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WRITTEN REVIEW: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau

The 1996 adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau is regarded as one of the biggest cinematic disasters of all time and like any doomed production, has a making-of story that is far more interesting than the film itself. The documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau tackles the troubles and heartbreak of this fascinating cluster-fuck.

It all begins with Richard Stanley, an ambitious young director who after breaking into the scene with some successful indie genre films like Hardware and Dust Devil, approaches New Line with his dream project of adapting the H.G. Wells novel. New Line offers him a deal but almost instantly the producers seem to want to cut him out of the project. Stanley fights for his vision but due to the combination of a director's inexperience, an actor's egotism and just a string of bad luck, the project is stopped after just four days of shooting and Stanley is fired. I feel bad for saying this, but this documentary really starts to pick up after Stanley is taken off the project. This is the point where the making of this film goes from bad to surreal.

A new director is hired and he immediately starts re-writing the script. Then Val Kilmer begins creating friction with the director and the other actors due to his poor attitude and on-set bullying. Then, most bizarrely of all, star Marlon Brando begins making increasingly insane demands. He comes to the set wearing white make-up on his face (insisting that all outside scenes be done like this), begins demanding that he get different types of hats to wear (even at one point wearing an ice bucket on his head) and he convinces the director that Nelson de la Rosa, the world's smallest man who had been cast in a supporting role be with him in every scene. Also, in typical Brando fashion, he hadn't even bothered to learn his lines.

Just when it seems like things couldn't get any crazier, the film hits us with another surprise at the end. During filming, some effects people learned that Richard Stanley had never taken his flight back to England and had been living in the jungle near the movie set. These crew members then make him up as one of the beast men so he can basically observe the set and watch his dream project die right before his eyes.

Lost Soul is an interesting film, but the really interesting stuff doesn't come until the very end with the on-set insanity. Before that it's just a typical story of an ambitious director being railroaded by a studio. However, it's also a unique glimpse into the movie industry and how much time and hard work goes into a project that sometimes ends up dismissed and quickly forgotten. Even if it's a doomed journey half the time, everyone behind the scenes puts their best efforts into it and that makes the journey an interesting on at least.


★ ★ ★