The Island of Doctor Moreau

Discussion in 'Classic SF&F' started by Jeffbert, Jan 26, 2012.

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    Jeffbert

    Jeffbert New Member

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    I am in the midst of this novel; sometime last year I watched the Burt Lancaster version, & yesterday was just starting on the Lugosi version, which My DVR has since obliterated when one of its #1 bugs caused it to record a 15 minute program for 8 or 9 hours. :D Anyway, as I resumed reading today, I visualized Moreau as depicted by Charles Laughton.

    I usually prefer to watch the film versions before reading the novels, because that way I can enjoy both, feeling that the novels are so much more detailed after having seen the films seems more satisfying than reading 1st, then seeing films that simply cannot do justice to the stories.

    Anyway, I think Moreau has much in common with Dr. Frankenstein, as both seem to completely disregard the suffering of those they made or modified. And once they had become bored with them, or disgusted by their ugliness, they simply tossed them out to fend for themselves.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Never much cared for the version with Lancaster, but I have always had a fondness for that with Laughton... not to mention being surprised that it made it past the censors of the time....
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    rai

    rai New Member

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    I just watched the version with Laughton and Bella Legosi. It was quite good.

    have not seen the Burt Lancaster one also there is a version with Val Kilmer and Brando.
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    Extollager

    Extollager Active Member

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    I've read Wells's story a few times. Tolkien certainly read H. G. Wells -- I think there may well be influence there that hasn't been remarked, e.g. the palantirs and Wells's "Crystal Egg," etc. But anyway, I wonder if Moreau's methods didn't suggest something to Tolkien about the origin of the Orcs. Tolkien absolutely rejected the idea that they were created by Sauron (or Morgoth). Only Eru can create. But somewhere he suggests that the Orcs were somehow made from other stock. There are one or two passages that may well suggest something Moreau-like. However, I need to get back to Dostoevsky's Demons right now.
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    psychotick

    psychotick Dangerously confused

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    Hi,

    I read the book a long, long time ago, and then watched the films, the Lancaster one so long ago that I can barely remember it, and the Brando one several times. Despite what they say, I like Brando as the not so good doctor. Val Kilmer I could leave.

    For me the thing that shines through is the almost eerie prediction of the piece. You can almost imagine that out there in a lab or ten somewhere today, a dozen more not so good doctors armed with the human DNA map so recently unravelled, are busy creating modified people and animals, and it won't be for science. It'll be for money and war. Yet the story is a century old more or less.

    The parallel with Frankenstein is also interesting. Both doctors are busy creating life, though in Dr. F's case as a sort of protest against death and god.

    Cheers, Greg.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Interestingly, Thomas Ligotti's The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein and Other Gothic Tales has a brief piece each on Frankenstein and Moreau... the latter of which views the doctor in a somewhat similar light....

    And yep, Dale, the origin of the orcs is dealt with in The Silmarillion; they are elves who are tortured and perverted by Morgoth and then bred to that form.... A rather surprising bit of nastiness when I first read that one....
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    Jeffbert

    Jeffbert New Member

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    i HAVE YET TO SEE THE THING ENTIRELY, care to specify what you expected would have been censored?
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    Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Active Member

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    Easy on the caps, there. Maybe it would be best to explain the censored bits once you've seen it all, to avoid spoiling anything? I'd have thought early censors would be troubled by the general tone of the book, too. Without being really violent it's pretty dark stuff.

    I loved this book and it's one of my favourites. It amazes me how many ideas Wells packs into so few pages: religion, racism, scientific arrogance, the colonial empires... And at the turn of the century. Moreau could easily pass for a satire of fascism written 50 years later. It's a real knockout punch of a novel. Anyone planning on writing a novel of over 250 pages should be required to read Moreau by law.

    I've never seen a film version, but like Lovecraft's work I suspect it wouldn't translate all that well for me. Part of the horror comes from imagining the creatures, and I can't help suspect that seeing them in the flesh would lessen that.
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    Extollager

    Extollager Active Member

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    Here's what I wrote for Drout's J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia about Tolkien and The Island of Dr. Moreau:

