There is a lesson Hollywood consistently fails to learn when it comes to adapting the work of HG Wells: it’s all about the creatures. Even high-quality attempts like Steve Spielberg’s war of the Worlds misses the mark in this crucial category, but one film totally nails its Wellsian source material — even if it raises a few other issues along the way.

Loosely adapted from one of HG Wells’ most enduring novels, The island of dr. Moreau (1977) was only the second shot of the source material on the big screen. This is in contrast to the 1996 remake of the same name, which would come out decades later, starring Marlon Brando in the title role, along with an equally bewildered Val Kilmer, Don Taylor’s 1932 successor The island of lost souls leaned forward, which is what is most satisfying about Wells’ original material. The creatures themselves.

in the Dr Moreau The hybrid Humanimals tend to be the most human and dimensional characters on screen, which makes the film’s elaborate setup all the more compelling but also unsettling. That’s what Wells wanted, after all.

The plot is one that you’ve seen adapted and referenced over and over again Sherlock Holmes to Johnny bravo — even the 1997 video game Stand out tackled the classic story. A shipwrecked man named Andrew Braddock (Michael York) wakes up on an island controlled by a mysterious scientist named Dr. Paul Moreau (Burt Lancaster) is inhabited. First welcomed as a guest, Braddock quickly embraces the island’s other residents, though Moreau warns him not to leave the grounds at night.

You can probably predict what will happen next.

Hands-on prosthetics and makeup work strikes just the right balance of cheesy and ghastly.American International Pictures

It doesn’t take long for Braddock to discover the haunting truth about this island and its eccentric ruler. He has experimented on animals by injecting them with a serum that obliterates “the animal’s natural instincts” and allows it to perform surgeries that turn the creatures into humans. The hybrids still behave like beasts for the most part, but the film goes on to show that they are evolving quickly. One of them can even speak.

One of the most frightening aspects of this development is how normal it is becoming for everyone else on the island. It’s one thing for a substitute viewer to be horrified at the sight of a man-faced beast staring at him. It’s even scarier to see him surrounded by people who barely care.

It also helps that the human-animals themselves are terrifying to behold. Hands-on prosthetics and makeup work strikes just the right balance of cheesy and ghastly.

Archive Photos/Moviepix/Getty Images

It’s easy to see why The island of dr. Moreau could not inspire audiences and critics with its hybrid creatures. It wasn’t exactly new territory, although it had a reported budget of around $6 million (in contrast Jaw cost about $9 million just a few years earlier).

But the creatures that look eerily familiar is kind of the point, isn’t it? Wells constantly challenged his readers to examine their own perception of reality. Be it an alien invasion or mankind’s discovery of the true power of DNA, both premises can lead to dire consequences. But in the end, science tends to be a little misshapen, imperfect at all the perfect things. The fear in your gut has less to do with the sheer horror of seeing someone lose themselves in a beast transformation and more to do with the implications of what that would mean if the same body horror were inflicted on you.

Even though The island of dr. Moreau creeps a little in its first two acts – complete with a hopelessly redundant and obligatory love scene – the third is relentless chaos. (You might also be uncomfortable knowing that the real animals used in the film were almost certainly abused in many ways. This was in the ’70s, after all, well before regulations caught up with the studio system.)

Burt Lancaster on the set of The island of dr. Moreau.Sunset Blvd/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Hollywood may have changed his ways for the better, but modern cinema still owes him a debt of gratitude The island of dr. Moreau. Even SS Rajamouli’s breakout action epic RRR borrows liberally here when it comes to animal versus human mayhem, albeit with CGI animals to keep things overboard.

But where this film enjoys the technologically absurd, The island of dr. Moreau uses absurdity as sermon. Its preacher is Moreau himself, more of a religious man (or actually a cult leader) than a scientist. And this unsatisfied personality is played brilliantly by Lancaster, the best actor to ever play the role. He’s charming but irreverent. Terrible yet gentle. It’s like Mr. Hyde’s other persona is Dr. Frankenstein instead of Jekyll, with a little Dracula.

When it comes to the 70s, you can find plenty of cutting edge movies to devour. As a result, some of the era’s more whimsical popcorn horror/sci-fi movies are often overlooked, and perhaps unfairly so. If you’re brave enough, maybe it’s time to conquer the island of Dr. to visit (or revisit) Moreau. You may not come back from it right away.

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