Documentary

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)

Comments Off on Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) 16 September 2015

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Studio: Severin

Theatrical Release: September 21, 2014

Blu Ray Release: July 28, 2015

Director: David Gregory

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Have you ever had a dream and yet it came crashing down on you, eliminating the very desire you once had and substituting it for paranoia and depression? Richard Stanley has.

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (that’s a hell of a long title, I’m going to just stick with the easier Lost Soul) tells the tale of South African director Richard Stanley’s doomed pet project, H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau.

This riveting, funny, and painful documentary begins with Stanley, now almost 50, speaking briefly about his upbringing and childhood with a mention of his mother being a witch who was unstable and abusive. Stanley then talks candidly about his first two feature films, the critically acclaimed Hardware and Dust Devil. It was because of these two films that he was able to present to New Line Cinema his desire to remake Island of Dr. Moreau, a passion project that he’s wanted to make based on the book that Stanley holds in very high regard. Stanley’s storyboards and sketches are quite amazing, showing Moreau set in the future with a much more violent and bleak interpretation. Think of a steam punk Blade Runner-type future. It’s with these storyboards that got the attention of producer Edward Pressman who then got president of production Michael DeLuca at New Line Cinema involved. DeLuca loved young directors and he was very much intrigued by the then young director, despite Stanley’s introverted and odd personality.

From that moment, Island of Dr. Moreau ceased being a part of Stanley’s vision as the producer(s) brought in Marlon Brando to play the doctor with a possibility of Roman Polanski being filled in as the director. Passionate about his film, Stanley went to Brando to plead his case that he should be the director to which Brando agreed. Lost Soul is FILLED with some hilarious and bizarre Brando stories that I would love to share but I don’t want to give anything away as I couldn’t help but bust out laughing every time he was mentioned. As actress Fairuza Balk says in one of her interviews, “He’s fucking with them (producers).” This pretty much sums up what Mr. Brando was doing on the set.

The documentary is just so fascinating to watch as it is revealed that Bruce Willis and James Woods were both at one point attached until Willis’s divorce and thus Val Kilmer’s involvement with the project. At the height of his popularity, Val Kilmer was an actor that was highly sought after. That is by everyone but Stanley. While Kilmer was not interviewed for this documentary, the stories by several people involved in the making of the film are quite funny and outrageous. Some of the best stories come from fellow actor Marco Hofschneider who does a great impression of Brando, Kilmer and director John Frankenheimer. Oh wait, did I say director John Frankenheimer? Yeah, poor Stanley got the boot which ultimately sets him off the deep end.

Lost Soul had me torn as I felt quite bad for Stanley as this was just a polite, sophisticated man who really wanted to make his dream project come to life and yet it was taken away from him by the studio heads. BUT, as we hear from other studio heads, Stanley was an oddball. He wore the same clothes every day, he wouldn’t go to production meetings, and he simply couldn’t control his actors nor communicate with his crew. There was footage that Stanley shot with actress Barbara Steele that was never used in the film where the studio heads were saying Stanley just didn’t know what he was doing and couldn’t communicate with his cast and crew what he wanted or was trying to accomplish.

But the making of Island of Dr. Moreau gets even more strange as the set was hit with a hurricane, Frankenheimer was brought on board to direct which ultimately made matters worse for the cast and crew, several of the extras would go out and party every night, and the once hired but now fired former director snuck on to the film set disguised as one of the creatures just to be in the movie! The making of this film was pure insanity. Lost Soul would make a great teaching tool for young film makers starting out in the business as they can view this documentary on what NOT to do when making a film.

There are two versions of the blu ray that was released. There is the three disc set which includes the soundtrack and the German silent film version of Island of Dr. Moreau as well as the one disc set which still features plenty of extras including more interview footage (Stanley goes on and on about his thoughts and ideas for Moreau that it is apparent he is obsessed with the novel) several featurettes (my favorite being a small segment with a few crew members going back to the location of the film to see it is now almost completely covered in jungle forest)  and a trailer. Regardless of which blu ray you buy, this is a well worth disc chock full of special features.

Movie Rating: ★★★★½

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★★

 

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