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JulyDiaz

EPISODE 110 — The Island of Dr. Moreau

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I am appalled when movies vary significantly from their source material. Under this guise, The Island of Dr. Moreau is the worst movie ever made. And that includes I, Robot. Oddly enough, Wikipedia gives an amazing book synopsis. (http://en.wikipeda.org/wiki/The_Island_of_Doctor_Moreau). As you can see, if you read it, the book is actually a compelling tale. While it isn't the best of Wells' books, there are many interesting themes, that were completely left out of the movie. Moreau was exiled from London due to vivisection experimentation (why he is on the island to begin with, as well as how he goes about doing what he does). He then uses vivisection expansion experiments to make animals into humans and create his own society. He builds laws in order to prevent the animals from reverting, which they continually do, and it speeds up once he dies. The animals continually feel conflicted between wanting to become more than just their animal instincts while also wanting to give into their animal instincts. The deaths of both Moreau and Montgomery are much more completely explained and realistic (so far as that is possible in this story). The reason Prendick wants to leave is explained. And most importantly, Prendick finally leaves human society himself after returning to London because he finds that all humans are on the verge of reverting to their animalistic selves and cannot manage to watch. It Is such a shame that the cast destroyed what could have been an amazing reimagining of this tale.

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I'm home with the flu so I rented Lost Soul, the doc about the film.

 

Frankenheimer didn't want to do the movie. But the studio thought he was the only director that they could afford that could deal with the massive egos on set. So, he made a crazy demand and said he'd only do the movie if New Line gave him a 3 picture deal. They agreed. (And Frankenheimer hated Kilmer so much that he said that if he was filming the Val Kilmer story he wouldn't cast Kilmer in it).

 

This is where it gets interesting. He died before making all 3 movies that were the deal, but the two he did make? Ronin and Reindeer Games.

 

This means that in not only is this movie terrible in and of itself, but that the terribleness of Reindeer Games should also count towards it, since this movie is responsible for that one.

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So to only further the confusion as to whether these were people transformed into animals or vice versa, consider the character of Aissa. By all accounts she looks pretty human, aside from her pointed teeth. However, if that is the case, and we are to understand that she is Dr. Moreau's daughter in a more literal sense, who is the mother? Did he have sex with a cat?! Or if she started out as a cat, how did she end up so completely human in form? Or- are we supposed to believe that not only can Moreau vivisect these animals, but completely transfigure them, Harry Potter style?

The film offers no explanation, though if you do some background research, it turns out that character of Aissa originated not from the original H.G. Wells novel, but from the 1932 film, The Island of Lost Souls. The filmmakers invented the character of "The Panther Woman," a female love interest who would make the film more appealing to box office audiences. It is explained that she is derived from a panther, and Moreau is using her to entrap Parker and see if it's possible for her to fall in love with a human and bear "normal" children. Of course this too makes little sense, but at least the original adapters bothered to provide some explanation, as shoddy as it may be. In this version Aissa remains an open-ended question, and frankly kind of a crappy love interest seeing they never even kiss. So what exactly was the point of her?

 

Also on a separate note, when Val Kilmer does his unflattering Brando impression later in the movie, it is with such blatant disregarding of the story and the actual "world" of the film. In the movie Brando talks with a pseudo-English accent, not his clipped Godfather-esque speech. Yet, Kilmer clearly had such contempt for him that he did an all out mocking impression rather than stick to the reality of the movie. If anyone was even able to buy into the fiction that they were watching Dr. Moreau & Montgomery and not Brando being a prima donna and Kilmer acting like a crazy person, this would for sure shatter it.

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How I felt when originally trying to figure out this movie.

 

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How I felt five minutes later:

 

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One of the things mentioned upthread was Brando's refusal to memorize his lines. While admittedly a bit lazy and diva-ish, it's been said that he didn't like memorizing lines because he didn't want to feel restricted to what was on the page.

 

I know it'll never happen, but I think an episode could be done on Lost Souls itself.

 

If anyone is curious, here's a link to the original shooting script. It's much more faithful to the book, although it has a particularly odd moment where Our Hero discovers that his girlfriend is a cat, mid-coitus, and does not care

 

.http://www.everythin...oreauscript.php

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What do I do if my erection hasn't gone away 4 hours after watching this?

That's easy. Just watch it for another four hours.

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I dunno about him being the greatest actor of his generation. He was certainly very talented though. I bet constantly being told he was so great went to his head. It's also worth noting that one of his daughters committed suicide (she was schizophrenic) just before he was to begin filming on this. He could have been having a legit mental breakdown. Or, at the very least, be forgiven for not really having his heart in acting in this shitty, shit movie.

