Film Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1996
Directed by: John Frankenheimer, Richard Stanley (uncredited)
Written by: Richard Stanley, Ron Hutchinson
Based on: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells
Music by: Gary Chang
Cast: Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Temuera Morrison, Mark Dacascos, Ron Perlman

New Line Cinema, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Well, things didn’t work out. Moreau wanted to turn animals into humans and humans into gods. But it’s instinct and reason, instinct and reason. What’s reason to a dog?” – Montgomery

Well, here we are. I’ve already reviewed the other Dr. Moreau film adaptations and so I figured I’d save the best worst for last. Well, it’s considered the worst by many and in fact, it’s considered one of the worst films ever made. Well, that’s definitely not true, as there are many, many, many movies that make this thing look like a masterpiece.

The thing is, I actually kind of like this movie in spite of its issues, most of which were due to this legitimately being one of the most poorly managed productions in motion picture history.

Frankly, this is a “bad” movie but there’s so much about it that’s kind of cool and intriguing that it actually overshadows the bad shit, in my opinion.

To start, Stan Winston’s special effects in this are really good. I like how he designed the creatures and applied it, giving different humanoid animal species distinct features and fur, allowing the mind to easily differentiate between them. But the makeup also works so well in the moments where the creatures lose their humanity and slide back into their wild, animalistic tendencies.

Also, the cast is as good as it can be, all things considered. But if you want the full story of the insanity that was this production, especially regarding the personal issues between Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, as well as the two different directors, you should watch the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, which I reviewed here.

At times, the acting can be a mixed bag but it’s not any worse than similar mid-’90s sci-fi productions. This has a lot of characters, more than the previous adaptations, but it does a fair job of trying to balance them, even if the movie had to shoot around their temper tantrums and bullshit.

I like some of the narrative changes but this one is the bleakest of all the films, tonally and in how it ends. Although, it works for what this story deals with and the questions it raises.

In the end, this is certainly far from great but it’s not a total dumpster fire like people have claimed for decades now.

Rating: 5.5/10

Film Review: Color Out of Space (2019)

Also known as: The Color from Out Off Space (working title)
Release Date: September 7th, 2019 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Richard Stanley
Written by: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris
Based on: The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Colin Stetson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Elliot Knight, Madeleine Arthur, Q’orianka Kilcher, Tommy Chong

SpectreVision, ACE Pictures Entertainment, XYZ Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“What touched this place cannot be quantified or understood by human science. It was just a color out of space. A messenger from realms whose existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the gulfs that it throws open before our frenzied eyes.” – Ward

Many films are called a “mindfuck” but that might actually be an overstatement when those films are compared to Color Out of Space, which takes the viewer on a maddening ride into a very unique and different Hell.

This movie is absolutely batshit crazy but I loved it. It’s a modernized adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story and it was directed by Richard Stanley, who was a pretty accomplished indie filmmaker before leaving his craft after the drama that was 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I’m really glad that Stanley came back to making cinematic art, though, and I’d have to say that this is his best movie. That’s kind of incredible when you think about it too, as it’s his first picture in a quarter of a century!

This movie also has both Nic Cage and Tommy Chong in it, which just adds to the bonkers story and the performances it needed to pull out of its cast. That being said, everyone in this is pretty damn good and I especially liked Cage and Chong, as well as the actress who plays the daughter and the actor who plays the scientist that’s trying to save the family from their bizarre and horrific fate.

It’s actually kind of hard to define the story or give it a proper synopsis and I also don’t want to spoil too much. However, in a nutshell, a strange meteor lands in a family’s front yard and with it, strange things start happening to the people and the Earth around the meteor site. Unfortunately for the family, they are a dozen or more miles away from anyone else.

This film is also visually stunning, almost unbelievably so. Richard Stanley brought this twisted, strange tale to cinematic life and everything he did from the lighting to the special effects that he managed, just turned out perfect. As unbelievable and surreal as the picture is, you’re never really pulled out of it and that’s a testament to Stanley’s skill and how well this was all executed.

Color Out of Space, at times, can feel like sensory overload but there’s still a vibrant beauty about it all.

