Bring Back the Dodo! Brave New
Strides in Animal Cloning
Island of Dr. Moreau
Time Magazine 11nov00
Giant pandas, ocelots and the Asian gaur. What do all these animals have in common? Not only have they been immortalized as stuffed animals or by schmaltzy Elton John songs in Disney movies, they also face the looming specter of extinction.
Now, thanks to the painstaking (and very "Island of Dr. Moreau") work by researchers in Massachusetts, these rare beasts may be given a new lease on life. How’s that possible? Through the wonders of cloning….
Using the skin cell from a living gaur, scientists at Advanced Cell Technology fused the genetic material for the ox-like animal with the egg of an everyday American cow. Bessie, as the bovine is known, is expected to deliver the gaur, named Noah in the next month or so. In a twist guaranteed to make bulls more than a little nervous, Noah was conceived without the help of a father; once the cow genetic material was removed from Bessie’s egg and replaced with the gaur information, the egg was artificially induced to begin dividing.
So Bessie, who will likely be a bit surprised when she gives birth, is acting as incubator for the developing clone. And if the birth is successful, there could be many other animals out there whose wombs could be drafted into the project.
Scientists emphasize the process does not herald a real-life "Jurassic Park;" there will be no dodo birds flocking with the pigeons at your local park. The cloning cells can only be obtained from living animals or recently dead specimens whose bodies have been frozen since their demise.
Bessie’s impending motherhood has raised a few hackles in a seemingly unlikely circle: Environmentalists, who’ve fought vigorously to protect the habitats of endangered species, worry that the cloning technique will lessen the public’s sense of urgency when it comes to saving, say, spotted owls or African savannas. If such cloning puts them out of business, perhaps they should rededicate themselves to raising money to create lifelike imitations of natural habitats in the giant zoos that will undoubtedly be needed to house most of these miraculous animals.
The balance of nature is put to the ultimate test in this science-fiction thriller when a marooned stranger stumbles across an out-of-control experiment that fuses man with animal in The Island of Dr. Moreau. VAL KILMER (Heat), MARLON BRANDO (Don Juan DeMarco), DAVID THEWLIS (Naked) and FAIRUZA BALK (The Craft) star in this film directed by JOHN FRANKENHEIMER and featuring the artistry of make-up genius STAN WINSTON, and special visual effects by Digital Domain.
Based on the haunting novel written by H. G. Wells, the prescient father of science fiction, the explosive storyline fueling The Island of Dr. Moreau has been updated and set in the near future to incorporate recent developments in genetic engineering. While 1996 marks the centennial anniversary of this literary classic, it still remains a relevant warning for our time as Wells' prophetic nightmare edges closer to reality.
In the film, a brilliant geneticist, Dr. Moreau (Brando) and his assistant Montgomery (Kilmer) are on the brink of revolutionizing science when Edward Douglas (Thewlis) becomes stranded on their remote island. At first glance, this tropical paradise seems idyllic. But deep in the jungle lies a terrifying secret. Moreau and Montgomery have been performing gene-splicing research on animals to create a superior breed of human being, and that experiment has gone terribly wrong. They have ignored the most fundamental law of the jungle: survival of the fittest.
Roaming free, these beast-people are highly intelligent with murderous instincts. Their thirst for blood is pacified through a combination of sedatives and shock discipline. But events triggered by Douglas' unexpected arrival are about to break Moreau's God-like dominion over these resentful creatures.
As the crisis escalates, Douglas finds himself caught in the middle of a violent eruption between the doctor and his "family." Douglas must escape the clutches of his captors and find a way off the island before he becomes a part of Moreau's final horrifying experiment. The film also stars Marco Hofschneider (Europa, Europa) as M'Ling, Temuera Morrison (Once Were Warriors) as Azazello, and Ron Perlman (Beauty and The Beast) as the Sayer of the Law.
Produced by Edward R. Pressman (The Crow), the film is directed by John Frankenheimer ("Andersonville," "The Burning Season") from a screenplay by Richard Stanley (Hardware) and Ron Hutchinson (Against the Wall, The Burning Season). Executive produced by Tim Zinnemann (Street Fighter), the cinematographer is William Fraker, A.C.S. (Tombstone, Rosemary's Baby), the editor is Paul Rubell, A.C.E. ("Andersonville"), the production designer is Graham Walker (Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee), and the costume designer is Norma Moriceau (Patriot Games). The Island of Dr. Moreau will be released nationwide by New Line Cinema on August 23rd.
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