By all counts though, it sounds like he was an absolute cock before, during, and after all of this. Yeah, all the family craziness can't help matters any, and that sucks for anyone to have to go through, but I can't imagine that he would have been any less of a weirdo on a GOOD day.

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You know this movie is going to be shoddy when the very first voiceover says "our plane crashed in the vast south Pacific Ocean" ... as the onscreen title says "Java Sea".

 

He says "the endless Southern Pacific" so actually this movie makes perfect sense

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I found the scene where Kilmer is shot to be deeply unsettling. Not because he dies, but because of the implication that I can have a dog, but should my dog somehow achieve human level of cognizance and despite any previous displays of loyalty he may have shown toward me, he will not hesitate to shoot my ass to be a part of the pack. Fucking dogs...always caving to peer pressure.

 

I'm guessing you're not torturing your dog with electric shocks though, or screwing him up with drug cocktails that include hallucinogenics?

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I was really confused for the first 20 minutes of the movie, because the blond guy on the lifeboat looked very similar to Val Kilmer. I thought he'd somehow come back and appear on the island to be a foil to David Thewlis? When that didn't happen, I just figured Val Kilmer was doing a double-role of Montgomery, kind but eccentric doctor, and Man on Boat, crazed lunatic. Then I found out he's not playing the dude on the boat... Anyway, that screwed me up, the kiss-the-bunny scene also screwed me up, but as soon as that birth scene happened, I couldn't think about anything else. The movie visuals, and imagining how sweaty Marlon Brando was all the time, really grossed me out.

 

I think if Jason had been in the studio he might have mentioned the most bananas scene which was when Marlon Brando (American treasure) walks into his den with a plate of cookies because he heard someone playing the piano, offers the man-animals "a biscuit" and then proceeds to teach them musical theory before getting his neck torn off.

 

I also had to watch this movie with the subtitles on. Actually it was default mode on the DVD I got (probably a good instinct on the part of the programmers) and I never turned it off because it actually helped me figure out what everyone was saying.

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Was Brando wearing false teeth in this movie, or was he just sort of pursing his lips through every line?

 

The real mystery to me is near the end of the movie when David Thewlis exclaims, "They needed my DNA!" Are they really saying that Dr. Moreau needed specifically his DNA and no one else's would do? Why??!

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The return of Juuuuune, in the flesh!

 

Omission, but really more just a crazy fact: director of Dust Devil and Hardware, Richard Stanley, was fired from Dr. Moreau which was his project that he had worked on and obsessed over for years. It was rumored that he snuck back onto the set as an extra in order to observe and sabotage production. In his own words, when nothing else worked, he turned to black magic and witchcraft. He later made a documentary in 2002 called The White Darkness, about voodoo in Haiti.

 

A friend of mine worked as an assistant to Richard Stanley on one of several films that fell apart and didn't get made. He said Stanley is absolutely insane and tried to attack my friend with an axe. He is not in the least surprised Stanley got fired from this film because even the films he's managed to make were a fucking mess.

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Correction, at one point Paul says that Richard Lester not Richard Stanley was fired from Island of Dr. Moreau. Its hard to know which director would be more offended to be confused for the other.

 

Omission: So Val Kilmer kills a bunny and tells Thewlis to keep it to himself, he wants to eat some meat and it'll be their little secret. Only for that rabbit to served for dinner in front of Moreau who immediately orders it to be thrown out. What exactly was the point of Thewlis not telling anybody that Kilmer didnt kill the rabbit considering Moreau's son then tells him that it was Kilmer who gave it to him to be served?

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That is for June.

 

Omissions -

 

This movie ended up being directed by legendary filmmaker John Frankenheimer who directed The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz, and Ronin. Frankenheimer apparently hated Kilmer and is said to have yelled, "Get this bastard off my set!" when they wrapped on Kilmer.

 

Brando and his Mini-Me were also the inspiration for the mad scientist and his mini in South Park.

 

Frankenheimer saying "get that son of a bitch off my set" is often used as an example of Val Kilmer being difficult. But when David Thewlis was asked about this he said he never had a problem with Val Kilmer and said that John Frankenheimer was horrible on set. He was a complete bully and treated people disgracefully, and felt that Kilmer was reacting badly to that.

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The real mystery to me is near the end of the movie when David Thewlis exclaims, "They needed my DNA!" Are they really saying that Dr. Moreau needed specifically his DNA and no one else's would do? Why??!

 

Oh Boy! A science question!

 

I don't think it's Thewlis' DNA specifically. However, when he first encounters Balk's character, she is 95% human already, yet they make a big stink that Thewlis' DNA is needed to keep her from reverting. So this raises two questions:

 

1) Why was Balk so humanoid in the beginning? Where were they getting the DNA to stabilize her prior to his arrival? She looks to be in her mid-twenties or so, but from what we are shown, it doesn't seem like her more "human" aspect is a recent development. So why is his DNA important now?