    ------If Tolkien read Wells’s gruesome short novel The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), he may have recalled it when he pondered the origin of Orcs. Frodo, here surely speaking for the author, says, “The Shadow that bred [Orcs] can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own” (LOTR 893), and Tolkien states, in Appendix F, that the Orcs “were first bred [not “created”] by the Dark Power of the North,” i.e. Morgoth, “in the Elder Days” (LOTR 1105). Treebeard teaches that the Trolls “‘are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, in mockery of Ents, and Orcs were of Elves” (LOTR 474), but Tolkien’s letter #153 (to Mr. Hastings, Sept. 1954) advises that this doesn’t necessarily mean Treebeard thought that Morgoth created them – and, in any event, Tolkien adds, Treebeard is not to be taken as infallible (Letters 190). Tolkien ruled out the idea that Sauron or Morgoth created the Orcs ex nihilo; they must, then, in some way be the result of wicked tampering, like the Trolls, with some “stock” (LOTR 1106). That conception may be derived from Wells’s novel. Moreau’s Beast-Folk have been “‘manufactured‘” (p. 131) through vivisection, transfusions, skin grafts, etc. performed upon existing animals. Dr. Moreau has discovered that the “‘plasticity of living forms’” is such that numerous grotesque creatures, some of them composed of body parts from more than one species, may be devised (131). They are hypnotized in some manner not shown in the narrative (132) and fear and worship Moreau, somewhat as the Orcs are swayed by Sauron’s will (so that, when the Dark Tower falls, the Orc-horde is instantly bewildered [LOTR 928]).

    In years after publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien speculated about the origin of the Orcs, noting that they could not have been developed from human “stock” since they fought with the Elves in the primordial past before the appearance of Men, and gingerly wondered about how corrupted Elves might have been used in some way: “It remains therefore terribly possible there was an Elvish strain in the Orcs. These may then even have been mated with beasts (sterile!) – and later Men” (Morgoth’s Ring 411). Tolkien evidently conceived of Morgoth and Sauron, and also Saruman in his development of the Uruk-hai, as proceeding somewhat as Wells’s Moreau does. Treebeard says, with grim understatement, “‘he [Saruman] has been doing something to them [the Orcs]’” (LOTR 462) – apparently something like what Moreau was doing to animals.-----
  10.  
    Jeffbert

    Jeffbert New Member

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    My bad; my wireless keyboard only temporarily indicates the status of the [LOCK] keys on screen, & I too often forget it. I have only 1 usable arm, so the [CAPS LOCK] key is more important to me, than to most.

    Oh, I just remembered: TCM showed THE LAST MAN ON EARTH a few weeks ago, & preceded it with a bit of info. Apparently HAMMER FILMS was 1st going to make it, but the British censors said no; only then was it picked up by an American company. But I thought the American censors were more strict than the Brits, at least until the HAYES CODE went out of force.



    Interesting stuff, Extollager! It seems like the orcs were created more through biochemistry that Moreau's BEAST PEOPLE were. I wonder who 1st used genetics in scifi?
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    Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Active Member

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    I always assumed - and I have no basis for this - that the origin of the orcs was a sort of instinctive reaction to the horrors of war in general. It seems that for Tolkien heavy industry meant ugliness and destruction, and that the orcs were debased people in the same way that Mordor was a corrupted bit of Middle Earth.

    I am always struck by how much Mordor resembles a kind of magical police state: in such circumstances selective breeding doesn't seem surprising. It reminds me of Churchill's quote about a new dark age, made more protracted by perverted science.
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    steve12553

    steve12553 The Enigma of Steel

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    "Are we not men?"





    "We are Devo."
  13.  
    Jeffbert

    Jeffbert New Member

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    I am nearly finished! :)
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    Jeffbert

    Jeffbert New Member

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    I just finished reading the other day, & hope somebody returns the disc to NETFLIX before the discs I just popped into the mail are received.
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    Extollager

    Extollager Active Member

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    I've been dipping into John Gray's Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia. He's wrong in some of what he writes about Christianity. But I thought he had an interesting remark when he said that, if you want to understand our time, you should read 1984, Brave New World, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep, etc. -- and included The Island of Dr. Moreau in the list. He says that the unspeakable J. Stalin wanted a new breed of Soviet soldier, so he charged Ivan Ivanov with crossbreeding apes and humans. Ivanov set up a "research institute" for the task in Stalin's birthplace of Georgia and attempted artificial insemination to produce the Communist warrior of the future... (p. 42).
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    Jeffbert

    Jeffbert New Member

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    :eek: Did he cite any sources for that assertion?
    ;)

    I cannot pass the opportunity:
    "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned, dirty ape!"
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    dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Mispost.
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    dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Can I barf now?
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    Extollager

    Extollager Active Member

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    Jeffbert, Prof. Gray cites, for Ivanov's ape-sperm experiments, Kirill Rossiianov, "Beyond Species: Ivan Ivanov and His Experiments on Cross-Breeding Humans with Anthropoid Apes," in Science in Context Issue #15 (2002, Cambridge University Press), pp. 277-316.

    Relevant to the context appears to be another source he cites, Vadim J. Birstein, The Perversion of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science (Westview Press 2001).
  20.  
    dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    So, what were the results?:confused:

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