The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)
Director: Don Taylor
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera & Richard Basehart
Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau finds Andrew Braddock (Michael York, Logan’s Run), the sole survivor of a shipwreck, finally discovering land after an extended period at sea. Home to the brilliant but, mad Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster, The Train), Braddock begins fearing for his life when Moreau’s experiments of animalistic monstrosities become evident. Nigel Davenport (Chariots of Fire), Barbara Carrera (Embryo) and Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) co-star.
Continuing their output of H.G. Wells’ adaptations following 1976’s The Food of the Gods, American International Pictures would bring to life one of the author’s most noted stories. Drifting at sea for days, Andrew Braddock (York) finds salvation after discovering an exotic tropical island. Home and base of genetic experimentations for Dr. Moreau (Lancaster), Braddock turns fearful when Moreau’s god complex of turning wild animals into humans is revealed. Developing an attraction for the island’s gorgeous Maria (Carrera), Braddock is determined to escape the wrath of Moreau’s bizarre surgeries before he becomes his next target. Lacking the tense tone of its previous film adaptation, 1932’s Island of Lost Souls, The Island of Dr. Moreau still delivers with lavish scenery, shot on location in The Virgin Islands and the effective casting of Burt Lancaster as the twisted Dr. Moreau. Displaying an array of wild animals including, lions, tigers, bears and panthers, Director Don Taylor’s (Damien: Omen II) sci-fi oddity packs its most memorable punch with memorable make-up designs courtesy of John Chambers (Planet of the Apes). With respectable performances from York and Davenport, appearing as Moreau’s assistant Montgomery who develops a conscience only to pay heavily for it, The Island of Dr. Moreau may not tower the effect of its predecessor but, still delivers as a mildly entertaining mad scientist effort with the star power and modern day movie magic to justify its merit.
Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, The Island of Dr. Moreau maintains its share of softness while, colors generally please with skin tones reading naturally. Detail is most respectable in facial close-ups and the impressive make-up designs of the island’s monstrous creatures. In addition, black levels appear decently with only mild instances of noise on display. With its elements in decent shape, The Island of Dr. Moreau makes an acceptable leap to high-definition. Meanwhile, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix provides clear dialogue levels with hiss or static a nonissue. Instances of stronger sound effects ranging from gunshots and thunder impress if not, ringing too sharply at times. Other island ambiance and growling animal noises are also balanced effectively. Special features include, an Extended Trailer (5:51), Original Theatrical Trailer (2:13) and a Deleted Final Image only included on the network television airing of the film.
Boasting an impressive performance from Burt Lancaster as the demented Dr. Moreau and top-notch make-up work, The Island of Dr. Moreau slightly suffers from a lack of tension that was so well utilized in its 1932 counterpart. Missteps aside, Director Don Taylor’s retelling makes serviceable strides in capturing a tone true to Wells’ spirit. Making its Blu-ray debut, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents this jungle nightmare with a pleasing transfer sans mild age-related issues that should satisfy audiences all the same. Fans of Wells’ timeless tales and American International Pictures’ drive-in opuses will find their fair share of charm in this science fiction shocker.
For more Blu-ray/DVD reviews from Mike Kenny, head over to Mike’s Pop Culture Playhouse!