The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

island of dr moreau poster 1977 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10

Kind of scary

Ending kind of derails the plot

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Island of Dr. Moreau

Studio: American International Pictures

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror

Release Date(s): July 13, 1977

MPAA Rating: PG

island of dr moreau michael york transformation

I am not a beast…sort of!!!

The survivor of a shipwreck find himself stranded upon a remote tropical island.  Finding himself alone, Andrew Braddock (Michael York) discovers that the island inhabits an eccentric doctor named Moreau (Burt Lancaster), his grounds man Montgomery (Nigel Davenport), his beautiful housemaid Maria (Barbara Carrera), and a crew of strange servants.  Braddock is about to discover that Moreau has a secret and that there is more to the island than he is seeing and that Moreau has unlocked a horror of nature.

Directed by Don Taylor, The Island of Dr. Moreau is an adaptation of the classic 1896 novel by H.G. Wells.  The novel was previously adopted as Island of Lost Souls in 1932 and later adapted again (as The Island of Dr. Moreau) in 1996.  The film was met with mixed reviews.

island of dr moreau lawgiver man-beasts

I am the law!!! Kind of like Judge Dredd…

I saw The Island of Dr. Moreau when I was really young, and I remember being pretty terrified by it.  The man-beasts and monsters had decent special effects for the time (very reminiscent now The Planet of the Apes) and I took away the horror aspect of the film more than the sci-fi nature.  While this film gets a lot of the story right, it ultimately fails.

The story starts out right.  It has the basic set-up, the mystery, the man-beasts, and then it goes a weird direction.  Moreau starts to turn Braddock’s character into a man-beast, the man-beasts turn on Moreau, and the whole last act is virtually a complete horror movie (including jump scares on the boat).  While it keeps it interesting, it kind of deflates the ideas of the story about science and the nature of man.

The cast is decent.  Both York and Lancaster feel better than the script and raise the script up.  Barbara Carrera doesn’t have much personality, but I do feel that a lot of the actors playing the man-beasts do a decent job emoting while covered in heavy make-up that hides most of their features.

island of dr moreau 1977 ending michael york raft

Pretty terrifying if you were a kid watching this…

Visually the movie is strong.  The make-up for the film is quite good and the man-beast are effective.  If you saw the 1996 version of the film, you saw a truly more animal acting visuals, but for 1977, it isn’t that bad here.  It does build tension and fear in many of scenes.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a classic story.  It a story of science, and science gone wrong.  While it is horrific, the book was mostly science-fiction.  With horror getting more attention in 1970s, horror seems to get a bigger budget and better.  I can’t blame the makers with a budget for costumes pushing the film in this direction.  The 1932 version probably remains the best film version, but this is a solid second.

Related Links:

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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