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Film / The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

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The Island of Dr. Moreau is a 1977 film adaptation of the novel The Island of Doctor Moreau. It stars Burt Lancaster as Moreau, Michael York as Andrew Braddock, Nigel Davenport as Montgomery, and Barbara Carrera as Maria.

Andrew Braddock (York) finds himself stranded on an island inhabited by scientist Dr. Moreau (Lancaster), who oversees a compound alongside his associate Montgomery (Davenport), the doctor's servant M'Ling, and the beautiful Maria (Carrera).

During his stay, however, he discovers that the island is also inhabited by man-beasts created by the doctor via surgery and an injection of serum containing human genetic material. Fearing Dr. Moreau might be insane, Braddock resolves to find a way off the island and escape. However, the doctor has no intentions on making it easy, as he aims to further his experiments...

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This work contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: While not an enemy in the novel, Montgomery is a lot more proactive in helping Braddock, largely due to Moreau being made an outright villain. This is most prevalent in the third act after Moreau decides to experiment on Braddock. As soon as Montgomery realizes what Moreau is up to, he holds him at gunpoint and insists Braddock be released. Unfortunately, Moreau outwits him and shoots him to death.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Moreau is essentially turned into a control freak and mad scientist. After Braddock starts sleeping with Maria, he drugs Braddock and attempts to transform him into a beast man. This is completely different from the novel, where Moreau isn’t thrilled Braddock is there, but only asks that Braddock not interfere with what he’s doing.
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  • Adaptation Deviation: Plentiful. Some of the biggest include the entire character of Maria being added to the plot, Moreau becoming an outright mad scientist who ends up experimenting on Braddock, and Moreau murdering Montgomery. In the novel, Moreau dies from a failed experiment, and Montgomery dies in a skirmish with some revolting beast men.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Edward Prendick is named "Andrew Braddock".
  • The Alcoholic: Montgomery drinks constantly, but it doesn’t affect his duties on the island.
  • Artificial Animal People: Though the film is set in the period when the book was written, it updates the methods Moreau uses to create his animal-people, replacing the surgical method of the original novel with a combination of surgery and gene therapy. Moreau also attempts to change Braddock into an animal in a reversal of his usual methods, which results in yet another Beast Man.
  • Cat Girl: Maria. Though it’s only explicit in the movie’s novelization and Marvel Comics adaptation.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: M'Ling dies differently in every single version of the story. In the film, he remains coherent and on the side of Braddock and Maria. Part of their escape party, he is sadly ambushed by a lion and they fall into a pit trap with M'Ling's friends helpless to save him. In the novelization, he goes feral and joins the beast folk. After stalking Braddock and Maria, he attempts to attack them on the beach during their getaway and is killed by them in self defense. In the Marvel Comics adaptation, he remains benevolent and loyal as in the film and has a Dying Moment of Awesome heroically saving his friends from an attacking tiger.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Maria, for the most part.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Moreau.
  • Fanservice: The lovely Barbara Carrera goes topless in one scene. She actually is a complete fanservice character, as she doesn’t exist at all in Wells’ novel.
  • Forced Transformation: Moreau attempts to animalize Braddock as a reverse form of his experiments.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Replacing the surgical method of the original novel. A fairly early film to use genetic engineering and cell cultures.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The rampaging animal-men are largely killed in the climax by the fire they started and wild animals they unleashed attacking them.
    • Because Moreau kills Montgomery when Montgomery tries to stop him from experimenting on Braddock, the beast men get ahold of Montgomery’s corpse. This becomes vastly important, as Moreau kept the beast men at bay by following a law against killing, and setting him and Montgomery up as unkillable gods. The beast men not only realize that Moreau CAN be killed, but they also don’t take kindly to Moreau violating his own law about not killing, and having been tortured for violating laws that Moreau himself isn’t following, leading all of them to turn against him.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The monstrous animal creatures created by Doctor Moreau are depicted as sympathetic victims of Moreau's cruelty (albeit in many cases with beastly savage behavior, but due to instincts and no malice) showing Moreau as the real monster instead.
  • The Lancer: Montgomery becomes this to Braddock. The pair become fast friends, and Montgomery gets murdered by Moreau when he tries to save Braddock from Moreau’s experiments.
  • Little Bit Beastly: The cat girl's nature is only subtly hinted at until she de-evolves at the end. Still, it’s very subtle and is only made explicitly clear in the movie’s novelization.
  • Mad Scientist: Moreau.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Maria.
  • Mercy Kill: One of the animal-men, a bull-man, begs Braddock to kill him so he doesn't have to suffer in the House of Pain. Braddock complies.
  • Token Good Teammate: M'Ling and the servant women are all beast folk, but never turn on the humans, and aid in their escape.
  • Tropical Island Adventure
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The animal creatures created by Doctor Moreau and kept under submission by means of fear and torture rise against him at the end, After Moreau murders Montgomery and they find out Moreau isn’t untouchable, nor is he practicing what he preaches.
  • White Shirt of Death: Moreau’s main outfit is a white suit which gets dirty and blood soaked when the beast men maul him to death.

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