Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Movie Chat: The Island of Dr. Moreau

While watching the remake of The Wicker Man last night, I started thinking about how John Frankenheimer's The Island of Dr. Moreau is (IMHO, of course) kind of underrated.

Not that I think Moreau is a good movie, or anything, but for a big budget Hollywood action/adventure movie it certainly is interesting and it's full of downright perverse choices. It's strange to think that this is what Frankenheimer decided to do when he finally got a big budget to work with, but, if I may engage in some tongue-in-cheek auteurism, this is definitely seems like it could be a "late" movie from the man who directed The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds, although not the man who directed The Train, Black Sunday, and the (IMHO) underrated French Connection sequel.

It's been a year or two since I've seen it, but some things still stick with me:

  1. The hallucinatory tenor of the last half of the film. It's truly bizarre, but it doesn't seem unintentional. That is, I don't get the sense (from watching the movie) that Frankenheimer lost control of things: even the production sounds like it was completely awful, the resulting movie doesn't really seem like a mess. Rather, it has a certain amount of clarity and sense of purpose in its complete and total nuttiness.

  2. Casting David Thewlis in the role originally intended for Val Kilmer. At that point, his biggest role had been in Naked and, now, here he is starring in a big-budget action movie. He's a fairly unlikely action hero, to say the least, but, even better, Val Kilmer is so much better as the good Doctor's weird-ass assistant. Kilmer's take on the character reminds me of a type that shows up in Evelyn Waugh's novels: people who are completely, utterly bonkers, but mask this with complete and utter self-assurance.

  3. Kilmer's performance is so bizarre that it's stunning when Marlon Brando finally appears on screen, because his performance - not to mention the way the movie's conception of Dr. Moreau character in general - is so much stranger than what Kilmer is doing. Now, with tongue only partly in cheek, I'm tempted to call this the best of Brando's Dadaist style performances.

Anyway, people remaking classic adventure/horror movies should really take a look at what Frankenheimer et al. did here.

No comments: