From the stars of cult hit Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes RiffTrax, audio commentaries you can play along with your favorite, or least favorite, blockbuster films. As RiffTrax claims: “We don’t make movies, we make movies funny.” In this series, we will be reviewing their Geek Speak-friendly offerings, in order of publication.* This time:
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
Riffed by: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy
Release Date: December 1, 2006
And the people cried out with one voice, “Maketh us a movie in which Marlon Brando can don a muumuu, false teeth, clown white make-up and a really gay bonnet.
See that it also stareth Val Kilmer at his scenery-chewing best. And, yea, putteth the extras in hot, smelly animal suits and maketh you the plot absurd.” And, lo, did John Frankenheimer deliver unto us The Island of Dr. Moreau.
One of the problems with wanting to experience all the RiffTrax hilarity is that sometimes it makes you watch movies you have been avoiding for decades. Just such a movie is The Island of Dr. Moreau, the movie that made Marlon Brando a joke and Val Kilmer the punchline. Based on the novel by H. G. Wells, this tale of mad science – human/animal mutants created in the name of immortality – is ruthlessly skewered by Mike and Kevin, but this is a rare instance in which even the well-deserved mockery cannot make the movie actually enjoyable to watch.
[The ship docks at the island of Dr. Moreau]
MONTGOMERY: [to Douglas] You better come with us.
RIFF: We need a protagonist.
[A hyena-pig-human hybrid is being chased by other hybrids]
RIFF: You know, there are times when I think this movie is… kinda silly.
[The hybrids attack the labs where they were created]
RIFF: It’s almost as though there is some sort irony at play here, some sort of turnabout. But it’s subtle, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Fairuza Balk’s name.
Brando and Kilmer are stoned.
Animals smell bad.
Relatively high, and mostly to do with monkey poop-flinging.
[Some animal hybrid gyrate unpleasantly]
RIFF: I’d rather see Bette Midler in a thong.
Now that’s just mean.
[A lifeboat sails on the ocean]
RIFF: Maybe he’ll run into Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields.
This is, of course, The Blue Lagoon (1980), in which two children grow to adolescence on a desert island after a shipwreck.
RIFF: Or Tallulah Bankhead and William Bendix.
1944 thriller Lifeboat, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, sees the survivors of a World War II torpedo take refuge on a desert island, and then one of the German soldiers who sank their ship show up…
[A ship rescues Douglas from the lifeboat and sails away…]
RIFF 1: Meanwhile, Uncle Captain sails the Leakin’ Lina in search of the dreaded three-headed threep.
Based on an earlier puppet show, Beany and Cecil is an animated series that aired from 1962 to 1969, featuring a kind but trouble-prone boy named Beany and his dimwitted but heroic best-friend Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent.
[Montgomery and Douglas arrive at Dr. Moreau’s compound with a cage full of rabbits]
RIFF: Brando’s gonna come out wearing a little crown and yelling “Wheres my hassenpfeffer?”
In the 1962 Looney Tunes short Shishkabugs, Yosemite Sam is head chef at the castle of a whiny king who is constantly demanding his meals be ready faster, including hasenpfeffer, a dish made with rabbit. (Bugs Bunny is not enthusiastic about the ingredients of that one.)
[Montgomery misses a shot]
RIFF: Yeah, good shooting. William Burroughs handled a pistol better than that.
William S. Burroughs, author of The Naked Lunch, was convicted of killing his wife Joan Vollmer, reportedly an accidental shooting as he drunkenly attempted to shoot an apple off her head. The incident occurred in Mexico in 1951, for which Burroughs was given a two-year suspended sentence and we never even extradited back from the US for trial.
[A vial of blood is marked “Douglas”
RIFF: You think that blood is from Chip or Ernie?
Chip Douglas (Stanley Livingston) was one of the titular three sons in the television series My Three Sons, which ran on ABC from 1960 – 1972. Neighbor Ernie (Barry Livingstone) was adopted into the Douglas family in Season 3.
[Montgomery has gone mad, dressed as Moreau and surrounded by animal hybrids]
RIFF: I’m told this is exactly what Cesar Milan does in his free time.
Cesar Milan is a dog behaviourist, whose reality show Dog Whisperer ran on National Geographic Channel from 2004 – 2012.
DOUGLAS: [about the hybrids] They’re neither wholly animal nor wholly man.
RIFF: They’re Wholly Moses!, with Dudley Moore.
Wholly Moses! is a 1980 Biblical parody, somewhat in the vein of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, starring Dudley Moore as a tourist in Israel who discovers the lost scroll of God’s true messenger, Herschel.
B-. Brando’s insane performance in this film is definitely worthy of the jeering it receives here, and there are definitely moments of amusement, but this is just a really terrible movie and it is hard not to wish it had remained unwatched forever. Thanks a lot, RiffTrax.
Audio Download: rifftrax.com/the-island-of-dr-moreau