|Burt Lancaster as Dr. Moreau.|
|Barbara Carrera and Michael York.|
Revisiting the film again after a gulf of 40 years, I find that it has aged remarkably well: the supporting roles of Nigel Davenport, Richard Basehart (as the Sayer of the Law), and Barbara Carrera well complement the two commanding leads; Gerry Fisher's cinematography (though occasionally marred by haphazard subjective insert shots during action scenes) is appropriately scenic and humid; the dramatic scenes are well-written; the action scenes feature some impressive stuntwork, and Lawrence Rosenthal's exotic, primitive score finds an appeal similar to that of Jerry Goldsmith's original APES music. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that M'Ling, Moreau's half-human majordomo, was played by Nick Cravat - Lancaster's acrobatic partner in so many wonderful 1950s films like Jacques Tourneur's THE FLAME AND THE ARROW.
Remarkably, this was one of the last horror films to be distributed by American International and presented by Samuel Z. Arkoff, though nothing about it strikes an AIP vibe. Well... except for some unfortunate editorial meddling. Alas, the film's reputation was initially hobbled, and unfortunately will likely remain so, by the way it dances around the important issue of Carrera's female lead Maria. Of course, Maria is the analog of Kathleen Burke's "Panther Woman" character in the pre-code 1932 version. However, due to a fairly early scene in which she and York consummate their attraction, it was decided to skirt the issue of bestiality and to leave her exact nature ambiguous, to make the difference between a GP and an R rating. Alternate endings were reportedly planned or shot (in one of them, Maria was to give birth in the escape boat to a litter of kittens!), and Kino Lorber's handsome Blu-ray disc includes (with two bonus trailers) a single close-up image of Carrera in semi-feline makeup, which a sloppy edit snips out of the climax. Without this necessary jolt, there is no complexity to the ending and the thought-provoking film ends with a simple implied rescue and no further consequences from the adventure. Marvel Comics produced a graphic novel adaptation (script by Doug Moench, pencils by Larry Hama and inks by Jess Jodloman) that retained the original ending:
The disc's aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and it upgrades the previous DVD release with the theatrical 2.0 stereo mix.
|Thanks to Gary Teetzel for bringing this to my attention.|
If you don't mind going into a picture whose endgame is disappointment, there is much here to reward your time, not least of all York's powerful portrayal of a man resisting the chemically induced reversion to animal instincts. In his work here, one can see a rare antecedent of what David Cronenberg and Jeff Goldblum achieved in THE FLY.
(c) 2018 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.