Review- Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau (2015)
You would think that a full year of watching an endless parade of train wrecks would turn you off from watching another, but damn if the 1996 Island of Dr. Moreau film isn't a wonderful spectacle to behold. This documentary popped up on my radar as I finally watched Richard Stanley's directorial return with Color Out of Space.
And let me tell you, while I figured I liked the guy at the start of this documentary, he really won me over when he started to talk about his early plan with dealing with Marlon Brando:
Lost Soul is a tightly edited and engaging documentary that pulls together a pretty depressing story about the production of the doomed Island of Dr. Moreau. Director David Gregory pulls together the large pool of interviews he gathered and lays out a great history that spans from Stanley's initial rise as a director, his fascination with the source material, the growing troubles with New Line Cinema and certain actors, and the resulting ordeals of being pulled off his own project and the trials the film had afterwards.
On the early pre-production side, there's a great recounting of the art development put into the project with plenty of great concept and design work. I seriously could watch an entire documentary just focused on gathering all of this art and interviews with the Stan Winston Studio people and all of the insight they could offer as to what was lost on the project.
There's a quick part where Stanley mentions some of the other mutants that would have popped up, including an octopus creature and then the documentary moves on. If you do a bit of additional research though, you can find the actual octopus puppet they had created!
Seriously, give me an art book full of this material.
On the depressing subject of 'What Could Have Been', there's also a decent tracking of the initial casting which would have featured Bruce Willis and James Wood and basically an entirely different movie. Seeing them recount how these things fall apart is fascinating, and also starts to fill you with a lowkey disdain for Val Kilmer's behavior.
Like seriously, screw this guy.
There's a pretty great range of interviewees (it's always nice to see Fairuza Balk) that give you a broad perspective of the project and how things started to fall apart. While a good portion does focus on David Stanley, you get representatives of the crew, people from new Line Cinema, and more as they all form a fascinating tapestry of people trapped on an island while the project collapses around them.
Balk's recounting of Marlon Brando gives me the slightest hope that maybe he was being difficult because he liked Richard Stanley (Brando arrived for filming after Stanley was booted from the project). That's pretty much just my fanfiction though I think.
There are plenty of moments that actually required me to rewind and listen to something again. There's a part where Stanley is recounting the confluence of terrible things to happen and he starts with:
And at first you're like, huh damn, and then he continues:
And I was like hold up
Don't recall people really talking much about that poor woman, but it has been over 24 years.
Plus there's the entire section where he ran away, disappeared on the island, and then months later by sheer chance infiltrated the production as an extra dogman just to kind of hang and see what was up.
It's frankly all pretty wild and amazing, and pretty entertainingly recounted.
Even if you don't care much about the film, this is a really engaging documentary that gives you some fascinating insight into the Hollywood machine back in 1995 and how it can just chew people up. The great thing is that Stanley is currently directing again and reportedly the Color Out of Space is the the first in a trilogy of Lovecraftian adaptations. So do yourself a favor, learn a little more about the guy's plight, and rejoice that you never had to work with Val Kilmer.