Monday, March 11, 2013

The Beast People's Jailer

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
directed by John Frankenheimer
rating: 1 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

I wanted this to be fun.  It isn't.  I read the coroner's report: Val Kilmer wouldn't cooperate, Marlon Brando was worried about French nuclear testing near his private Pacific atoll.  Why couldn't that be the movie?  Marlon traveling by boat from Queensland to Tetiaroa?  Even this dull anecdote of a bidding war over shipwrecked flooring would be better.  At least we'd be in Tahiti!

No one comes across as likable, in either the post-mortem or the actual production.  David Thewlis' Edward Douglas begins on a strange religious tack, moralizing about his host's behavior and questioning the aim of "science," then segues inexplicably into the sensitive romantic once Moreau is killed.  Douglas is the hero, as such, but can only ogle Fairuza Balk (no Panther Woman, alas) before she is violently, summarily executed by the island's new inhabitants.

Moreau's death lets Moreau off the hook as a well-intentioned patriarch who made mistakes, and transfers the role of true antagonist to Kilmer's Montgomery, a drug pusher and a user.  He incurs Moreau's wrath by bringing a dead rabbit to dinner and smirking in his chair, and you can just imagine the sort of guy that Joanne Whalley married in 1988.  The orgy Montgomery hosts in honor of his own ascension to the throne is embarrassing; all that's missing is "1996" spelled out in neon behind the bar.

In case you're wondering, this made me more likely to watch Burt Lancaster's turn as the Mayonnaise-Covered Man in the South Pacific.