Saturday, January 14, 2017

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

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau (2014
Rent Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau on Amazon Video
Written by: David Gregory
Directed by: David Gregory
Starring:  Richard Stanley, Kier-La Janisse, Michael Gingold

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

Behind the scenes of the lackluster movie The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) that starred Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, disjointed visions, bad decisions, and apathy plagued the production.

A really good story overcomes the deficiencies of the documentary. So many things went wrong with The Island of Dr. Moreau, and while this doesn't capture all of them, it shows you more than enough. From apathetic and disinterested actors to a director taking on too large of a job, it's a fascinating look at a train wreck. It's amazing movies get made at all when so many things can go wrong.
Watch it.


David Thewlis and Ron Perlman were both approached to be in the documentary, but turned it down.

Perlman briefly talked about his experiences recently on Marc Maron's podcast. Thewlis isn't even mentioned in the documentary which is odd considering he was one of the leads. I understand why he wouldn't interview, though he has stated he's never seen the movie and wants to completely forget about it.

If you're familiar with the production of the movie, you should have no surprises that Kilmer wouldn't be interviewed. He has way too much to defend. It's a public relations nightmare best ignored.

The actual documentary isn't that great. It frequently uses cutaway shots of stock footage that is intended to infuse drama, but it adds nothing. Why this doesn't fail rests largely on the morbid desire to see a train wreck. The on set shenanigans are just ludicrous. I've never seen the movie, but read numerous articles about the production horrors. It's amazing despite everything that went wrong that this actually got made. So many movies never get to that point.

The root of the ensuing mess was the chance to work with Marlon Brando. Richard Stanley was an indie movie director that had no intention of a big budget production. Once they had the chance to get Brando, no one questioned it. They knew he was over priced and difficult to work with, but they remembered Brando at his best, wanting the chance to work with a legend.
No one asked the question as to whether they really needed Brando. There was no reason Brando should be in this, but once he signed on, this was no longer an indie movie. Once they had Brando, they wanted a box office draw. That was Val Kilmer, fresh off the Batman franchise.
The movie was led by director Richard Stanley on his first big budget film with two of the not just difficult, but outright uncooperative  actors with which to work. Stanley never had a chance. He was so invested in making this movie that he was willing to make any trade off to ensure production continued. Stanley admits he had a bad feeling about Kilmer, but knew that if Kilmer dropped out the project would come to a halt. He kept Kilmer to his own detriment. Immediately Kilmer begins undercutting Stanley and questioning his creative choices in front of the crew.

Stanley was ill-equipped. He refused to meet with the studio, didn't communicate to crew, and wouldn't hold production meetings. He may have gotten away with that on small movies, but it's clear he was in over his head. No one questioned if Stanley was right. Stanley got kicked off his own movie after one day. John Frankenheimer comes in to direct and seemingly is liked by no one.

Brando was ridiculous on an epic scale. He made demands about story changes, props, etc. Frankenheimer catered to Brando, even when Brando demanded to wear an ice bucket on his head filled with ice in scenes. While Frankenheimer didn't say much about Brando, who I guess may have been the biggest culprit, he minced no words disparaging Kilmer.

Brando took a liking to Nelson de la Rosa. The worlds shortest man at 17" tall. Brando demanded Nelson be in every scene with him. Everyone gave in, rewriting the movie on the fly.

As this documentary concludes, Richard Stanley could have made this something to see for eight million dollars. He was an indie guy, that had no business on a big budget film. As it stands, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) is a movie to see for all of the wrong reasons.

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