**½/**** Image B Sound B+ Extras F
starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk
screenplay by Richard Stanley and Ron Hutchinson
directed by John Frankenheimer
by Walter Chaw This is a tough one. As an avowed if guarded fan of director John Frankenheimer, his involvement with The Island of Dr. Moreau is something like a gobsmacker. Sure, he'd ventured into genre before with the ridiculous Prophecy, while, arguably, his two best films--The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds, his masterpiece--are genre pieces, too. But I think at the time, bringing in Frankenheimer three days into a troubled shoot to replace that assclown Richard Stanley was more an act of expediency than of ingenuity. If New Line thought they were getting a closer, they were right; if they thought they were getting someone who could corral the downward-spiralling Val Kilmer, they were less right ("Will Rogers never met Val Kilmer," Frankenheimer famously said). What they probably weren't expecting was that Frankenheimer would turn in something that, though critically-savaged at the time, had some legs. No, The Island of Dr. Moreau isn't a whole, falling apart as it does in the last half-hour or so, but it is the sort of movie that hints at larger issues and boasts enough indelible moments to deserve another look. Truth is, only movies this odd and discomfiting earn this amount of misdirected ire. It's not to say there's not a lot wrong with the film, but rather to suggest that the chief criticisms of it being strange and "a mess" aren't among them.