Shipwrecked Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) finds himself stranded on the
island of Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton), where the doctor welcomes him
with open arms, offers his hospitality, and promises to personally take
care of it that Parker returns to civilisation as soon as possible - but
behind the scenes, he sabotages Parker's safe return in any which way
possible. However, he sends Parker a girl, Lota (Kathleen Burke), to
comfort him. Lota soon falls in love with him, but Parker rejects her
because he is already engaged to another woman, Ruth (Leila Hyams).
why would Dr. Moreau do all of this?
Because he is making humans out of
animals on this island of his, and have an animal and a human mate and
procreate would be his ultimate scientific success. Parker eventually
finds out all of this, and is disgusted about both the Doctor's
experiments and becoming his guinea pig, but it seems he's stuck on the
island. The only problem for the doctor is that Parker doesn't seem to
want to mate with Lota, and she is already gradually developing back into
a panther ...
Eventually, Parker's fiancée Ruth finds out which island
he has found abode on and hires one captain Donahue (Paul Hurst) to take
her there. Like with Parker, Moreau welcomes Ruth with the greatest
hospitality - basically because he thinks it would be a much easier task
to have her mate with (= being raped by) one of his animal man than make
Parker get intimate with Lota. Now even Moreau's right-hand-man Montgomery
(Arthur Hohl) turns against him though, and he warns his guests and heps
them device a plan to escape. During this though, Dinahue is killed by one
of Moreau's animal men acting under express orders by Moreau. This ruins
the delicate balance of the animal-people held in check by the Sayer of
the Law (Bela Lugosi), and now the animals turn against their master,
ultimately tearing Moreau to pieces. The others escape though, only Lota
is allowed to die a heroine's death.
It seems that H.G.Wells'
novel Island of Doctor Moreau is doomed to spawn one weak
adaptation after the next, and this is one of them. Problem here is that
the film throws out Wells' perverse and gruesome elements along with the
socio-political and even satirical undercurrents to tell a
straight-forward adventure story with some sci-fi and horror elements. And
even as that, the film isn't particularly good, just a routine, sometimes
even a bit heavy-handed adventure flick that has a certain assembly-line
feel to it and that totally underuses Bela Lugosi, who on top of that is
hidden under ridiculous makeup. Well, at least the always dependable
Charles Laughton makes a good villain ...