Response to Peary’s Review:
Based on H.G. Wells’s 1896 sci-fi novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, this atmospheric adventure film is surprisingly “shocking, gruesome, [and] fascinating.” As indicated by the movie’s slightly altered title, director Eric Kenton seems primarily interested in exploring the potential humanity of these half-beasts: if they’re human enough to have “souls”, then surely they merit a better existence than the slavish one they’re subjected to on Dr. Moreau’s island. Indeed, it’s difficult not to cheer for these pathetically odd-looking creatures once they finally gather the courage to rebel. An intriguing subplot in the film focuses on the doomed attraction that the sexy “Panther Woman”, Lota (Kathleen Burke), feels for Arlen — who, after kissing her on the lips, “does quite a double-take and looks ill.” Burke does a remarkably effective job portraying a feline sensibility in a female body, but Laughton (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars) steals the show in the lead role; according to Peary, he based his sadistic characterization of Dr. Moreau on his dentist (!).
Note: Although the title has been changed, this early film ironically remains the most faithful version made so far of Wells’s novel.
- Charles Laughton’s stand-out performance as Dr. Moreau
- Kathleen Burke as the Panther Woman
- The wonderfully convincing, “hideous-looking” half-beasts
- Atmospheric cinematography
Yes. As Peary points out, this movie’s daringly “offensive” storyline makes it an unusual, must-see part of early film history.