When the plane carrying Edward Douglas (David Thewlis) crashes, he is rescued by a boat carrying crateloads of animals by Montgomery (Val Kilmer) who promises Douglas he can send for help from the island home of Dr Moreau (Marlon Brando), a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist who is suing the island for experiments.
Before he is led to a radio, however, Douglas is locked in his room.
He breaks out and begins to explore the island, where he stumbles upon a laboratory where – in one of the movie’s few truly chilling scenes – he witnesses a terrifying and freakish birth. Douglas is led away from the lab by Aissa (Fairuza Balk), the daughter of Moreau and apparently the only normal person on the island (spoiler: she’s not).
She takes Douglas to a congregated group of creatures, all half-human and half-beast. There, the rotund Dr Moreau makes his entrance, wearing sunglasses over his chalk-white face, draped in white robing and resting on a platform carried by a number of the creatures. He is also constantly accompanied by a miniature version of himself (the inspiration for Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies).
Over dinner, Moreau explains to the shocked Douglas that the creatures are the results of gene-splicing experiments that he had to move outside the US because of animal rights protests. Moreau’s goal is to create a perfect race of beings free of all evil impulses.
The problem is Moreau hasn’t perfected his creations yet, and their animalistic nature is held in check only by electronic chips implanted in them that allow Moreau to deliver crushing ultrasonic chicks with a remote control device.
The Island of Dr Moreau – the third attempt to film the HG Wells classic – was director Richard Stanley’s passion project. But he was fired after just three days of shooting for not being able to control Val Kilmer and for production running behind. The studio replaced him with John Frankenheimer, who largely rewrote the script, ditching many of the satirical elements that Stanley had intended and alienating most of the crew who had been hired by Stanley.
Marlon Brando – who came to the set grief-stricken from the recent death of his daughter – reportedly moved his trailer away from that of Val Kilmer and told the former Batman Forever star, “You confuse your talent with the size of your pay cheque”.
Afterwards, John Frankenheimer stated publicly that “Even if I was directing a film called The Life of Val Kilmer, I wouldn’t have that prick in it.”
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