
22 people found this helpful
EmilioReviewed in the United States on September 13, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
When two egos collide!
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I remember seeing the trailers for this movie and getting excited for it. I hadn’t heard about the troubled production until years after. Ambitious in its casting, script, and effects. The movie flopped at the box office and I was left unimpressed.

Fast forward years later when I heard the story behind the making of this movie and what could have been had someone been able to reign in Val Kilmer and Marlin Brando. Both their egos behind the scenes created a toxic set.

Overall, the movie has become something of a cult film. Watching Lost Soul, a documentary that exposes everything that happened with this movie. I can’t believe it actually got made at all.

I’ve appreciated the movie a little more after seeing it a few more times. Seeing the potential and whatnot. There are some disturbing images and the early cgi is pretty funny. Being a movie buff, I wanted it for my collection.
Paul S. PersonReviewed in the United States on September 20, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Not The Same Take As The Earlier Film
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This is based on an anti-vivisection novel by HG Wells, which has been filmed at least twice before.
This one has a few changes, focusing more tightly on the Island and not introducing additional characters from the outside (apart from the viewpoint character, who is found floating in a rowboat in the Pacific and rescued at the start).
The makeup is very well done, as is the acting. As to the plot -- well, that would be telling.
I suggest watching it if you have any interest in the story, if only to see it from a different point of view.
Note: the Unrated Director's Cut makes it, if anything, even better.
THE KING OF PANGAEAReviewed in the United States on November 24, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
MAYBE AN UPGRADE, CERTAINLY NOT A BUMMER REMAKE
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I had of this for some time before I finally got around to watching this interesting take on the tale. While the Lancaster/York version stands the test of time this version updates the story into a bit more animal savagery. These manlike critters are still animals, and the viewer is left with no doubt of this fact. They are quite a bit more feral that their earlier brethren of Lancaster's parentage. Brando is Brando, seemingly just going along with nothing to do but be on the screen and yet still portraying a convincing errant scientist gone wrong without a clue.

It is definitely different enough and well done to be worth a watch, both for fans of the original and for those wondering what to watch tonight.
4 people found this helpful
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