The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

Genres - Horror, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film, Sci-Fi Horror  |   Release Date - Jul 13, 1977 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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This H.G. Wells adaptation is an uneven affair but is better than its also-ran reputation might suggest. The distinguishing characteristic of this version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau is that it plays its premise like an adventure with horrific undertones rather than a pure horror film. The script fumbles a few key plot developments in its latter stages (namely, the mystery of the true identity of Maria) but it delivers some highly effective scenes when focusing on the source material: highlights include the introduction of the Sayer of the Law and a heartbreaking moment where Braddock tries to fight off a serum-driven transformation by struggling to conjure up his childhood memories. Director Don Taylor handles the story in a straightforward, workman-like fashion. As a result, the film lacks the flair that an auteur might have brought to the material but he maintains a solid pace and handles the film's big suspense and action setpieces with a craftsman's skill. The best element of this version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau is its performances: Michael York makes a sympathetic hero and gets to stretch his dramatic chops when he undergoes his transformation, Barbara Carrera makes an alluring love interest and Nigel Davenport is charmingly rogue-ish as the Doctor's right-hand man. However, it is Burt Lancaster who dominates the dramatic proceedings with an intense turn in the title role: instead of sounding like the average mad scientist, he instead sounds like an authoritarian politician who has become totally convinced by his own rhetoric. Thus, his intense yet seemingly rational manner makes the character all the more frightening. To sum up, this version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau has its flaws but is solid enough to make a viewing worthwhile for classic horror fans.