The Island of Doctor Moreau Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by 101 Films
Directed by Don Taylor
Written by Al Ramrus, John Herman and H.G. Wells (novel)
1977, Region B, 99 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 18th August 2014
Michael York as Andrew Braddock
Burt Lancaster as Doctor Paul Moreau
Nigel Davenport as Montgomery
Barbara Carrera as Maria
Richard Basehart as Sayer of the Law
Nick Cravat as M'Ling
Not the infamously terrible Marlon Brando version of 1996; Don Taylor's adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic novel is the only-occasionally-bad Michael York movie from 1977. When a survivor of a shipwreck (plus dead friend) washes up on the shore of mad scientist Doctor Moreau's desert island, classic literature ensues. Sadly, this isn't quite backed up by the very rubbery special effects of the time.
Logan's Run and Austin Powers star Michael York is the main attraction here, delivering exactly the kind of earnest, mostly cheerful performance you'd expect from the actor. I've been a fan since seeing Logan's Run at a surprisingly young age, so I was delighted to see him take the lead here. Bare chested and riding a horse, York's action man shipwreck survivor more than makes up for the bad special effects and silly story that plagues the film elsewhere. Burt Lancaster and Nigel Davenport lend a hand with the heavy lifting, all of the main cast managing to make the movie feel classier than it actually is.
A Planet of the Apes vibe is felt throughout – from the creature designs (squint and they almost look like everyone's favourite damn dirty apes) to the folk rampaging about the forest on horseback. It's no surprise, with this adaptation coming less than ten years after the Charlton Heston classic. Hollywood imitation is hardly a new concept. Still, The Island of Doctor Moreau has its own undeniable merits. It looks gorgeous, and 101 Films has managed to get its hands on a great transfer copy for its Blu-ray release. The verdant greenery, deep colours and beads of sweat adorning York's stressed torso all look great – making it the most lovely thing 101 Films has ever put out. It certainly makes a great change from dingy woodland cabins and gloomy houses.
The problems with its storytelling can also be overlooked thanks to the things it does well. Most of the island monsters look awful, but York's depiction of a man transitioning from human to beast really sells it. There's a lot of screaming and sweating involved, but the fellow does it with all the class you'd expect from dear old Basil Exposition. The action, too, is top-notch, utilising a number of real-life (mostly feline) beasties before culminating in a good old fashioned fist-fight. It's surprisingly brutal at times – the action packed final quarter massively improving on the sillier, duller preceding moments.
Time has not been kind to The Island of Doctor Moreau. Many will baulk at its simplistic, rubbery special effects, while others will find it too silly for its own good. Those same people are missing out, however, on a damn fine performance from Michael York, lovely scenery and genuinely impressive action sequences. This minor cult classic isn't quite up to pedigree standard, but nor is it entirely beastly either.
Video and Audio:
It looks and sounds far better than one might expect, although the clean, crisp HD transfer does the creatures' daft rubber masks no favours.
A real let down in the special features department: not so much as a measly trailer.