In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
After his ship goes down, Edward Parker is rescued at sea. Parker gets into a fight with Captain Davies of the Apia and the Captain tosses him overboard while making a delivery to the tiny tropical island of Dr. Moreau. Parker discovers that Moreau has good reason to be so secretive on his lonely island. The doctor is a whip-cracking task master to a growing population of his own gruesome human/animal experiments. He does have one prize result, Lota the beautiful panther woman. Parker's fortunes for escape look up after his fiancée Ruth finds him with the help of fearless Captain Donohue. However, when Moreau's tribe of near-humans rises up to rebel, no one is safe...Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to film historian Gregory W. Mank on his commentary for the Criterion edition of this film, producer/actress Gail Patrick competed for the role of the Lota the "Panther Woman". She lost out to Kathleen Burke but became good friends with her. Patrick noted that she was happy that she lost because Burke was defined by the role and eventually left show business. According to Patrick, Burke couldn't get roles after her performance in the film. See more »
On the first ship, a man carries a large bucket of slop and accidentally spills some slop on Captain Davies. In the next shot, as Davies punches the man and knocks him down, the slop bucket is sitting on the deck behind him. See more »
An evil genius accelerates evolution through terrible pain
From the H.G. Wells story, "The Island of Dr. Moreau," this film is part horror story, part science fiction, and part moral fable. If the film works, it's because of Wells's writing and because of the simultaneously comforting and disturbing presence of Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau. He is another sort of Dr. Frankenstein, a scientist whose hunger for discovery transforms genius and egotism into a pathology. Moreau has discovered a means of accelerating evolution by hundreds of millennia. His experiments with plants were harmless enough, but, banished to a tropical island, he forces beasts to evolve into men through sessions in the operating theatre he calls the House of Pain. The creatures are given the law, which they chant responsively: "Are we not men?" Into this scenario comes an innocent outsider, Parker (Richard Arlen), who rejects Moreau's vision and stands for truth and dignityArlen is a typical 30s hero, a bit of a stick figure, really, with good posture and a pretty fiancée Ruth (Leila Hyams) who shows up on the island to save him, and in turn to be saved herself, but he's not a great actor. On the other hand, Laughton is. He invests the part with a complex mix of charm, sprawling awkwardly on an operating table to show how fully at ease he is, or smiling with a boyish expression of amusement, not unlike Fatty Arbucklebut he's also able to exude menace by holding absolutely still, an effect emphasized by shadow, and by saying terrible things with a bland expression. Also remarkable is Kathleen Burke as Lota, the Panther Woman, Moreau's most advanced experiment: she weeps, she loves, she protects her beloved and dies in the effort. The beast-peopleParker and Moreau call them "natives," Parker sincerely and Moreau ironicallyare disturbed, and Moreau says "They are restless tonight." Is this the origin of the familiar phrase? When they discover Dr. Moreau is willing to break the law, ordering the death of an intruder, they realize he can die, too, and take him to the House of Pain. Rowing away from the burning island, Dr. Moreau's assistant, the repentant Dr. Montgomery (Arthur Hohl) tells them, "Don't look back." Another source for yet another familiar phrase? The story is not really about political events of the 30s at all--the story was written much earlier--but about the human limits of science, a theme dating back at least to Faustus and Frankenstein.
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