 

2) When it is revealed that they are using Thewlis' DNA, Kilmer basically tells him, "It's either you or her," but why? We're never told how they are extracting Thewlis' DNA, but I imagine it is just via blood sample. If that's the case, why is everyone acting like Moreau is going to straight up murder Thewlis? Wouldn't they need him alive so they can harvest more samples from him? And considering how attached Thewlis is to Balk, you would think he would be receptive of the idea if it meant making her more human.

 

I mean, it would have been nice if they at least attempted to explain their "science," but I guess they felt people running through the jungle and screaming like fucking idiots would be more entertaining...

 

They were wrong.

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Frankenheimer saying "get that son of a bitch off my set" is often used as an example of Val Kilmer being difficult. But when David Thewlis was asked about this he said he never had a problem with Val Kilmer and said that John Frankenheimer was horrible on set. He was a complete bully and treated people disgracefully, and felt that Kilmer was reacting badly to that.

I've found the deeper I go down this rabbit hole, the more contrary the information becomes. I don't know what to believe. Kilmer claimed in his "Actor's Studio" interview he got along well with Brando, and that Brando both knew about and approved of his Brando impression. Crazy-ness any way you slice it.

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There is an episode of Batman the Animated series called Tiger Tiger, that is an adaptation of the book that is so much better then this thing.

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So basically, the polyjuice potion is wearing off and Remus didn't bring any more?

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I'm guessing you're not torturing your dog with electric shocks though, or screwing him up with drug cocktails that include hallucinogenics?

 

First of all, thank you, Ana! I appreciate you defying the Internet Gods by making the assumption that I don't drug and torture my pets. You're making the Web a better place!

 

To your point though, we never actually see Azazello get shocked. Yes, he has the implant, but he never gets shocked on film. Even when he arguably should be shocked, when--against all their Laws--he executes Lo-Mai, he gets off pretty much scott free--which really can't be too good for Moreau's credibility. I got the feeling that the liveried footman monsters were getting special treatment, and he seemed to have an especially close relationship with Kilmer. I could actually see it if he killed Moreau, as he was the architect of this Carnival of Insanity, but Kilmer?? They were Bros! And Azazello is a dirty piece of dog shit for betraying his bestie just to get in with the cool kids!

 

(...Fuck, high school flash back. Sorry about that...I'm better now.)

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Did I miss something, or is it weird that they don't mention David Thewlis in the documentary at all. They don't say when he came on board or how he got along with the other actors and crew. He's just a non-issue in that documentary about a movie he was arguably the star of...

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^ I came here to pose this very question. They don't even say Thewlis's name. Not once. It's as if he doesn't exist. This was a real bummer for me. I eagerly awaited stories of how his arrival affected that clusterfuck.

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This documentary is fucking bananas. I have no doubt in my mind that Richard Stanley's movie would have been amazing.

 

But also, Stanley is so totally crazy. I lost my shit when he hired a warlock named Skip (yes, Skip) to perform a ritual to mend his meeting with Brando.

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OK thank you very, very much for this great, great movie. I was SO into it because of the bananas factor, as June said.

 

Some thoughts/agreements/maybe omissions:

 

1. I liked the point about the rat-people on the boat not being mentioned again, however I thought that you would mention how much they looked like something out of a Muppets movie. I was so expecting to see Rizzo the rat jump out at any second. I had the same sort of feeling when Marlon Brando came out in his popemobile with the animal people flanking the side of his car, something about that whole scene had me feeling like the animal people were going to break into a dance number, like the Thriller video.

2. What happened to the third white tuxedoed son? The youngest and one would think, the most vulnerable and in need of protection....just, whatever, gone? I thought he might turn up at the end with the mini-me and the goat-leader but no. I can't even tell from IMDB what his character name was and I know he introduced himself but that really disturbed me, him just vanishing. Or did I miss something?

3. Totally on board for how all over the place what the animal-people or people-animals were capable of doing. Hyena--once he had the guns, he turned into Rambo. How did he know that those barrels would explode so incredibly after he shot them with the gun from way far away in what I think was a car (the popemobile again)? How did he not fall over backwards upon using a machine gun for the first time but instead expertly shoots up Moreau's house?

 

Thanks again, going to watch the doc now...

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This documentary is fucking bananas. I have no doubt in my mind that Richard Stanley's movie would have been amazing.

 

But also, Stanley is so totally crazy. I lost my shit when he hired a warlock named Skip (yes, Skip) to perform a ritual to mend his meeting with Brando.

 

I honestly don't think Stanley's film would have been good. I don't think he's actually capable of getting a production through from beginning to end. He's full of interesting ideas but too mental to get them on screen.

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