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Charles Laughton as Moreau in Island of Lost Souls

Dr. Moreau is the main antagonist in H. G. Wells's 1896 science fiction novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. He is a brilliant surgeon forced to relocate to a deserted island when it was discovered that he was performing vivisection (live dissection) upon animals. His ultimate goal was to form animals into human beings. Moreau has also appeared in three film adaptations as well as making a guest apppearance in the comic book League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Early Experiments

Dr. Moreau began his experiments when he was a respected surgeon living in London. Purely out of curiosity, he began experimenting with using vivisection as a means of restructuring animals into humans. He chose the human form simply because he thought it would make an interesting challenge. However, Moreau was forced to halt his experiences and leave London when a dog he had been operating on escaped from his lab and ran screaming into the streets. While leaving London, he recruited Montgomery, an alcoholic medical student who had killed a man in a drunken stupor to be his assistant. Knowing that he faced exile or prison, Montgomery gladly went with Moreau.

The Island

Moreau and Montgomery moved to a deserted island in the South Pacific where they resumed Moreau's experiments. They acquired animals to experiment on from unscrupulous traders, including the captain of the ship Ipecacuanha. Moreau continued trying to perfect his process, but the animal nature of his subjects kept returning to them. He released these failures into the jungle, where they constructed a village to live in. In order to keep them under control, Moreau established a series of laws that included a ban on eating flesh and various animalistic activities, such as clawing bark and sucking up water. While Moreau simply viewed these creatures as failed experiments, Montgomery pitied them and even took one called M'ling to be his personal servant. All these aspects of life on Moreau's island were witnessed by Edward Prendick, an English traveller who had become stranded on the island. Although Prendick disapproved of Moreau's activities, he accepted them out of necessity. While on the island, Prendick witnessed one of the creatures known as the Leopard Man break the law by eating one of the rabbits Montgomery had brought to the island for his own consumption. Prendick's testimony caused Moreau and the other creatures to give chase to the Leopard Man, whom Prendick killed to spare him the punishment of death by vivisection. It was not long after this event that a puma Moreau had been experimenting on broke its shackles and ran off into the jungle. Moreau gave chase, and not long after both man and creature were found dead in a clearing. Although the killer's identity was unknown, Prendick thought that it was the Hyaena-Swine, one of the creatures he believed to be an accomplice of the Leopard Man. Montgomery was killed in the chaos following Moreau's death, and although Prendick eventually managed to escape the island, he suffered from acute paranoia long after he returned to England, seeing the animal in every human.

Moreau's Legacy lives on

The video game Heathen: Son of Laws serves as a sequel to the original novel tells the event of a expedition of led by a scientist named Peary and wealthy industrialist Scott that discovers Moreau's island.

At a time when the abolition of slavery continues to grow worldwide, Scott, a wealthy industrialist and close to the royal family, sees huge potential in Moreau's beasts as cheap, hardworking manpower, easily renewable, and gifted labor force with remarkable physical abilities. This result in both Scott and Peary to resume Moreau's works.

In just 20 years, in secret, Peary and Scott will create hundreds of these "beasts" and build an empire of their own. Inevitably, however, they eventually lost control of the island: The north is occupied by humans, trapped and hidden behind their wall; while the rest of the island is populated by various generations of "beasts", which are often hostile towards each other.


Film Adaptations

  • The novel was first adapted to film in 1932 as Island of Lost Souls. Moreau was played by Charles Laughton - who also portrayed Captain Bligh - and is far more maniacal than his literary counterpart. He places himself as a god over his creatures, presiding over a recitiation of the law, which in this version includes an injunction against spilling killing. His most perfect creation is a woman named Lota, and he uses the arrival of the stranded American traveller Edward Parker as an opportunity to test how truly human she is. Moreau wants to see whether she is capable of loving like a real woman, but also wants to create a hybrid offspring between her and Parker. However, this is becomes complicated when Parker's fiancee Ruth, accompanied by a Captain Donahue, arrives on the island in search of him. Seeing an opportunity, Moreau lets one of the creatures into his house and orders it to break into Ruth's room and rape her, but it is driven off by Parker and Donahue, who decides to return to his ship and bring his sailors up to the house. moreau learns of this and orders the same creature to murder Donahue. Through this violation of the law, the creatures learn that Moreau can be killed, and declare that the law is no more. They march on the house and torture Moreau to death in his own laboratory.
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    The story was adapted once more in the 1977 film Island of Dr. Moreau. Here, Moreau is portrayed by Burt Lancaster in a way more similar to the original character. In this version, he starts out as a perfectly sane scientist working for the good of humanity who is slowly driven mad on his island. 
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    The third and final adaptation came in 1996 and once again retained the original title, starring Marlon Brando - who also portrayed Stanley Kowalski, Walter E. Kurtz and Vito Corleone - as the scientist who acted as the overarching antagonist this time around. The film takes place in 2010, and Moreau is presented as a Nobel Prize winning geneticist ostracized from the scientific community because he believed he could make animals more human by fusing them with human genes. He does just that on his island, even going as far as to treat his creations as his own children, unlike the other two adaptations of the character before him, He is less sadistic and menacing. He controls them through electroshock implants attached to their skeletons, he sees this as necessary to stop the creatures rising up against him and regressing back into their animalistic state. Moreau is also depicted as wearing ceremonial robes and bizarre white skin cream to protect him from UV rays. He claims that he is striving to create a creature that is completely harmonious and incapable of malice and that each of his creations represent a step of the eradication of destructive elements in the human psyche. He is eventually torn apart by several of his creations including hyena-swine who manage to remove their implants and start a rebellion because of the recent killings of the beast-men by Moreau's son Azazello.

Comic Books

  • In 1999, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill created the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which brought together various characters from Victorian literature. The second volume of the comic was largely a retelling of The War of the Worlds(another H.G. Wells story) and Moreau is featured as minor character and is given the first name of "Alphonse," implying French heritage. Here he is an operative of the British secret service and was spirited away from his island when things got out of hand. He is now situated in a forest somewhere in southern England, and is shown to be the creator of various animal characters from such works as The Wind in the Willows and the works of Beatrix Potter. Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain are dispatched retrieve a hybrid of his called H-142, which is later used successfully against the Martian invaders and revealed to be hybrid of the diseases anthrax and streptococcus, which is covered up by the service, who explain any Martian deaths as caused by the common cold. Moreau also mentions that he is the uncle of the French artist, Gustave Moreau.