Monday, December 12, 2011

Bio-Art: The Island of Doctor Moreau (1977)

You knew this day would come. After doing bio-art sections for a few weeks and referencing furries in several entries, reviewing this series was inevitable. All adaptations are based off of an 1896 sci-fi novel by H.G. Wells, the same author who did The Time Machine. Apparently his work has never really been taken seriously, so no matter how profound The Island of Doctor Moreau was, almost everything got lost in the freaky science aspect.

The Island of Doctor Moreau is a legend among the furry fandom. It centers around a castaway (whose name varies from adaptation to adaptation) who winds up on the island of a mad scientist named Dr. Moreau. The good doctor was kicked out of England for his insane vivisection experiments, which have borne fruit on the island. The doctor has created human-animal hybrids thanks to his vivisection research. After severely drugging and repressing their animal instincts, he believes that he can create something closer to the divine than man. This does not work; the manimals break the laws that Moreau gave them, and the island quickly degenerates into chaos. One can see why fans of anthropomorphic animals would have some interest in this story.

So how do you like being a walrus, Homer?

There is, however, one big, black sploch on the furries' interpretation of this work: The original hybrids on Moreau's island were going from animal to human and back again, not human to animal like so many tweak. The change was the result of science gone horribly wrong. The book and films get into a lot of the deep, dark issues of scientific progress and general ethics. It's even philosophical at points. The part in the book where the protagonist is worried about humans becoming animals again is cut out in the film versions. The emphasis on furry sex in the 1933 film Island of Lost Souls, however, speaks for itself. We've already degenerated that far, people!

However, as I have not yet read the book version of this behemoth, I was forced to look into the film adaptations instead. After clicking around a bit, it looked like the 1977 version had the fewest deviations from the book.  It was that, a film about hawt panther chick sex, or the 1996 version, which was so bad it got riffed. I hope you all see why I chose the version I did.

The film starts with one Andrew Braddock being shipwrecked. He lands on Moreau's island, which the doctor calls "paradise." Accompanying this doctor is a headhunter named Montgomery and strange-looking servant named M'Ling. Oh, and there's also a hot lady named Maria, who is probably part cat if her pet serval is any indication.

The stranded Braddock realizes very quickly that strange things are going on on the island. Soon enough, Braddock finds the doctor's lab.  While there, he learns of the doctor's vivisection experiments. Not only has Moreau been effectively gene splicing things (in this case a bear) and giving them organs from human beings, but whenever they try to reconnect with their animal selves, the doctor reminds them that they're supposed to be human with a whip. It's a hard scene to watch for anyone who has had any pet ever.

Interestingly enough, the doctor uses the exact same logic that goes into creating scientific chimeras and hybrids today: Think of the benefits for medicine! That's just about the most generic reason in the book for why science does anything. Growing human ears on mice? Glowing bunnies? Just admit it: Humans love playing with nature. It's in our nature to tweak things, even if we shouldn't. The medicine excuse is getting old.

I've seen worse.

Soon, we meet what the furries came to see: Manimals, or, rather, humans with half-decent makeup. Sayer, an ape-man, keeps repeating Moreau's credo as the manimals show more and more bestial traits, killing and walking on all fours. Until he dies at the end of some REALLY intense chaos, his words are along these lines:

"This is human. This is man. This is LAW."

The law includes "no shedding blood," "man shall not kill man," and "no eating flesh." All of these are utopian ideals that man has been striving for for decades. (In regards to "no eating flesh," however, humans need meat, too. Way to go, doctor.) The manimals fail horribly in keeping the laws up. Eventually, they AND Braddock rebel against the doctor. Braddock's punishment is, of course, being turned into an animal.

When Dr. Moreau does try to turn a human into an animal, by the way, his partner Montgomery strongly objects. He objects so vehemently that Moreau shoots him. Also, the transformation is excruciatingly painful for Braddock; I find transformation fascinating, but seeing how much he regressed without showing many major changes was depressing. If this film is the closest to the book, please to be reconsidering your stance on science doing this, furries. I know a good portion of you want to be wolves, but trust me, it's not nearly as fun as you think.

Braddock does manage to escape the island. It's hinted that he and Maria are both returning to their true natures on the way back to civilization. Again, there's no mention of the worry that mankind in London will turn back into animals...

...but I'll save that for next week. ;)

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