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  Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau Just Shoot Me
Year: 2014
Director: David Gregory
Stars: Richard Stanley, Edward R. Pressman, Robert Shaye, Tim Sullivan, Tim Zinneman, Fairuza Balk, Marco Hofschneider, Rob Morrow, Graham 'Grace' Walker, Fiona Mahl, Neil Young, Peter Elliott, David Hudson, Hugh Dickson, Oli Dickson, James Sbardellati
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: In the early nineteen-nineties, young film director Richard Stanley started making a name for himself on the cult movie scene with his cyberpunk horror Hardware, and looked set to fulfil his promise as one of the most talented new filmmakers of the decade. However, with his follow-up Dust Devil, he ran into production difficulties and though the film was released, he had trouble getting it out to the world in a form he really wanted. Therefore when he was thousands of pounds in debt and reduced to calling Hollywood on a public phone, he had a stroke of luck as New Line, the tyro major studio that was building on the profits it had been generating with Freddy Krueger movies, agreed to pick up his pet project, a retelling of a famous H.G. Wells novel...

Many film buffs will know what happened next, as the tale of the absolute nightmare that was The Island of Dr Moreau of 1996 had gone down in infamy as precisely how not to go about creating a would-be blockbuster. Director David Gregory here offered Stanley the chance to tell his side of the story about how he managed to inspire Hollywood to allow him to make his highly idiosyncratic version of the classic novel, only to see the whole production fall away as a succession of unforeseen circumstances and egos clashing saw to it that he was not only fired from his own movie, but the excruciating shoot that continued without him developed into one of the most notorious turkeys of the nineties.

Gregory was a veteran of countless DVD extras, helming special featurettes on a variety of often horror-themed discs, which was presumably why watching Lost Soul resembled a feature length extra that somehow had been left off the official release. Although witnessing what the contributors had to say about the experience, perhaps you should not be too surprised at the lack of anything as honest and controversial on the actual Moreau DVD as what they admitted to in this independent enterprise. It was not exactly the whole story, as the third-billed star of the actual movie David Thewlis was conspicuous in his absence, though he has said elsewhere when asked that it was the worst ordeal of his professional life, so it's little wonder he was reluctant to revisit it.

Mind you, it might have been good to hear from at least some of those who were around when, say, Thewlis broke his leg, which is not even mentioned in passing, as indeed the actor is left out of the narrative aside from the most cursory of references, but that was not to say there was not plenty to be getting on with without him as the anecdotes flowed thick and fast. In the main Gregory appeared keen to allow Stanley to justify himself, and the most time was given over to allowing the rather eccentric talent to either describe what his version would have been like (it sounds genuinely striking) or explain how it all went horribly wrong when the process of actually making the thing went ahead. Not that it was entirely on his side, as there were talking heads who related how Stanley was just too much of the novice to achieve his vision, not that his replacement John Frankenheimer, who does sound objectionable, had any better ideas.

Accounts of the Stanley using magic to get his way spoke to someone who would have probably have been better implementing more concrete methods in the real world, but it wasn't all his fault by any means, as various disasters hit the remote Australian shoot. He put the suicide of the daughter of star Marlon Brando as the point where it all really started to unravel, but it was just one mishap, to put it mildly, that befell them, including the destruction of the set in a storm and casting decisions that proved of no help, in particular Val Kilmer. The reason he doesn't show up in many big projects from the late nineties onwards was down to the behind the scenes yarns spun from projects like this: he is described as a "prep school bully" by one interviewee, and was instrumental in not only causing Stanley to lose control, but almost sabotaged the whole affair. Add to that Brando's legendary don't care attitude and it was a recipe for cinematic catastrophe; fair enough, this is hilariously bizarre in places, but as star Fairuza Balk's haunted look when discussing it indicates, anybody was lucky to survive it with a career intact. Not the greatest documentary on a film, but what a riveting story it tells. Music by Mark Raskin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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