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O. C. LIVE | KIDS ON FILM

Young Fans Find Brando Bigger Than 'Island of Dr. Moreau'

In "The Island of Dr. Moreau," a shipwrecked Englishman lands on an island dominated by a crazy scientist (Marlon Brando) who passes the time creating men out of animals. Rated PG-13.

August 29, 1996|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The half-human beasts that inhabit "The Island of Dr. Moreau" were creepy enough. But what really got some teenagers was an actor known these days mainly for his frightening girth.

Marlon Brando, reveling in all sorts of bizarre comic affectations, totally freaked out more than a few youngsters at a recent screening of the horror flick in Westminster.

"That guy was too weird," sputtered Sheila Royce, 14, of Seal Beach. "I couldn't figure out what he was trying to be."

The infamously unpredictable Brando, legendary star of such movies as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "On the Waterfront," plays the good doctor, a nutball geneticist who thinks it's nifty turning jungle creatures into misshapen dinner companions.

Instead of reaching for the terrifying, the movie opts for the laughable, with Brando wearing a thick mask of white makeup, using an effete English accent (or something close to it) and spouting nonsense about the nature of man, evil, science and DNA. But despite the shenanigans, most teenagers seemed more mystified than amused.

Many admitted they couldn't take their eyes off Brando, even when he's competing with a menagerie of hairy uglies who call the island home. But few knew much about the actor beyond what they'd seen in this movie. When told of his celebrity and renowned talents, they just stared.

"I think I've seen him before, but I don't know for sure," said Jessie Limon, 15, of Westminster. "He's just really fat."

His friend, Kimberly Harrod, also 15 and from Westminster, thought for a moment, then decided that Brando must have been important "a long time ago. He was so strange, I didn't get it."

The kids also didn't get that the movie, which is the third time Hollywood has tackled the tale, is based on a book by H.G. Wells. Before this, there was "The Island of Lost Souls" in 1933, starring Charles Laughton, and 1977's "The Island of Dr. Moreau," with Burt Lancaster and Michael York.

Though few of those interviewed enjoyed this one, just about everybody felt the plot was super; they were intrigued by the idea of a bright guy tampering with the seemingly immutable laws of nature. None of the kids knew what "hubris" meant, but upon hearing the definition, agreed that it fit the doctor perfectly.

"He had a way out-there ego," explained Robert Lopez, 12, from Huntington Beach. "He was smart so he was doing stuff he shouldn't, [and] he got in trouble for it."

While most youngsters gave a thumbs-down to the movie primarily because it was too slow--especially in the protracted beginning before the monsters reveal themselves--they did applaud the special effects. A lean, fuzzy combo of man and leopard excited them, as did a hunchbacked hyena concoction who leads a revolt against the doctor.

"That one [the leopard] was cool, the way he moved fast and jumped from rock to rock," said Jessie, who added that the hyena was "real scary because he was ugly, so ugly."

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