The Island of Doctor Moreau – novel by H.G. Wells, 1896

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The Island of Doctor Moreau is an 1896 science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells.

The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat who is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates human-like hybrid beings from animals via vivisection.

The novel deals with a number of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature. Wells described the novel as “an exercise in youthful blasphemy”.

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Opening plot:

The Island of Doctor Moreau is the account of Edward Prendick, an Englishman with a scientific education who survives a shipwreck in the southern Pacific Ocean. A passing ship takes him aboard, and a man named Montgomery revives him. Prendick also meets a grotesque bestial native screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-11-49-51named M’ling, who appears to be Montgomery’s manservant. The ship is transporting a number of animals that belong to Montgomery. As they approach the island, the captain demands Prendick leave the ship with Montgomery.

Montgomery explains that he will not be able to host Prendick on the island. Despite this, the captain leaves Prendick in a dinghy and sails away. Montgomery takes pity and rescues him.

The island belongs to Dr. Moreau. Prendick remembers that he has heard of Moreau, formerly an eminent physiologist in London whose gruesome experiments in vivisection had been publicly exposed and has fled England as a result of his exposure.

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The next day, Moreau begins working on a puma. Prendick gathers that Moreau is performing a painful experiment on the animal, and its anguished cries drive Prendick out into the jungle. While he wanders, he comes upon a group of people who seem human but have an unmistakable resemblance to swine.

As he walks back to the enclosure, he suddenly realises he is being followed by a figure in the jungle. He panics and flees, and the figure gives chase. As his pursuer bears down on him, Prendick manages to stun him with a stone and observes the pursuer is a monstrous hybrid of animal and man…

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Influence:

The Island of Doctor Moreau is a classic of early science fiction and remains one of Wells’s best-known books. It has been adapted to film and other media on many occasions.

  • Ile d’Epouvante (1913), a French silent film. The 23-minute two-reeler film was directed by Joe Hamman in 1911 and released in 1913. It was picked up by US distributor George Kleine and renamed The Island of Terror.
  • Die Insel der Veschollenen (1921), a German silent adaption.
  • Island of Lost Souls (1932), with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi.

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  • Terror Is a Man (1959), with Francis Lederer, Greta Thyssen, and Richard Derr. This Filipino film, directed by Gerardo de Leon, was reissued in the United States as Blood Creature (1964).

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  • Aged thirteen, Tim Burton made an amateur adaptation of Wells’ novel, The Island of Doctor Agor (1971).
  • Twilight People (1972), starring John Ashley and with an early role for Pam Grier, was Eddie Romero’s version of the original story.

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  • The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977), with Burt Lancaster and Michael York.

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  • The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), with Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, and Ron Perlman. Filmmaker and scriptwriter Richard Stanley was sacked during production and his experiences are recounted in the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau

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  • Seattle’s Taproot Theatre Company performed Sean Gaffney’s theatrical adaptation of the novel in 1999. The performance was filmed by Globalstage Productions and is available on video.
  • The Simpsons annual Halloween special adapted the novel as a segment in their “Treehouse of Horror” episode called The Island of Dr. Hibbert, in which the doctor invites unsuspecting Springfield residents to his island resort, and turns them into human-animal hybrids.

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  • The film Dr. Moreau’s House of Pain (2004), made by cult horror studio Full Moon Pictures, is billed as a sequel to the novel.

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Wikipedia | Image credit: Wrong Side of the Art!

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