Going into this, I was pretty sure I’d enjoy it, but it exceeded those expectations a bit and I found it hard to look away. Also, this film just flew by.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Richard Stanley’s earlier films, as well as Mandy with Nicolas Cage.

Documentary Review: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)

Release Date: August 24th, 2014 (London FrightFest Film Festival premiere)
Directed by: David Gregory
Written by: David Gregory
Music by: Mark Raskin
Cast: Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Rob Morrow, Robert Shaye, Hugh Dickson, Oli Dickson

Severin Films, 97 Minutes

Review:

I saw the mid-’90s Island of Dr. Moreau film in the theatre. But it was so bad that I barely remembered anything about it other than how damn weird and terrible it was. I also didn’t really know the story behind it until years later when I read articles about the problems on the set and the ousting of director, Richard Stanley.

This documentary does a pretty good job of covering the details and allowing several of the people involved in this fiasco to tell their stories from their points-of-view.

Most importantly, it let Stanley tell his side of the story while also cluing the viewer in on what he had planned. Frankly, his ideas and his vision for the picture sounded incredible, even if what he wanted to do was probably unachievable even before the producers started meddling with his plans.

It also didn’t help that two massive egomaniacs, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, were hired to star in the picture. With that, they developed a rivalry that truly derailed the production and caused even bigger problems.

Even knowing what I did going into this documentary, I still wasn’t prepared for the whole story and the dozens of additional details I never knew. Fairuza Balk’s stories about the experience were really interesting and allowed you see how this unfolded through the eyes of someone who was trapped in this production and pretty powerless to do anything about it.

All in all, this was informative and it shed a lot of light on one of the most troubled productions in motion picture history. It’s a compelling story and certainly deserving of having that story told.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about failed films, as well as all the Dr. Moreau film adaptations.

Film Review: Hardware (1990)

Also known as: M.A.R.K. 13 (alternate title)
Release Date: August, 1990 (Edinburgh International Film Festival)
Directed by: Richard Stanley
Written by: Richard Stanley
Based on: SHOK! by Steve MacManus, Kevin O’Neill (uncredited/plagarized)
Music by: Simon Boswell
Cast: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch, William Hootkins, Iggy Pop (voice), Lemmy Kilmister (cameo)

Palace Pictures, British Screen Productions, British Satellite Broadcasting, 94 Minutes

Review:

“[on radio] Kill! Kill! Kill! Today’s death count is 578.” – Angry Bob

For a movie that doesn’t really work when you put too much thought into it, Hardware is still a pretty intense picture that masterfully builds up tension and suspense. I have some issues with it but it brings a lot more good than bad to the table.

I guess my biggest gripe is that it takes way too long to really get into it. The first half is slow and actually pretty boring. However, once the killer robot is fully functional, at about the movie’s midpoint, things go nuts and you’re glued to the screen until it all plays out.

However, this robot is self repairing, covered in armor and locked in an apartment with an unprepared woman that falls asleep. She wakes up just in time to dodge the robot’s first attack but then this hardcore killing machine just chills in the shadows of the already dark apartment. I just assume that a killer robot would go full throttle into kill mode because this woman has no weapons, poses no real threat and flesh is soft and easy to tear apart. I never understood why the robot just laid back like he did. But hey, at least he picks off the creepy sleezeball dude.

What I really like about the film is the tone. It’s post-apocalyptic which was done to death by 1990 but this felt like a strong cocktail mixed with Mad Max and Blade Runner with a 151 Terminator floater. It has such a hard edge to it that it laughs at the word “gravitas”. And the woman does become quite the badass over the course of the picture. Plus, you’ve got Iggy Pop and Lemmy Kilmister in this. It’s punk, it’s metal, it’s rock and fucking roll, bay-bay!

I love the robot’s design in this film. I also liked that his skull started out as just a piece of art and it was painted with an American flag for its face. This was one of the coolest killer robots of the era.

Hardware is pretty much forgotten but it is still a solid sci-fi thriller with a nice amount of gory bits.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Incidents in an Expanding UniverseDeath MachineDust Devil and Saturn 3.