After the ship that he’s working on sinks, engineer Andrew Braddock (Michael York) washes up on an uncharted island. It’s a beautiful island but it quickly proves dangerous as another survivor of the sinking is killed by wild animals. The injured Braddock passes out and when he wakes up, he’s being cared for by a mysterious scientist named Moreau (Burt Lancaster).
Braddock discovers that the island is populated by creatures that are half-human and half-animal. Led by the Sayer of the Law (Richard Basehart), these creatures are the results of experiments conducted by Moreau and his assistant, Montgomery (Nigel Davenport). Moreau’s experiments are expected to obey Moreau’s laws. Should they fail, they will be taken to the House of Pain and punished. When Baddock objects to Moreau playing God, Moreau plots to reverse the experiment on Braddock and turn him into an animal. Even as he falls in love with a former cheetah (played by Barbara Carrera), Braddock realizes that he must escape the Island of Dr. Moeau.
This is the forgotten adaptation of H.G. Wells’s classic novel, as well as being the most faithful. The Island of Lost Souls, from 1932, is considered to be a classic. The third version, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, is a legendary disaster. This version, though, is usually overlooked. It’s also my favorite of the three but that might be because it was the first version that I ever saw. It’s a straight-forward version of H.G. Wells’s story of science gone mad with director Don Taylor not wasting any time getting the action started. Michael York, always an underrated actor, convincingly portrays Braddock’s outrage and his struggle to maintain his humanity after Moreau starts to experiment on him while Carrera is beautiful and mysterious as Maria. Probably the film’s biggest surprise is Burt Lancaster, who turns out to be ideally cast as Moreau. More subdued than either Charles Laughton or Marlon Brando, Lancaster plays Moreau as a brilliant but callous man who is too arrogant to realize that he’s become as much of an animal as those he claims to be perfecting. What makes Lancaster’s Moreau so disturbing is that he doesn’t have the excuse of being insane. Instead, he’s just too stubborn to admit that he’s potentially made a huge mistake.
It may be forgotten but this still the version of The Island of Dr, Moreau that I would recommend.