Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells

(hb; 1896)

From the inside flap:

"[This] is the story of [Edward] Prendick, a common man, who is shipwrecked on a mysterious island populated by Moreau, a scientist and Montgomery, his drunken assistant, a disgraced doctor. Growing suspicious of Moreau's experiments, Prendick discovers Moreau is creating strange, human-like cratures from animals. Wolves, dogs, pumas, oxen and other animals have been transformed by Doctor Moreau's skillful hands and brilliant mind into Beast People, capable of speech and thought.

"Following a shocking sequence of events Prendick is left alone with Moreau's creations, as they revert back to their animal state. . ."



Review:

Wells's fast-paced novel is immediately gripping and timeless, perfectly balancing the action/science fiction aspects of the tale, the emotions of its lead protagonist (Prendick, whose panic suffuses the work) and its horrific men should not play God with nature theme.

True to Frankensteinean form, Doctor Moreau is a curious and barbaric man, often more cruel and perverted than the Beast People he created and brainwashed. And this reader could practically smell Montgomery's desperate, acrid alcoholic sweat, as he, caught in his own fugue-panic, further enables Moreau's escalating (and equally desperate) atrocities.

One of my all-time favorite novels, this: own it, already.

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Seven films have resulted from this novel.

The first, The Island of the Lost, was released in 1921.

This German-language film was directed by Urban Gad, from a screenplay by Hans Berhendt and Bobby E. Lüthge.

Fritz Beckmann played Jim. Hans Berhendt (who also co-scripted the movie) played Pat Quickly. Alf Blutecher played Robert Marston. Tronier Funder played Dr. Ted Fowlen. Ludmilla Hell played Evelyn Wilkinson.

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The second version, Island of Lost Souls, was released stateside in December 1932.

Charles Laughton played Dr. Moreau. Richard Arlen played Edward Parker. Leila Hyams played Ruth Thomas. Bela Lugosi played "Sayer of the Law". Kathleen Burke played "The Panther Woman - Lota". Arthur Hohl played Mr. Montgomery. Tetsu Komai played M'ling. George Irving played "The Consul".

Erle C. Kenton directed the film, from a script by Waldemar Young and Philip Wylie.

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Terror Is A Man was the third cinematic version of Wells's novel, though the novel was never credited as the film's source material. Terror Is A Man was released stateside in November 1959.

Francis Lederer played Dr. Charles Girard. Greta Thyssen played Frances Girard. Richard Derr played Dr. Fitzgerald. Oscar Keesee played Walter Perrera.

Geraldo de Leon directed the film, from a script by Paul Harbor.

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Tim Burton directed, scripted and starred in the 1971 shot-on-Super-8 short The Island of Doctor Agor. It was Burton's first film, and the fourth cinematic adaptation of this Wells novel.

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The Twilight People was released stateside in January 1973. The film did not cite Wells's novel as a source, though this appears to be the case.

John Ashley played Matt Farrell. Pat Woodell played Neva Gordon. Jan Merlin played Steinman. Charles Macauley played Dr. Gordon. Pam Grier played "Ayesa, the Panther Woman". Ken Metcalfe played "Kuzma, the Antelope Man". Kim Ramos played "Primo, the Ape Man".

Eddie Romero, who also co-scripted the film with Jerome Small, directed this fifth film version of Wells's novel.

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The sixth version, The Island of Doctor Moreau, was released stateside on July 13, 1977. Don Taylor directed the film, from a screenplay by Al Ramrus and John Herman Shaner.

Burt Lancaster played Dr. Paul Moreau. Michael York played Andrew Braddock. Nigel Davenport played Montgomery. Barbara Carrera played Maria. Richard Basehart played "Sayer of the Law". Nick Cravat played M'ling.

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The seventh (and latest) cinematic adaptation, The Island of Doctor Moreau, was released stateside on August 23, 1996.

David Thewlis played Edward Douglas. Marlon Brando played Dr. Moreau. Fairuza Balk played Aissa. Val Kilmer played Montgomery. Ron Perlman played "Sayer of the Law". Marco Hoffschneider played M'ling. Temuera Morrison played Azazello. Mark Dascascos played Lo-Mai.

John Frankenheimer, who replaced an uncredited/fired Richard Stanley, directed the film, from a script by Richard Stanley and Ron Hutchinson.

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